top of page

The future of M.L.Rose Craft Beer & Burgers: 2024 openings and long-term plans

February 6, 2024

Read the full article here.

Written by: Julia Masters for Nashville Business Journal

2024 will be M.L.Rose Craft Beer & Burgers’ biggest growth year in the company's 15- year history.

The popular neighborhood restaurant will grow to seven locations, adding as much as 80% to its current revenue streams and employing well above 500 people.

In 2023, M.L.Rose announced the Franklin, Gallatin and Inglewood locations, all set to open in the coming months. Because M.L.Rose had prepared for an expansion into Murfreesboro in 2022 that never came to fruition, the company has a bit larger of a corporate overhead budget than its size warrants.

“With the three new locations we will really find an amazing balance between the corporate overhead and the revenue from all the locations. I would not normally, at this stage of growth, be looking at opening three locations within a 12- or 8-month period, but it’s all about the right locations and really great locations with a mix of leasing and property ownership,” said Austin Ray, founder and CEO of M.L.Rose. “Timing is timing and we got great timing on three amazing locations and the team is ready to grow.”

The Franklin location is on track to open first, followed by Gallatin. The Inglewood location will take longer because Ray wants to preserve the character of the 80-year-old building and find local tenants to fill the other two spaces.

“You’ve got what is this incredible 1940s commercial building and a lot of demolition uncovered this beautiful bow-truss-barrel-vault ceiling, so many cool gems. But we have to be really careful with a building that is that old,” Ray said. “I’m very passionate about that part. … My deep desire is to have local tenants that will impact Inglewood and be the most desired in Inglewood.” 

Ray evaluates locations in the urban core versus the suburbs of Nashville with different parameters. When expanding within Nashville, Ray is willing to squeeze into smaller spaces because there’s a steady flow of customers throughout the day. The suburbs typically require larger spaces, with more parking, because the restaurant gets packed all at once for dinner. Large patios have been a hit in the suburbs for M.L.Rose.

“Greater Nashville is where my focus has been. It’s where it remains. There are a ton of great neighborhoods that would support M.L.Rose in Nashville and the surrounding counties,” Ray said. “Although I think M.L.Rose would play in a lot of neighborhoods in a lot of different markets, my focus is Nashville and I’m not in a rush to go to Knoxville, Huntsville, Birmingham, Memphis. Those are all places that I think would really support an M.L.Rose, but I really want to get our foothold as strong as it could possibly be in Nashville.”

Ray thinks the Greater Nashville area could support around 10 M.L.Rose locations and sees opportunity in Donelson and Murfreesboro.

“If I were to choose to grow beyond that, I might be look at a larger partner or recapitalization or something,” Ray said. “I’ve pushed all the chips in so many times to get where I am. Now, having a family with two small kids, this company is going great, but I’d prefer to get out of the higher risk territory if I were to go to a different market.”

Aside from focusing on opening three new locations, shorter-term focuses for Ray also include the growing the partnerships with Porter Road, which is launching an exclusive blend of dry-aged beef for M.L.Rose, and Hi-Wire Brewing, which is releasing the inaugural M.L.Rose Owl Lager and Hazy IPA.

“Seven locations will make us a very stable company. Growth doesn’t often come with stability, so leveraging an amazing team and having some fun with it are the longer-term goals. 2025 may not come with any openings, just optimization, letting the team gel, understanding our new locations and neighborhoods better,” Ray said. 


Commenting has been turned off.
No tags yet.
bottom of page