published Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

Meo Mio's Cajun Spirits restaurant seeks to provide authentic New Orleans experience in Chattanooga

Brian Sabo owns the new Meo Mio’s Cajun and Seafood Restaurant on Cummings Highway near Raccoon Mountain.
Brian Sabo owns the new Meo Mio’s Cajun and Seafood Restaurant on Cummings Highway near Raccoon Mountain.
Photo by John Rawlston.
4119 Cummings Highway
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Name: Meo Mio's Cajun Spirits

Location: 4119 Cummings Highway

Contact information: 423-521-7160

Products/services: New Orleans-style Cajun and Creole food priced between $10 and $30. The restaurant can serve liquor until 11 p.m., and owner Brian Sabo expects soon to get a beer license.

Hours: Monday 4 to 10 p.m., Thursday and Friday 4 to 11 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Age: Meo Mio's opened on New Year's Eve

Size: The 7,500-square-foot restaurant seats between 260 and 280 people.

Target market: Professionals in their late 20s to late 40s. Sabo also hopes to capture people on tight dinner budgets who view restaurant trips as a special occasion. "I want to make it so magical for those people when they go out," he said. "I want to blow them away."

Biggest hurdle: Getting the restaurant open. Sabo ran into several licensing hurdles and unexpected costs in the rush to a New Year's Eve opening. For example, he had to retrofit the building with a sprinkler system for fire safety. "It was quite a pain," he said.

Biggest reward: Delivering an authentic New Orleans experience. Sabo said a couple from Baton Rouge on vacation to Chattanooga recently ate at the restaurant. "They said to me, 'I tried to get away from Baton Rouge coming up to Chattanooga, but you brought me back home.'"

Lesson learned: When opening a business, focus on building an experienced staff.

Five-year goal: Sabo owns the franchise rights from Atlanta to Knoxville. He hopes Meo Mio's will become a destination restaurant in Chattanooga and throughout his territory. "I plan on putting in quite a few of these," he said.

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