Man on a Mission
Jonathan Horowitz is bringing insight and expertise in the Texas restaurant industry...
Anne McCready Heinen
Midway is all about finding the perfect tenant for a restaurant space, even when that entails the company owning, developing, or running its own dining concepts. In October, Midway brought restaurant veteran Jonathan Horowitz on board as senior vice president over hospitality development with the intent to amp up its restaurant and bar strategy. The executive is working toward bringing two to three on-target restaurant and bar concepts a year to new and existing Midway districts, from East River to CITYCENTRE, Century Square, and beyond.
“Opportunities sometimes just present themselves,” Horowitz says. ”Other times we look at a location, the demographics of the area, and the competition, and say, this area could really use a certain concept. Then we get to ask whether we should go out and find a tenant for that or do it ourselves,” as a partner or even the operator of a restaurant concept.
Horowitz came to Houston 31 years ago from New Hampshire to attend Rice University and afterward he earned a law degree. He pivoted to hospitality and restaurants more than sixteen years ago, becoming a partner in The Tasting Room and Max’s Wine Dive concepts, and later heading the parent company overseeing the Original Ninfa’s on Navigation Tex-Mex restaurant and the Antone’s Famous Po’ Boy sandwich business. Horowitz also serves as an officer on the board of the Texas Restaurant Association and has worked as a hospitality industry consultant.
To accomplish the Midway mission, Horowitz brings together complex and ineffable variables including location, industry data analytics, operations, decor, and menu. “I always keep up on what is happening in the marketplace and the restaurant industry, taking into account demographics of the neighborhood/area, the location, emerging trends, and much more,” Horowitz says. “The marketplace will very quickly tell you if you hit it or not. It tells you what it wants, and you must listen.”
Right now, the marketplace is clamoring for fast-casual dining, Horowitz says, that includes healthy options within cuisines such as Mediterranean or Asian, for both to-go as well as dining in.
Already, Midway has engaged in partnerships at Century Square in College Station, Horowitz says. PORTERS: Dining + Butcher is owned by Midway and is operated by a third-party restaurant management company, the DKC Group. Midway and DKC Group have also partnered in the recently opened Juanita’s Tex Mex Cantina which serves elevated Tex-Mex at the heart of Century Square. Midway also created Sharky’s Waterfront Grill for Kings Harbor in Houston, and once established, sold it to a neighboring restaurateur.
Juanita’s also illustrates culinary trends, Horowitz notes, as it offers unexpected menu items like grilled salmon and healthy salads with a Tex-Mex twist.
The pandemic has brought changes that Horowitz says will be apparent going forward in new restaurants in Houston and around the country. Online ordering and third-party delivery are major aspects of operations now and will continue into the future. “That impacts how restaurants are designed,” he says. “Restaurants are figuring out how they’re going to handle both in-person dining and takeaway or delivery dining.”
Horowitz adds, “Being able to contribute to the process of developing amazing spaces and restaurant experiences with a group that does awesome work is a very special opportunity.”