Alan Stillman began his career as a restaurateur by founding and opening T.G.I. Friday’s at 63rd Street and First Avenue with a $5,000 loan from his mother. As the Friday’s concept grew and expanded, he sold the rights to Friday’s outside of New York City in the mid-1970’s, maintaining ownership of the Upper East Side flagship, which he sold by the end of the decade. He has never regretted selling the Friday’s concept and is often credited with opening the first “singles” bar. As Friday’s grew, Stillman conceived sister concepts around the city: Tuesday’s, Wednesday, and Thursday’s, each with a unique concept and a singular sense of fun.
Soon after, Alan and his investors opened Smith & Wollensky at 49th Street and Third Avenue in 1977, a concept which ultimately grew to nine locations around the country.
At the same time, he developed a series of restaurant concepts in Manhattan that he refers to as “one-of-a’s,” such as Manhattan Ocean Club, Maloney & Porcelli, and The Post House. Alan and his son Michael partnered with some of the brightest young chefs in the business and the award-winning design firm AvroKO to transform Manhattan Ocean Club into the acclaimed restaurant Quality Meats and Park Avenue Café into Park Avenue Autumn (which was awarded two stars from New York Times food critic Frank Bruni). In August 2007, under Alan’s guidance, the public company The Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group was sold for a sale price of $100,000,000.
Alan is a master of marketing in the restaurant industry. He comes up with extremely creative ideas that promote the restaurants in a way that is fun and meaningful to their customers. He once ordered the delivery of $1 million shipment of wine in a Brinks truck. He thought up National Wine Week, in which winemakers from all over the world pour their wines at lunch in the restaurants. During the early years of the program (which is now celebrated twice a year), both Robert Mondavi and Count Antinori personally poured their wines at Smith & Wollensky.