Melad Stephan is one of Wichita’s more visible entrepreneurs, seemingly constantly opening – and sometimes closing – a bar or restaurant.
Stephan moved from Lebanon to Wichita in 1978 and has worked in restaurants just about ever since.
The first restaurant he owned was Nouvelle Cafe in 1989. Today, he owns Empire Restaurant Management, Sabor Latin Bar & Grille, Oeno Wine Bar, Luca Italian Kitchen, Caffe Moderne and Revolution Rock Bar. In addition to catering, Stephan operates a banquet facility at Eaton Place.
He says he never planned to open his own restaurant but eventually decided he would like to control a business.
He’d change a few things that happened along the way if he could.
“I would have been a lot more … calm – not lose my temper as much as I did,” Stephan says. “I just wanted things a certain way.”
He said he made employees and even family members who worked for him cry.
Today, he has advice about employees.
“Surround yourself with good people,” he said. “They make your business better, and they make your life easier. And give them the freedom and watch them bloom to come up with ideas.”
That’s another thing he says he’s learned.
“Listen to your employees or your guests. Sometimes they have the best ideas for you,” Stephan said. “Don’t get arrogant and get caught up in the success. Don’t say they don’t know what they’re talking about.”
No matter how successful one business may be, Stephan advises not to “get caught up in the multiple location thing.”
He says a lot of people – including himself – have a successful business and then think, “It’s time to do another one.”
For instance, Sabor was successful in Old Town but didn’t work as well at the Waterfront.
Even though he still has a lot of businesses, Stephan said, “I’m slowing down these days. I’m concentrating on the Old Town area where I can manage them the same.”