The Great Scotts Journey
How many people can say they bought their first business at age 19?
Justin Abrams can. In high school, he started bussing tables at the original Great Scotts in Denver. During the next couple of years, he cooked, waited tables, cleaned dishes and even did a bit of management. Before he turned 20, he was invited to buy the business.
And what a business! This is a real diner, open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Also, the first, leased store was a former Big Boy Azars built in the 1960s. Updates were limited to the structure, and customer traffic was growing. The only solution was to build. The success continues. Abrams is quick to credit General Managers Melinda Maldonado and Melissa Euresti. “We feed ideas and work together on guest service, business growth, and daily operations. The unity between the three of us is both refreshing and powerful.”
Great Scotts Plans, Progress and More
Here’s more of the story.
How did you handle such a big project from the ground up?
JA: I designed the building in my head years before it was put on paper. I wanted a vintage diner with the look and feel of a ’59 Caddy. Troy with Hoover Architecture embraced my idea, and that was the start of late-night conversation and brainstorming. Jack and Larry out of Georgia with Arista Galleries got us custom vinyl pleated booths and chairs, wall paneling, vintage tables and countertops and the host stand—all proudly USA made. Wall artwork is by Mike Cordova right here in Denver: Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Elvis, Humphrey Bogart and The Beatles.
You’re telling us that “future plans are huge!” Details?
JA: The new store is a flagship for future locations—a test ground to see what works and what can be improved. There’s party space in the building, too—the “Cruisin’ Room”—hosting birthday parties, weddings, celebrations of life and office meetings.
What are the advantages of a “never closed” concept? The challenges?
JA: The advantage is guests know you’re there to serve them 24/7. The challenge is it never ends. Employees and equipment are expected to work efficiently at all times. Unfortunately, not everyone is up at 2 a.m., and when something breaks, problems need solutions immediately … But we have a good team and have learned over the years to anticipate and always set up each shift for success. We also keep updated on current events in the community. A festival or parade can suddenly bring in large crowds.
Diners have such a great tradition—how did you decide exactly what to menu?
JA: Our menu is classic favorites with a fresh, modern twist. Never-frozen local steakburgers, natural chicken breast, and locally sourced meats satisfy anyone in your party. House-made meatloaf takes you back to Grandma’s house. Hand-spun shakes in old-fashioned tins remind you of watching the movie “Grease” while you gaze at the classic cars in our parking lot. We also promise fresh, great-tasting salads and sandwiches any time of day.
What are your most popular menu items?
JA: Our No. 1 seller is our “Man O Man Mega Meal.” It can fill up any tank! Hand-cut ham, bacon, sausage, three eggs, and either our signature pancake or biscuit and gravy. The “Country Fried Skillet” is loaded with potatoes, eggs, country-fried steak and gravy. We say it would take Elvis by surprise. Steak or chicken fajitas take the entire cruising street for a ride.
Talk about marketing.
JA: Working with our local community, schools, police and fire, local government and local charities—word of mouth is our best marketing. Secondly, we believe our mobile app and in-store loyalty programs drive customers to come back. During December we give away Secret Santa scratch cards that the customer can’t scratch till January. Every card wins, from 15% off to a $1000 VISA gift card. We handle all marketing in-house and use input from the entire management team. I look at my managers as business partners.
And ways you reward staff to keep them around longer?
JA: I currently offer $50 bonuses to employees when they reach a sales goal for every shift. During Christmas I gave away over $2000 in incentive prizes and constantly am looking for ways to keep employees engaged. My management-partners get monthly reports on sales, and their bonuses are a percentage of profits.
You’ve got super specials, and Shamrock helps.
JA: Our management team keeps updated on trendy items and works with kitchen staff to create dishes that stay true to the 50s diner. General Manager Melinda Maldonado recently worked with our Shamrock Rep, Jerry Runden, and the cooks to introduce “Wacky Waffle Wednesday.”
Shamrock is part of your team in other ways—talk specifics.
JA: During the Grand Opening Jerry could be found helping us move food and properly and efficiently store inventory. Jerry’s here for us in all aspects of the restaurant. He works directly with me on new menu items. We get messages daily with blow-out specials and items to put on special. Jerry has trained cooks and worked one-on-one with managers. He’s been called in at all hours to bring inventory and assist staff. Our Shamrock driver Sean Farrel also works diligently with our management to ensure
quality with every delivery.
Learn more at greatscottseatery.com
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