So far I’ve spoken to ten of the twenty restaurateurs I’m interviewing for our book. And honestly I’d like to stop now just to get these conversations in a book right away, because these interviews are overflowing with wisdom and knowledge and advice and amazing stories.
One cool trend is how unique each story is. Unlike a series of interviews with corporate executives, who would no doubt have almost all attended a well known college or university, and would have taken relatively similar career paths, these folks have come from all kinds of different backgrounds and have taken all kinds of different paths to get where they are today.
Scott Maitland was in the Army and then went to law school before starting Top of the Hill Restaurant & Brewery in Chapel Hill, NC. Chester Kroeger started Fudpucker’s as a snack bar in the back of a bar in Destin, FL and had never intended to own a restaurant. Joe Johnston got an engineering degree at Stanford and then went on to start The Coffee Plantation, which he later sold before starting Joe’s Real BBQ and several other very successful restaurants in Gilbert, AZ. Meanwhile, his partner, Tad Peelen spent seventeen years at American Airlines before getting involved with Joe’s. Mic Heynecamp was on track to be a geologist and his wife Molley had an accounting degree, and they enjoyed doing home brewing and traveling. They wanted to figure out a way to live in a cool little mountain town. So they now own Eddyline Restaurant & Brewery in Buena Vista, CO as well as Socorro Springs Restaurant & Brewery in Socorro, NM and they bought a single engine cessna to enable them to travel between the two. Scott Liebfried started bussing tables as a teenager …. and never looked back. He and his partners Jeremiah Higgons, who attended film school and wanted to be a movie producer, and Cobi Jones, a former United States National Team soccer player, just opened Arch Rock Fish in Santa Barbara, CA. When Chip Bair bought BeauJo’s in 1973, it a tiny pizza shop in Silver Springs, CO. He slept on the floor for a few months until he was able to barter a cabin to live in from the local dog catcher in exchange for $25 pf free pizza every month. Chris Sommers spent seven years at Salesforce.com in San Francisco before returning home to St. Louis to start Pi Pizzeria.
And while their stories are very different, and they each have unique philosophies on how to run successful restaurants, a few common threads are emerging. They all have a passion for their restaurants that is palpable. It oozes out as they tell their stories and talk about why their restaurants are successful. None of them are in it just to make money. There’s much more to it for all of them. They each believe their purpose is to be doing what they are doing, and they view their restaurants as important institutions in their communities.
I’ve learned something highly valuable from each of these restaurant owners, and most of it has nothing to do with owning restaurants. These folks are dishing out important and meaningful business advice, not matter what business you are in. We’re bursting at the seams with excitement about this book. I hope to wrap up the interviews by the end of October, and we’ll keep this series updated as we progress.
Keepin’ It Incredibly Educational & Inspiring,