Three new Cafe Patachous are opening in Indy this year—Zionsville in mid-June, a Stutz location in mid-July, and a Fishers location in the groundbreaking phase will bring the total to seven student unions for adults. Then owner Martha Hoover plans to pack up the toaster and coffee mugs for locales farther afield. “We’re going to be launching Patachous out of market. That’s what 2024 will be all about,” she says.
Locations haven’t been chosen. Hoover is in the process of deep research to determine markets and real-estate opportunities that “speak to her.” She says followers have been waiting for her to dip a toe in other markets while she has continued to expand in Indianapolis. “I’ve purposefully waited this long for a variety of reasons,” she says. “I love the idea that I can drive to all of my restaurants and see the staff. I can do that in one day at any given moment. And we’re a local restaurant with lots of loyal supporters who have been with us since we started in 1989.”
Hoover’s Apocalypse Burger, which has one location at 49th and Pennsylvania streets, was part of a ghost kitchen in Brooklyn until the contract expired the first week of May 2023 and Hoover chose not to renew it. Otherwise, her portfolio of restaurants under the umbrella of Won’t Stop Hospitality—and the Patachou Foundation, dedicated to hunger relief—have grown wholly in Indianapolis, providing jobs and establishing a fan base for seasonal ingredients over the last 34 years.
During that time, Hoover’s national profile has risen like a good sourdough, slowly but surely. She has been nominated for six James Beard Foundation awards and become a regular speaker at hospitality industry events. Recently, she made appearances at conferences in Oregon, New York, and Miami on a single trip.
On that last stop, she warned against growing too quickly. “Opening multiple units can be remarkably destabilizing in several ways,” she says. “What I live in fear of is not just destabilizing my staff’s lives, but it’s almost impossible to grow big without giving up on quality of product and relationships with staff and community. Those things are really important to me, and I’m not willing to do it.”
Her restrained recipe for success isn’t the norm in the restaurant industry, she says. She’s a sole proprietor who doesn’t have partners or investors other than banks. “The general trend in restaurants is to get investors and blow things up and be as big as possible,” she says. “That is the one thing I have never mastered. And I’m OK with it.”
Her autonomy has allowed her to grow at her own pace. “I’ve said no to a lot of opportunities that would have made Patachou much bigger but not necessarily much better,” she says. “I like being the small giant, being in control of however you measure quality. I like being at a bar-setting level. We have a remarkable, strong vision and that includes not overextending and overexpanding.”
But the time has come to make Patachou the cinnamon toast of other towns. Any candidate will have to meet the standard Indy has set. “Indianapolis has been remarkably gracious to me,” Hoover says, “and I have no desire to race out to other markets just to monetize something. It has to feel as warm and wonderful and inviting to me as Indy does.”