Premier History

While celebrating its 25th anniversary, it is only understandable that Premier reflect back on its beginnings and rich history of project success.

Founded in 1989 by finance professional Jim Hara and an architect named Gary Zechmeister, the company used second mortgages on the co-founders’ homes to start their business.

Almost immediately Premier could boast a client list of successful restaurants, casinos and other professional foodservice operators who understood the value in working with a creative company that could finish projects completely, correctly and on time.

Initial projects came from clients such as Grand Casinos, casual dining leaders Champps and Ciatti’s, The Minneapolis Convention Center and luxury grocery brands, Lunds & Byerly’s.

Those early days were full of hard work and clients willing to make significant down payments in order to secure design time with the firm.

Many early customers earned national recognition as Nation’s Restaurant News “Hot Concepts”, including Bruegger’s Bagels (1995), Champps Americana (1996), Famous Dave’s (1997), and Buca di Beppo (1998). Even today, these successes have continued with recent winners Granite City and Crave.

Over the years, Premier earned the reputation of being THE PLACE to work. Once relationship managers, project managers and designers were experienced enough, they wanted to come to Premier. They wanted to work on the best projects with the best clients and vice versa.

In late 2012, respected private equity firm Hillcrest Capital chose to invest in Premier. Hillcrest Capital invests in significant ownership stakes in very successful, middle-market companies.

Twenty-five years after its founding, Premier remains an industry leader in restaurant, casino, healthcare, grocery, country club and educational foodservice design and equipment—and Jim and Gary have both retired the second mortgages on their homes.

We are very proud of the decades of legendary outcomes we have supplied our clients.