This may be the age of Deans. One Dean beat the odds and bolted to the top by out-sneering a pack of Democratic dwarfs with an Oval Office jones. Another Dean is mining millions from a restaurant industry sweating through the post-tech-bubble-9-11 malaise. Only this Dean puts his Dean up front. Former Sfuzzi Vice President Dean McSherry says his fledgling Preferred Restaurant Services is growing like a teen-age boy with unencumbered access to pizza. He's set to open an office in Chicago, adding to his slate of nodes in Austin, Houston, Phoenix, New Orleans, Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in addition to the corporate HQ in Dallas. "The last year has been fairly explosive," he says wryly. McSherry founded Preferred in early 2001, after he and two partners peeled off the restaurant management, consulting, accounting, insurance and employee benefits services divisions from Lincoln Restaurant Group (which operated the now-moribund Dakota's downtown), where McSherry served as VP of new business development. McSherry landed at Lincoln after he splintered from DMC Hospitality, the consulting firm he founded with Sfuzzi alumnus Michael Costa, who is opening Vino & Basso in the former Toscana space on McKinney Avenue. Earlier this year, McSherry bought out his partners, making him the Dean of a firm that provides services to some 500 restaurants across 14 states driving annual revenues of $20 million, a figure he boasts will double in 2004.
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Theme restaurants have been pounded in Dallas over the past few years, with corpses that include Jekyl & Hyde Club and Planet Hollywood, along with the chilling of the once-hot 27-plus-unit Rainforest Café chain (in Grapevine Mills), which was scooped up by Landry's in late 2000 for $75 million. But Southern California-based Elephant Bar Restaurants thinks Dallas hungers for its Asian/tropics safari-themed Elephant Bar with "elephant size" portions. The company, which soon will have 24 units spread across California, Arizona, Missouri and Kansas, will hit Dallas next month along the Dallas North Tollway in the former Canyon Café space, which shut down last summer...Former Voltaire Executive Chef George Papadopoulos has surfaced in a new restaurant in Tampa Bay, Florida. "I'm just kind of testing the waters," he says. "Gettin' my feet wet if you know what I mean." The restaurant, for which he says he's negotiating an equity stake, is currently nameless. This move comes on the heels of Papadopoulos' personal-chef stint aboard a private yacht that had him surfing up and down the West coast of Mexico and Southern California. Surfing? "Hell yeah, I do it all," he puffs.