Jackmont Hospitality Takes Flight

A master plan to build a chain of restaurant franchises has this Atlanta-based food empire soaring

A LITTLE HELP FROM A LEGEND
The company’s beginnings were as humble as those of many others—but Jackmont’s include a helping hand from a legendary mayor. While studying at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, Halpern met Brooke Jackson Edmond, daughter of the former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson. Upon graduation, Halpern went to work at The Gourmet Cos. (No. 20 on the BE Industrial/Service Companies list with $199 million in revenues). Later he decided that he and Jackson Edmond should go into business together. “I was another 31-year-old that wanted to be an entrepreneur. I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do, but I knew it was going to be in the food service space,” he recalls. “Maynard was about to leave office and we figured we could get him involved to help us a little bit.”

With the mayor on board, the three launched Jackmont (the company’s distinctive name hails from the nickname given to the family resort of Jackson’s parents). Halpern says of those early years, “We started out with a desk and a phone at the Maynard Jackson Youth Foundation, and then began figuring out what we were going to do.”

During the ’90s, the business model for airports shifted. Initially places with a few convenience stands, airports were transformed into shopping mall-like places complete with chain restaurants, retail outlets, and other services. So when the Jackmont team learned that food and beverage contracts were coming up for rebid at the airport, they wanted in. Concessions International, owned by H.J. Russell & Co. (No. 15 on the BE Industrial/Service Companies list with $268.71 million in revenues), bid on the entire block of concessions with Jackmont in as a subtenant on what would be the first T.G.I. Friday’s location there. But that required money, and that’s where Jackson stepped in. “We couldn’t make the initial capitalization happen, without somebody who had something to borrow against,” recalls Jackson Edmond, the company’s senior vice president and founding principal. “We went and spoke to him on that premise, and he thought it sounded like a good idea.”

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