New Way Forward

After Turmoil, Downtown's Finn Hall Re-Emerges With New Leadership

The food hall's operator has enlisted a Houston hospitality pro to help lead it into the future.

By Timothy Malcolm March 9, 2020

Hunain Dada, real estate portfolio management director at Lionstone Investments; Miranda Cartwright, senior property manager at Midway; and David Buehrer, owner of Greenway Coffee.

Image: Julie Soefer

Downtown food hall Finn Hall now has a culinary director and a few new concepts.

David Buehrer, co-founder of Greenway Coffee and operator of several Houston concepts including Tropicales and Morningstar, was installed at Finn Hall six months ago. With his guidance, three concepts were added and are open today.

Those concepts:

  • Lit Chicken, a chicken concept led by James Beard-nominated chefs Ross Coleman and James Haywood, formerly of Kitchen 713.
  • Papalo Taqueria, with tacos by Stephanie Velazquez and Nicolas Vera, formerly of Xochi and more recently operators of pop-up concept Tlahuac.
  • Pho Binh, an offshoot of Pho Binh by Night, and a member of the highly successful Pho Binh family, from Kevin Pham and Di Nguyen.

Those concepts take the place of the long-shuttered satellite location of Mala Sichuan, plus the closed Sit Lo (which has a location in Sugar Land) and Goode Co. Taqueria. 

For Finn Hall's operator Midway Companies—along with Lionstone Investments—Buehrer's installation is music to their ears.

“Once David joined the team, he quickly revamped a vertically integrated business model that cut operating costs by 33 precent for our tenants,” said Miranda Cartwright, senior property manager at Midway, in a press release. “This now allows our management team to provide existing and prospective concepts a more lucrative and appealing restaurant format.”

Of course, Midway—which manages the JP Morgan Chase & Co. Building at 712 Main St.—wasn't always the operator. Last November, Midway terminated its contract with Oz Rey, the management company that originally ran Finn Hall, then stepped in to take it over. At the time, there seemed to be a host of issues with the food hall.

According to Shannen Tune, chef/owner of Craft Burger, an original Finn Hall concept, Oz Rey had promised a host of services that weren't very successful at drawing diners to the food hall. Considering how much the vendor was paying, it seemed like food stalls weren't getting enough bang for their buck.

One of the problems: Oz Rey launched a delivery service that didn't have much reach. After the Oz Rey ouster, vendors were allowed to use third-party platforms like UberEats and DoorDash for deliveries, which immediately increased the number of orders.

"I felt that the place hadn't reached its full potential as to what it could be," said Tune.

With Buehrer at the helm, Finn now has more of a local direction than ever. We'll see if that translates to fulfilled potential.

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