Author: Layla Khoury-Hanold
Anthony Herring is a self-proclaimed accidental restaurateur. He is the owner of Well Hung Vineyard in Gordonsville, Virginia, a company that makes wine with Virginia-grown grapes. Since it is technically not a winery, Herring couldn’t open a tasting room without also serving food. In August 2019, he opened the first location of Well Hung Vineyard’s restaurants, where wine-friendly fare like charcuterie plates and crab flatbread complement Well Hung Vineyard’s wine by-the-glass, bottle, or flight offering.
When Herring was ready to expand and open a second location, he consulted Aaron Deal, founder of Deal & Associates Restaurant Consulting (DARC) in Roanoke, Virginia.
“I didn’t know a lot about Roanoke and relied on Aaron’s expertise for the market. He confirmed that no other restaurant was doing close to doing what we do,” Herring says. “Roanoke is mainly a beer town. There’s no wine-themed or wine-only restaurant in downtown Roanoke.”
Herring’s business model also thrives on tourism, so he was considering other Virginia markets, including Richmond and Fredericksburg. Deal put Herring in touch with the Roanoke Chamber of Commerce to provide data on tourism in 2018 and 2019. Herring liked the numbers he saw, and when he found an ideal location in downtown Roanoke, he committed to investing in a Roanoke location and hired DARC to help execute his vision.
Herring, who owns two different companies, works seven days a week, and is based in Charlottesville, Virginia, leaned on DARC to be his boots-on-the-ground operative. Thanks to the firm’s reputation and relationships with local officials, DARC was able to easily navigate the complex permitting process with health department, city, and ABC officials, as well as obtain the business license. DARC also helped with staffing by sourcing and vetting talent, resulting in the successful hiring of a general manager. DARC worked directly with the general contractor to spec kitchen equipment and mechanical, plumbing, and electrical work. Coordinating with both the general contractor and the project’s architect, the consulting company ensured that build-out was on track and in line with the proposed vision.
Since Well Hung Vineyard is a wine-focused restaurant, there was heavy emphasis on the bar area. DARC worked closely with the interior designer to optimize the bar layout, taking into consideration plumbing, electrical wiring, service flow, and wine glass and wine bottle storage and display. Because Well Hung Vineyard’s Roanoke location opened in February 2021, Herring and Deal had to consider capacity both during and after COVID-19 to account for social distancing and state-mandated capacity restrictions.
“Aaron understands that restaurants need to fit a certain niche to make it successful,” Herrings says. “He’s not just a food consultant—he [takes] a big picture [approach] from operations to financial to food and the customer experience, which is very important. I believe he will be an integral part of the business going forward.”
Layla Khoury-Hanold is a freelance journalist covering food, travel, and lifestyle stories. Her work has appeared online with Food Network, Refinery29, the Chicago Tribune, and the James Beard Foundation, and in print with Drinks International, Our State, The Roanoker, and INDY Week. Follow her writing and food adventures on Instagram @words_with_layla.