When Chris Bredesen received his MBA from Pepperdine University in 2007, he could visualize the suit and tie he’d wear on his daily commute to Downtown Los Angeles to work. But within a few months, a detour took him down a path he never expected.
“An opportunity came up at South Bay BMW to open a small café,” shares Chris. “That then turned into helping create The Rockefeller Hermosa Beach, which opened in 2011. Then we opened another in Manhattan Beach in 2013, and then Redondo Beach in 2017.”
Chris quickly learned how much it takes to make a restaurant run smoothly and how adjustments will always be needed—especially in the beginning when a restaurant is finding its identity. Chris specifically remembers needing to tweak the outfits employees were wearing when The Rockefeller Hermosa Beach opened. He and the other owners realized khaki pants and long-sleeve shirts just wouldn’t work.
“That’s the thing about restaurants. You can’t just go through the motions. You can always improve. It is a never-ending process of being better,” Chris says. “However, I like that. I have a good time with that. I don’t like being stagnant. I kind of enjoy being able to improve myself and the businesses every day.”
Before he started in the restaurant industry, Chris didn’t even own a set of tools. Now he goes to his restaurants geared up and ready to assist whenever necessary.
“We have been through a lot,” he says. “I remember writing up new-hire packets. You have lawsuits, leaky roofs, equipment that doesn’t work. It is crazy. Now I can do a little bit of construction too because of it.”
“I hope that if you come in to one of my restaurants, your first thought is that the staff is local and they live here and care about their customers as much as anyone. I just hope people can see that and how personal this is. We’re not coming from another state or county.”
That’s one of the things that makes him special. Chris wears many hats. He visits each restaurant daily to see how things are going, make any adjustments that need to be made and fix any problems that need to be fixed.
But Chris’ primary focus right now is on technology and how to streamline that tool even further, including the websites and branded apps.
His partner, Allen Sanford, recognizes just how much Chris’ skills contribute to the success of the restaurants. “I think it has helped him a tremendous amount,” Allen says. “From the financial side, Chris understands that world from a professional sense. It has served him really well.”
Chris was not only instrumental in creating hot spots like The Rockefeller; he also helped improve local staples like Riviera Mexican Grill and Captain Kidd’s in Redondo Beach. Chris is also part owner and operator of Primo Italia and an investor in Día de Campo and Manhattan Beach Post.
“Taking over Captain Kidd’s and Riviera, you have to be very careful,” he says. “The community has passionate feelings about these landmark restaurants in the South Bay that have been around for so long. You can’t just go in to Captain Kidd’s and turn it into a soup restaurant. You have to stick with what it is. With those, we have done a lot more behind-the-scenes stuff.”
His deep understanding of these restaurants stems from a lifetime of living in the South Bay. A graduate of Peninsula High School, Chris grew up in Malaga Cove with a family that loved to surf, including his father, an inductee in Hermosa’s Surfers Walk of Fame.
This local history inspired Chris’ journey to bring Captain Kidd’s back to life. Since Chris helped take over the business in 2012, this landmark next to the Redondo Beach Pier has served up to 1,000 people a day.
“Captain Kidd’s was a huge deal for us. It has been around since 1976. That’s a huge deal as a local kid,” he says. “That first year we took it over, I was there every single day trying to make sure the fish and crabs were coming in.”
Chris is fully willing to admit that had he not grown up in the South Bay, the restaurants he owns would not have been as successful. “That was especially the case when we started The Rockefeller Hermosa Beach. I was very clear in the beginning that we wanted it to be a place people would come to multiple times a week. It would be a place that was casual, but you also wouldn’t be breaking the bank.”
Each location is different—not just the food but the space and how it’s maximized for business. Take The Rockefeller Redondo Beach. Recognizing that the parking lot behind the restaurant was relatively unused, a decision was made to have private events and low-key concerts there during the summer. When a remodel was done at The Rockefeller Hermosa Beach during the pandemic, Chris and his partners used it as an opportunity to include a space for private events.
“I hope that if you come in to one of my restaurants, your first thought is that the staff is local and they live here and care about their customers as much as anyone,” Chris says. “I just hope people can see that and how personal this is. We’re not coming from another state or county.”
He has been president of the King Harbor Association for the last year, using his marketing tools to redo the website and create a Visit King Harbor app.
“My younger self probably never would have believed that I’d be owning and operating restaurants in the South Bay,” Chris says. “Now I can’t think of doing anything else. This is what I’m going to do and keep doing it the best I can so the community is proud of the product we are putting out and the employees are happy.”