River Thai comes under new ownership
by Matt Shinall
Sep 30, 2010 | 2073 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
River Thai Owner Pete Akaraskul displays one of his restaurant’s signature dishes. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
River Thai Owner Pete Akaraskul displays one of his restaurant’s signature dishes. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
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When Pete Akaraskul came to America for a higher education, he had no idea he would eventually become a restaurateur. Now the owner of River Thai in Cartersville, he adds the local eatery to Rama 5 in Buckhead.

"To be successful it takes a lot of hard work," Akaraskul said. "A friend of mine owned this before and she had to leave, so I said, 'Let's try to bring our recipes and everything here to see if people in Cartersville are going to enjoy it.' And so far we've had very positive feedback."

His recipes are inspired by his country of origin, adapted for American tastes, and have kept his Atlanta restaurant open under his management for 10 years.

With an education far from the food and beverage industry, Akaraskul completed a law degree in Thailand before coming to the United States for a master's of business administration. A temporary pursuit soon turned into a lifelong decision.

"When I first came to the states for school, my mind was already made up as soon as I graduate I would go home hopefully to get a good job. That's usually what happens, you come to the states, you get a degree from here, people recognize you and you're very successful because of the education," Akaraskul said. "When I stayed here past two years, I felt like I liked the American people.

"I think the quality of life is much better over here and then when I got a chance to associate with the American people I felt like they were very, very fair -- if they like something they'll tell you to your face -- there's something about that I like, it's very straightforward. And then I met my wife and my children were born in California -- and I'll stay here. I've been here 30-something years and I really enjoy it. It's a very good country and I'm happy that I've been able to adapt myself into society."

Emphasizing a commitment to quality, he stressed the importance of ingredients and proper preparation even in tough economic times.

"It's very challenging with the economy like this. We tried every which way we could. One thing that we know is that we could not compromise the quality, no matter what, we had to keep the excellent quality of the food -- fresh ingredients, customer service," Akaraskul said, adding that he even visits some producers personally to ensure quality. "You have to check all of the ingredients every morning. You have to be very selective."

Although Rama 5 has a developed customer base, Akaraskul explained the challenges arising with the new acquisition. With continued success in a difficult industry, he finds pride in recent accomplishments and turned attention again to food quality.

"It takes a while to be able to adapt everything into the fabric of the local people. That's why when we decided to take over the one in Cartersville here, we knew it would be a very challenging thing. It's a different clientele from Buckhead," he said. "This is something that we're very proud of, especially in today's restaurant business, it's very, very tough.

"It's very hard to maintain because of the bad economy and we can cut labor or whatever, but the quality of the food has to be there."

River Thai, located at 328 E. Main St., No. 102, in Cartersville, is now open seven days a week: Monday through Friday for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; for dinner Monday through Thursday 5 to 9:30 p.m. and Fridays until 10 p.m. The restaurant's weekend hours are Saturday from noon to 10 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 9:30 p.m.

For more information, call 770-387-1420 or visit www.riverthai.net.