John C. Metz - Executive Chef, Partner & Co-Founder

With more than 28 years of restaurant and hospitality experience, John Metz knows what it takes to create, run and maintain a successful restaurant company and has done just that for the past 13 years with his many culinary ventures in the Atlanta area. As Executive chef and co-owner of Marlow’s Tavern, Aqua Blue, and Hi Life Kitchen and Cocktails, John is thrilling residents in the Atlanta area with cuisine that inspires and entraps even the hardest to please

Metz brings this knowledge and flavor to the menu of Marlow’s Tavern. Trained by the best he began his education at one of the top learning institutions in the country, The Pennsylvania State University, where he received his bachelors degree in Hotel & Restaurant Management. He then went on to pursue his culinary education by obtaining a degree from the distinguished Culinary Institute of America where he graduated at the top of his class

Metz began his laudable career at some of the finest restaurants in New York City including The 21 Club, Tribeca Grill, Park Avenue Café, Montrachet and Della Famina’s in East Hampton. In addition, Metz served as executive chef and executive director of research and development for Carlson Restaurants Worldwide, the franchisor for T.G.I. Friday’s, where he helped develop the brands of Italianni’s, Front Row Sports Grill and Samba Room. In addition he headed up the research and development for Carlson’s international restaurant and business division opening restaurants in 10 countries around the world.

In 1997, Metz and partner Thomas DiGiorgio started their business with the creation of Hi Life kitchen & cocktails in Norcross. “Hi Life put our company on the map at a time when the trends we started there were not as developed as they are today,” says Metz. Metz & DiGiorgio co-founded and operate an upscale contract foodservice company, Sterling Spoon Fresh Culinary Management, which specializes in on-site restaurant management. Sterling Spoon offers a unique corporate dining alternative to the on-premise business cafeterias of the past by creating a full service restaurant environment inside each of the cafes it operates, adding a chef-driven culinary flair to ensure the highest quality flavor and presentation in the Atlanta area.

Metz is very involved in the industry and communities in which he operates his businesses. He serves on numerous local and national boards as well as many local charity organizations. He is on the National Restaurant Association’s and Georgia Restaurant Association’s Boards of Directors, The Atlanta Visitors and Convention Bureau’s Board and was appointed as Vice Chairman 2005 for the Distinguished Restaurants of North America (DiRoNA). Where he became the 2007 and 2008 Chairman of the Board for DiRōNA. In addition, he is actively involved with the Special Olympics of Georgia and Share our Strength organizations. Sterling Hospitality has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for these and other local community organizations.

Tom DiGiorgio - Development, Architect & Designer, Partner & Co-Founder

As co-creator, designer and partner behind Marlow’s Tavern, Aqua Blue in Roswell, GA, and Hi Life Kitchen and Cocktails in Norcross, GA, Thomas DiGiorgio, along with John C. Metz Jr., has made a mark in the Atlanta restaurant scene. As a well-respected and award-winning entrepreneur with an impressive18-year history in real estate and restaurant development, architecture, and large construction oversight, Thomas “Tommy” DiGiorgio, Jr.,
possesses a true vision that drives success. Presently, Tommy is Founder, Co-Owner, and Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors of a three-pronged restaurant company with 19 locations, which are continually expanding, where he works closely with senior staff and the Board of Directors to increase sales across the entire organization.

He is charged with spearheading real estate development initiatives, from site selection and architectural design to initial pro forma statements and comprehensive financial analysis. His involvement with the steadily-expanding Marlow’s Tavern in the Atlanta market, with projected plans to reach 25 restaurants by 2015 across two additional markets, Sterling Spoon Culinary Management, Inc. is a high-end corporate restaurant management company, providing upscale dining options and cafeterias for giants like Coca-Cola, Avon, and Global Payments Inc. Finally, Aqua blue Restaurant, an institution in fine sea food and sushi dining since 2001 and frequent award-winner, earns recent distinction with the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence and Wall Street Journal ranking as a top suburban restaurant.

As Owner and Managing Member of the D Cay Group, LLC since 2007 and as Director of DK Architects since 1990, Tommy oversees all aspects of these diversified design/build and architectural firms, which includes a State Licensed Contractor division. Leveraging the latest technology and innovations, the companies are dedicated to creating high-quality and environmentally-responsible structures. Tommy serves as Chairman of the Board of Directors of DK Architects, developing and implementing growth strategies on a national level, specializing in hospitality and residential home building. Rapidly earning trust and a solid reputation in the industry, he cultivated and maintained valuable long term relationships. Tommy’s keen business sense has resulted in much public recognition over his career thus far, including the Carlson Restaurants World Wide Consultant of the Year in 2002 (recognizing topnotch work with T.G.I. Friday’s) and Contractor of the Year in 2001, The South Florida Business Journal’s “40 Under 40” Award in 2000, and the Pompano Beach Chamber of Commerce’s Business Man of the Year in 1999.

Tommy’s achievements are highlighted by the extraordinary customer service he provides, easily outperforming similar companies. He diligently works to ensure that all key stakeholders – inclusive of investors, clients, vendors, and employees – are treated equally and given superior levels of attention. Tommy has an exceptional educational foundation in the principles of finance, which he obtained during five years of concentrated coursework at the University of Florida in Gainesville. He offers his time and energies to several civic and government agencies, including a Board of Directors membership on the Tiger Trail Festival Committee, as Director of the Research for the Cure Cancer Foundation, and as Chairman of the Pompano Beach Economic Development Council. Due to the numerous locations nationwide in which Tommy conducts business, his architectural firm is licensed in 43 states and his construction firm is licensed in 26 states, focusing on the Southeastern states.

