Taste: Running a Marathon

Cary Borish on opening another Marathon Grill. As Marathon Grill opens yet another location


As Marathon Grill opens yet another location — this one a spacious spot with a large bar at 10th and Walnut — we asked co-owner Cary Borish what exactly makes his restaurants so damn popular (besides the obvious: they put frozen yogurt toppings on the bottom and top of the cup).

How has Marathon continued to be successful for more than two decades?
We've evolved. We used to be just a breakfast and lunch joint with neon lights, but as the city changed, we've adapted. We have liquor licenses, dinners, late night and Sunday brunch.

How many restaurants now?
The new one at 10th and Walnut will be seven locations from 10th to 40th and Market to Spruce. It's partly because of the convenience; none of us want to get in a car everyday and drive!

Do you ever worry about being your own worst competition?
For years we would talk about that, but our business has only grown and gotten stronger each year. And we think that more restaurants just brings more people and positive self-esteem to Philadelphia.

Even though this new location is basically five blocks from the one at Chestnut and 13th?
This new one and the 40th and Walnut location, are actually partnerships with Jefferson and Penn. Marathon's brand really taps into their community with good prices, long hours and a bar atmosphere. They really solicited us, believing it increases enrollments, raises property value and creates a campus environment.

How do you maintain quality?
I have a secret weapon called Mom. She is tenacious and relentless at what she does. She is the quality control in the kitchen, watching everything that is going on.

It seems like your employees are so faithful …
Ten years ago, we were a difficult company to work for — we used to put a lot of pressure on our employees. But now, it's much easier to work for us and we have better relationships with them. I love the diversity among our staff, it makes it authentic Philly.

What about the future?
We don't want to expand too rapidly. We are not risk takers. We have thought about the suburbs — it would really put the brand to the test.

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