Mike Nahkunst in the first person: I had no idea that my first restaurant job at Pelican’s Wharf in 1972 in Austin would turn into such a memorable and rewarding life-long career path in the restaurant industry. Living in Austin…..working at Pelican’s Wharf and going to school at The University of Texas during the 70’s…Wow! How was life ever going to get any better? Well it did! Leaving Austin, by way of Hawaii, I joined a small group of guys selling gourmet hamburgers….in my hometown of Dallas….named Chili’s. Joining Chili’s during it’s early inception allowed me the opportunity to be an integral part of management in that leading edge privately held burger chain. Being at Chili’s during the formative years was an experience quite special and unique and little did I know at the time but going public in 1984 with Norman Brinker at the helm was soon to catapult my experience and opportunities to even greater heights.
During my 17-year career stint with Chili’s and Brinker International, I was fortunate to work in several operational management levels from Store Management thru Senior Vice-President of Operations for Chili’s, New Concept Development for Brinker International and be a part of a newly minted Billion$$ restaurant company. Truly amazing! After leaving Chili’s and Brinker, my entrepreneur desires came true when I founded Wildfire Enterprises in the mid-90’s. Wildfire opened up opportunities to co-own and operate several casual upscale restaurant concepts on both coasts as well as become a Board member of Kelsey’s, a large Canadian restaurant company based in Toronto.
The following years provided me tremendous opportunities to work in some key C-level positions with the likes of The Cheesecake Factory and BJ’s Restaurants in S. California and Kona Grill in Scottsdale. The nurturing, guiding and directing of early stage growth-oriented restaurants has always and continues to be the “sweet spot” in my heart for this industry.
Upon returning to Austin, I continue to co-own and operate several restaurants in different locales and have become more involved with Michael at Bailiwick Capital Partners as partner and strategic advisor as well as an Advisory Board member to FOHBOH, Inc. a leading social web technology company for the foodservice industry. And looking back now after our successful merger with Bailiwick and Austin Restaurant Partners I feel like I have finally come back home to the roots of my restaurant passion…Austin!!