The North County Restaurant Group has been honored as the 2022 Business of the Year by the Atascadero Chamber of Commerce. What started as a senior project and dream between friends has now turned into a full-fledged business with restaurants spreading from Paso Robles to Atascadero.

“I’m honored, there are so many great businesses in our little town, and I’m just happy to be a part of it. It does feel really good to be recognized,” said Eric Peterson, the owner of the North County Restaurant Group, on being recognized by the chamber.

Growing up in Atascadero, Eric got his start in the restaurant business at an early age, washing dishes and bussing tables at his grandmother Bonnie Peterson’s restaurants — Country Touch Cafe, Touch of Paso Cafe, and Touch of Mexico.


But it wasn’t until getting a job busing tables at AJ Spurs in Templeton that Eric found his passion for the industry.

“My grandma had a big influence [on me] working for her, and then actually running AJ Spurs is where I really learned,” Eric says of his start in the industry.

The AJ Spurs Steakhouse on Main Street in Templeton holds a formidable spot in many people’s lives who grew up in North County. It was located for years in the old Mercantile building and closed its door permanently in 2017. Thanks to his experience in his grandmother’s restaurants, Eric found himself in a management position at AJ’s within six months of working there.

While Eric’s grandmother’s restaurants were breakfast and lunch-focused, he learned he enjoyed the bar and dinner scene.

The fond steakhouse was where at 18 years old, Eric met his friend and future business partner Trevor LaSalle. While working at AJ Spurs, Eric attended Cuesta College and then Cal Poly. All the while, he and Trevor plotted to open their first restaurant.

“They say to do what you know, so when we were ready to graduate college, it was, we may as well do this since we know how to run these restaurants,” Eric says of his and Trevor’s new plans.

Eric describes the process of opening the first restaurant as the carriage before the horse scenario. While Trevor had already graduated a year before, Eric was in his senior year and in need of his senior project. And opening a restaurant at 23 years old fit the bill.

Guest House Grill finally came into the scene in 2018. At the time, Eric says there wasn’t much in Atascadero restaurant wise and the opportunity seemed to be just right for him and Trevor. Eric’s aunt was ready to move on from her Mexican restaurant she had open in the Guest House space, leaving Eric and Trevor just needing to take over the space and purchase her leftover equipment.

To their somewhat surprise, Guest House Grill was a success and the two were ready for more. Another opportunity came knocking for Trevor and Eric to purchase a seasonal resort in Southern Oregon. For 10 years, Eric spent his summer months at the Oregon resort while expanding their businesses in North County.

Next for the partners came Street Side Ale House and Eatery in Atascadero, opening in 2018. Success at the ale house would then lead to a second one opening in downtown Paso Robles in 2018.

Then everything started to make a full circle for Eric when he opened Jack’s Grill in 2019 in Templeton, right across the street from where it all started, AJ Spurs. Then in 2020, he purchased and reopened his grandmother’s restaurants Touch of Paso Cafe and Country Touch Cafe in 2020.

And in 2022, Eric added to his fleet by purchasing the Kitchenette on Main Street in Templeton and opening Cielo in Atascadero. And later in 2023, he plans to open a second Jack’s Grill in the old Senior Sanchos location on Creston Road in Paso Robles.

“I think our uniqueness as a restaurant group is our diversity,” said Eric, “We try to fill a wide range of needs in the community from breakfast to late night; comfortable to fine dining, and everything in between.”

Looking back, Eric wonders why anyone would have invested in the two young 23-year-olds to open a restaurant, one of the riskiest businesses out there.

“It was Colin Weyrick, actually, who lent us half the money,” says Eric. “And now we are partners, so it’s been a fun ride.”

Colin is co-owner with Eric on both of his Templeton eateries.

He continues to say of Colin, “He has been a big supporter … he helped me open my first restaurant as a mentor.”

Eric is now a proud owner of seven restaurants across North County and is proud to be able to give back to the community that gave him his start.

“It’s been a really great feeling to give back to the community when we can. When you first start out, especially in the restaurant business, it is a real struggle with little to no profits. It took a long time to get the company to a state where we could afford to start doing our part to help the community. It was a long, difficult road and still a struggle at times, but it’s all worth it now.”


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