Article courtesy of: The Business Journal
By Edward Smith

Mike Shirinian (left) brought Daniel McGee on as a business partner at The Elbow Room on Thursday. Photo by Edward Smith

A new business partner for Fig Garden Village’s Elbow Room brings “a new energy” for the bar and grill and a possible expansion in the future.

General Manager Daniel McGee, 31, signed the papers for an ownership stake Thursday with restaurateur Mike Shirinian, owner of Elbow Room Bar & Grill.

“I love being in the position,” McGee said. “It’s energizing, I want to keep growing, keep growing with the Elbow Room and just grow in Fresno. I love Fresno.”

As co-owner, McGee will oversee day-to-day operations, as well as have a say in big-picture decisions.

Shirinian said since McGee started on as general manager in January 2018, he has energized the staff with a hands-on approach.

“He’s genuinely interested in every guest, he’s genuinely interested in making sure they are having a premiere, peak experience,” Shirinian said. “He works incredible hours to get the job done, he’s always proactively seeking what we can do better. You’re talking the total package.”

Considering the number of corporately run restaurants closing, getting the right person is key, Shirinian added.

McGee comes with an extensive background in hospitality. He graduated with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in finance from Concordia College, which led to a brief career in banking before he realized “he liked people too much” to be cooped up in an office.

Shirinian had known both McGee’s father and grandfather. McGee’s grandfather was a food supplier in Fresno. His father is a local attorney who helped negotiate the terms of the partnership,

While in Southern California, he worked at The Cliff in Laguna Beach, but it was in Fresno at Piazza del Pane where he first entered into restaurant management. McGee and Shirinian reconnected at a Rotary Club of Fresno event held at Copper River Country Club.

As food and beverage manager at Copper River, McGee oversaw the luncheon. While Shirinian said he normally tries to be a guest instead of a restaurateur at big events, he couldn’t help but notice how smoothly the event of 500 guests went.

“I was really impressed because, oftentimes, those are difficult events,” Shirinian said. “The food was really good, but I’m watching more how he’s running the event and the people he had hired. Everyone was sharp-looking and performing.”

While dining there, an open general manager position was on Shirinian’s mind. He had brought on Liz Noble, a business partner of Shirinian and Dan Riley at Riley’s Brewpub in Clovis, to fill a gap left by his previous general manager who had left to pursue a teaching career.

“Daniel was looking for what I was hoping was a career caliber opportunity — more than just a job,” Shirinian said.

McGee now oversees day-to-day operations, managing and training staff, developing the menu and working on banquet and event hosting.

Since McGee came aboard, Shirinian said Elbow Room has experienced 13% growth, which he largely attributes to McGee’s presence. “That’s hard to do,” Shirinian said. “That’s not price increases.”

“One of the things we did — we looked at ourselves internally, looked at our training and went back to the basics — take care of the customer, treat them right,” McGee said.

The duo is now revamping systems at both sides of the restaurant — in the kitchen and the dining area.

“We just keep refreshing,” McGee said. “I think when you stop refreshing yourself, especially in the hospitality industry, I think that’s when you kind of fade.”

With McGee now involved in business decisions, Shirinian has begun exploring taking the Elbow Room brand beyond Fig Garden Village. They’ve received a “number of serious inquiries” about the possibility.

“We intend to do multiple Riley’s and we intend to do multiple Elbow Rooms, and those opportunities will present themselves,” Shirinian said.

While Shirinian said he isn’t yet looking to retire, his expectation is McGee will eventually own the restaurant entirely. They recently signed a 10-year lease with Fig Garden Village.

“The Elbow Room is a legacy restaurant,” Shirinian said. “And I really feel the legacy is in good hands looking forward to the future having Daniel as an owner.”