When Matt Chatham played linebacker in the NFL, he paid close attention to defensive assignments. He paid attention to workout regimens, film sessions and game plans. But the three-time Super Bowl champion paid attention to something else, too, something he hopes will aid him as he begins a second career as a restaurateur.
“I got a front-row seat to three of the really great business people in the world,” Chatham said: “(Patriots owner) Robert Kraft, (Jets owner) Woody Johnson and even (Patriots head coach) Bill Belichick. Drilling down to what’s really important, paying attention to detail, the small things.”
With those examples of business acumen in mind, Chatham, who will complete his MBA at this spring, is preparing to open the first of what he hopes will be a chain of quick-service crepe restaurants called SkyCrepers.
Chatham recently won the Douglass Foundation Graduate Business Plan Competition, a $20,000 cash prize awarded annually to a Babson graduate student, or team of students, who presents a promising business plan.
After eight NFL seasons with the Patriots and Jets, Chatham enrolled at Babson in 2009 with a vision to start a casual crepe restaurant chain.
“We’re going out of our way to create a fast food establishment,” Chatham said. “This is meant to be more like Five Guys Burgers than a foo-foo pastry place.”
A burger joint might seem a more natural fit for a former pro football player, but Chatham says he and his wife Erin, who already holds an MBA, are true foodies: They love to try new restaurants, they’ve been on food cruises, and they’ve even made an appearance on the Rachael Ray Show.
The couple noticed a trend during their travels: Many cities they visited had successful pastry shops with delicious crepes. But these restaurants were generally upscale, with meticulous décors, exotic — and rarely ordered — flavor combinations, and high prices.
SkyCrepers, Chatham says, will take the pretense out of pastries “by scaling down the environment and not trying to recreate , and not filling the menu with marginal items.”
Chatham worked with Concord Foods to develop a patented crepe batter called Cinnilla, which he says will distinguish SkyCrepers’ crepes from others’.
“Most places that you go to will use some sort of generic pancake batter out of a box,” Chatham said, “and they differentiate by what they put in there. We thought, ‘Hey, let’s back up and work with the batter.’”
SkyCrepers will use the batter to make not only traditional crepes but also Cinnilla fries — “quick crisped in canola oil and doused with powdered sugar,” as Chatham described them — and Cinnilla towers, eight-inch pastry tubes with sweet fillings and dipping sauces.
The first restaurant will open in May at the Emerald Square Mall in North Attleboro.