DiGiorgio is the president of the award winning DK Group, a diversified holding company with current interests in construction, architecture, real estate development and film production. Based in Pompano Beach, FL the DK Group’s current client list includes Brinker International, Darden, Marriot and McDonald’s.

Richard E. Rivera - Partner & Co-Founder


Rivera’s company, Rubicon Enterprises LLC, is a restaurant development company based in Sarasota, Florida. The company is involved in a number of operating ventures, including Corner Bar Partners, LLC and Metz Enterprises, both of which are involved in the development and operation of casual dining restaurants (Marlow’s Tavern and TGI Friday’s, respectively).

He began his career of more than 30 years in the restaurant industry with Steak and Ale Restaurants of America. He has held executive positions with a number of leading restaurant companies, including Darden Restaurants; RARE Hospitality International, Inc.; TGI Friday’s, Inc.; Applebee’s; and El Chico Corp.

Rivera’s achievements have been recognized by numerous industry awards, including the “Golden Chain” award from Nation’s Restaurant News, and the “Restaurant Business Leadership Award.” He was also honored as one of the top restaurant operators in the U.S. with the prestigious Silver Plate award from the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association. Women’s Foodservice Forum awarded Rivera its Trailblazer Award for his commitment to the diversity of cultures, perspectives, attitudes and ideas in the workplace. In May of 2007, he was elected Chairman of the National Restaurant Association .

Mr. Rivera is past chairman and a member of the Executive Committee of the Florida Citrus Sports Association, a community-based charitable organization that sponsors, among other events, the annual Champs Sports and Capital One Bowls in Orlando, and he is active in the World President’s Organization. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Washington and Lee University, and an Honorary Doctorate of Business Administration from Johnson & Wales University.

Hank Clark - Market Partner, Atlanta


An enthusiastic leader who thrives on interacting with a range of personalities, Hank Clark has worked in the restaurant industry for 16 years. Since 2002, he has served as the Operations Partner for Aqua Blue and Hi Life Kitchen and Cocktails in addition to Marlow’s Tavern, which is undergoing a remarkable regional expansion plan. Clark strives to exceed not only his guests’ expectations but his employees’ anticipations, as well.

Clark studied Business Administration at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla., where he also played college baseball for the Titans. The knowledge, dedication and skill he obtained in school gave way to Clark’s flourishing career in the restaurant management field.

From 1990 to 1995, Clark worked for Brinker International in the Grady’s division and was promoted to general manager at age 23. He also served as general manager at Darden Restaurants in the Bahama Breeze division and at Clubhouse International. Teaming up with John Metz, chef and co-owner of , Aqua Blue and Hi Life, Clark has worked with the three restaurants since 2002.

Clark, a native of South Georgia, returned to Atlanta in 1995 from the Tampa market. He now lives in Alpharetta with his wife and five children. When away from work, Clark enjoys spending time with his family, taking wonderful vacations and golfing with friends.

Alan Palmieri - Market Partner, Orlando

With over 37 years in the restaurant industry, Alan Palmieri brings an outstanding professional track record of success to the Marlow's Tavern team, joining Dick Rivera, John Metz Jr and Tommy DiGiorgio as a Partner in the business.
Most recently retiring from Darden Restaurants Inc. after 13 years, Alan was the Executive Vice-President of Operations in the Specialty Restaurant Group.

Throughout his career in the restaurant industry, he has developed a reputation as a strong hand on operational leader, known for profitable sales growth, strategic turnarounds, aggressive expansion, human resource development and team building. In 2007, Alan was recognized for his many contributions, being selected to receive Darden's prestigious "Strategic Pillar Award for Restaurant Operations Excellence".

Alan began his restaurant career in the mid 70s with Norman Brinker's Steak and Ale Restaurant, located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. During his 13 years at S&A restaurant Corporation based in Dallas, Texas ( Steak and Ale, Bennigqan’s and Bay Street Seafood Restaurants) he held increasingly responsible positions in addition to his "up through the ranks" operations career. Alan was Vice-President of Training, Vice-President of Research and Development as well as Vice-President of Purchasing before becoming the President of Bay Street Seafood Restaurants with locations in Texas, Georgia, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

In the late 80s, Alan led a LBO (leveraged buy-out) of the Bay Street brand and served as the President and COO as he and his leadership team took the brand private.

During the 90s, Alan was President and CEO of a 110 unit Boston Market franchise in Southern California. Prior to being a franchisee, Alan spent over three years at the Boston Chicken headquarters as one of eight founding officers and served first as Vice-President of Franchise Operations and then as Senior Vice-President of company and franchised operations, including the responsibility for human resources and training.

Throughout his career, his many successes can be traced to his principles based leadership coupled with his vibrant passion for providing an ever-improving guest experience, working to drive results through improved execution as a product of high quality team member experience.

In addition to his passion for the hospitality industry, Alan raves about his family, which includes Paula, his wife of 37 years and grown children Tony, Nicole and son-in-law Jeff.