Building a Hospitality Hub

Business NH Magazine – November 11, 2015
By: ERIKA COHEN

Great NH Restaurants
Total Employees: 600+ (Full time and part time during peak season)

It took less than 12 months for Tom Boucher to conceive of, locate, build and open the Copper Door Restaurant in Bedford. And within a few months of opening, the restaurant and its iconic copper door became the talk of the town. But the true reach of Boucher’s empire is mostly unknown. In addition to his eight restaurants, Boucher’s company also owns The Scribbit, a website and marketing agency; Kriddik.com, a website that allows customers to give private feedback to restaurants; FeedNH, a charitable foundation; and T-BONES Meats, Sweets & Catering.

What all his initiatives have in common is a shared goal of superior service that is memorable. And that starts with a good name. “My wife [Dana] came up with the name [for the Copper Door]. I hate it when I go to tell someone about a restaurant and I can’t remember the name because it’s not memorable. The Copper Door is classy but not pretentious. The second thing is it imparts something in your mind,” he says of the physical copper door.

Not all service is memorable in a good way, though, and Boucher uses mistakes as learning experiences. At the same time, it’s important to reward good service. That’s why he started Kriddik.com this year. He says sites like Yelp and Trip Advisor are sometimes filled with false reviews. “As a restaurant owner I know we are not perfect. I just want to make it right.” Kriddik requires reviewers to take photos of their receipts, which allows restaurants to identify servers, and send feedback directly to the restaurants without sharing it publicly. He has 100 local restaurants signed up and is in the process of signing on state restaurant associations. Restaurants receive table cards and flyers to present with customer checks that promote and explain the service.

While the hospitality industry was hit hard during the recession, Boucher has not only bounced back, but is growing. Between July 2014 and July 2015, Great NH Restaurants, his umbrella company, had its best year since 2009. Most of his businesses launched within the past five years, and he expects to continue to expand his portfolio by 2019. In addition to potentially opening another Copper Door, he has developed two new concepts with his two other partners: an upscale sports bar and an upscale Italian restaurant. They don’t have a specific home yet, but he is keeping his eye out for available space or land. Boucher has made an offer on a location for a new restaurant, though he could not reveal where. He would also like to put a restaurant in the former Macy’s plaza in Bedford, “So it’s not another competitor taking business from us.” He says hospitality, like real estate, is all about location.

He says his restaurants grew 5 percent over the last year compared to 3 percent annually during the last five years, and they could have grown more if they were larger. The Copper Door has one private room and one semi-private room, which he hopes to expand and make private for business and social meetings. The 14,000-square-foot specialty market, 2,000 of which is a public store, opened in April in Manchester. It provides hand-cut meat for all eight restaurants and has the capacity to serve a dozen.

Boucher brings the same drive to his charitable activities. FeedNH is collaborating with Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation to create a mobile food truck to offer affordable produce and prepared meals to underprivileged inner-city areas in NH, which Boucher hopes will be operating by summer 2016. “This is how my brain works. I want to capitalize on all the things we do well,” he says, noting he borrowed the idea from a mobile food truck he saw in Lowell, Massachusetts.