Entrepreneur Chad Dillon is killing the restaurant business in Atlanta. He opened his first restaurant, which was also the first Black-owned seafood restaurant in the city during the pandemic, and went on to make $8 million in sales that year. Three years later, Dillon has opened up three additional eateries in the Atlanta area, including The Seafood Menu with mega-rapper Lil Baby.
EBONY sat down with the restaurateur to hear about his restaurants, how he became a businessman, and what led to him going into business with one of the biggest rappers out.
EBONY: What was your first introduction into entrepreneurship?
Chad Dillon: I went to Howard University for a degree in business, and during my second year of school, I purchased an exotic car. People started offering me money to rent it—for video shoots and other random things. I started noticing that I could make a business out of that, and it went really well. So I ended up going from one car to like seven cars, and they all paid for themselves. That was my first official business.
What led you to the restaurant business?
I moved to Atlanta maybe about six, seven years ago, and the only seafood spot was in Smyrna. They were making millions. Everybody was driving 30 minutes to eat in Smyrna. Naturally, as a businessman, I was like, if we bring crab legs to Buckhead, we have to win. So I tried to franchise a Juicy Crab, but the owners told me I needed restaurant experience, which forced me to have to open my own seafood spot, The Crab Boiler.
What's the biggest struggle you faced as a Black man in the restaurant space?
Getting past the stereotypes people were trying to put on me and the business. That it's going to be "ghetto", it's going to have hookah, it's not going to be family-friendly. But, I built a franchise that's for everybody.
How did you and Lil Baby decide to team up to open a restaurant?
Lil Baby was already a good friend of mine originally, and he actually had the location picked out because he always wanted to give back and do something in his actual community where he grew up. We were talking one day, and he said he wanted to call it The Menu. I was like there’s only chicken spots on this side of town, so let's bring seafood here and call it The Seafood Menu. Lil baby loved it.
Why was opening The Seafood Menu so important to you and Lil Baby?
He [Lil Baby] wanted to give back to his neighborhood by providing jobs and food. The other thing he was very adamant about was that the food had to be affordable. At The Crab Boiler, a crab leg plate would be almost $35. At The Seafood Menu, it’s only $12.99. Even selling seafood, we actually have the cheapest food on the block.