Why building a successful chain of restaurants is like building a home.
Award-winning St. Clair Winery was founded more than 30 years ago, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In 2005, the first bistro opened, as a strategy to promote the winery. The concept caught on, and today there are three St. Clair Bistros, with two more locations moving forward.
Wayne Moore has been instrumental in this small chain’s success – and continuing expansion. When asked to describe how he got into all this, his answer is simple. “It’s like a homebuilder that steps back and looks at a completed project. When I see a dining room full of guests and smiles on their faces, it brings joy to my heart. I know how much work it took from every member of our staff to get it right.”
There are numerous details to building a hospitable “home” for guests. Here’s Moore: How do you develop and test menu items as you continue to grow?
WM: We start most of our dishes out as a feature. Then we can gauge interest and make any necessary changes. Shamrock Foods is on board throughout. We’ll use their test kitchen, or sometimes their chefs work with us here. It’s a wonderful collaboration.
How do food trends fit into your growth strategy?
WM: We continue to adapt our menu items to best suit our guest. We have standards across our various locations that perform really well – Pasta New Mexico, SouthWest Meatloaf and Wine Ice Cream are all very popular. But taste profiles change. We use the Shamrock Foods Business Development Team to get different perspectives and keep up with current trends.
“Weekend Classic Menus” are a great idea. What’s the motivation?
WM: Really just listening to our guest. We created a “Classic Breakfast” but the emphasis was not to be everything to everybody. Eight menu items, lean and mean. We know how important it is not to get lost in the shuffle. People want and expect great food and hospitality at a fair price. We try to keep it simple.
Any expert advice on wine pairing?
WM: It all comes down to preference. I always encourage people to try different wines and just go with what you like. Wine should be fun! But all of our food is meant to be paired with our wine. Wine can be intimidating, and our philosophy is to be approachable. We offer a small retail area at our bistros where you can pick up our wine to take home.
Tell us about your “QBQ model” for empowering employees to provide excellent service.
WM: That would be “Question Behind the Question.” In other words, ask better questions to uncover the true need of the customer and avoid being a victim.
How are the delivery logistics working as you add locations?
WM: Shamrock Foods values our business, and something as simple as delivering at the requested times is huge for us. Then there’s getting product to us on the fly, even when we may have been at fault. Another service example – bringing a refrigerated truck to cover for our walk-in after it went down.
As for Shamrock Foods, you say, “The partnership is amazing.”
WM: It really is just that; the company has the right culture. Strong leadership and clear direction on how to service their customers.
So Shamrock Foods goes beyond the goods.
WM: Some companies just deliver groceries. Shamrock Foods knows their products and, more importantly, knows what products will benefit our business. Just the overall service mentality of the Shamrock Foods team is fun to work with.
WM: Markon® produce and quality Gold Canyon Meat Co. meats are two things that we count on.
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