Change is the order of business in the culinary field today. Owners need to be nimble even as they’re making long-term plans for growth. Case in point: The Place, which started in Flagstaff, is now serving breakfast and lunch in Glendale/Metro Phoenix and recently debuted in Scottsdale for a new clientele. Kea Mead talks about the solutions and strategies that have brought this family-owned business 20-plus years of success. You’ll see plenty of discussion about their willingness to evolve and take advantage of opportunities, and about their ongoing partnership with Shamrock Foods.
Shamrock Foods was the established distributor when the Meads bought The Place 26 years ago, and they’ve stayed for continuing, customized service.
Talk about the beginning, in Flagstaff, when you and husband Steve Mead became restaurant owners.
KM: We were both working for Mike & Ronda’s Breakfast Club when they wanted to sell and move. The individual who held the note on the business loan said he’d been watching us and thought we’d do an excellent job, so he offered to carry the note. We didn’t change the name until 5 years later, to fit our slogan, “There is no place like this place, so this must be ‘The Place,’” but the locals wouldn’t stop calling it Mike & Ronda’s. So we went with The Place, Mike & Ronda’s Restaurant. We opened in Glendale in 2001, and in 2003 we sold the 21 S. Milton location in Flagstaff to the manager who had been with us from the start. In 2006, we sold our 3518 E. Rte. 66 Flagstaff location to our long-term manager there, so now we are focused on the Glendale and Scottsdale locations.
Your reputation for hearty portions began in Flagstaff, too. How do you achieve profitability?
KM: It’s a mountain town, so we served men who wanted to fill up till the next break or end of shift – construction workers, snowplow drivers, railroad workers – and that’s what we became known for. Once, we tried to cut back on our hash-brown portions, and customers got very upset! Shamrock Foods has been great about working with us on our popular items. Sales Representative Jeff Hefley is always watching prices and letting us know if they’re changing. Jeff is new for us, and he has done a great job, providing information on new products, even noticing when we failed to order something. He goes out of his way to help us in a pinch.
What about the special challenge of moving The Place to a new place, i.e., Glendale?
KM: Shamrock Foods was great working with us on our new budgeting.
Glendale requirements: How did you switch things up (or not!) for a new clientele?
KM: Our décor in Glendale is very much like a log cabin you’d see or visit in Flagstaff, homey and comfortable. Comfort food never goes out of style; it just gets updated. For us that’s what breakfast and lunch are about, whether you’re having a meeting or relaxing with friends after a big night out. A good, filling meal hits the spot.
Now Scottsdale, in the DC Ranch development, represents another shift in customer demographics, plus a new brunch menu.
KM: We’re always being offered locations; if it sounds interesting we’ll go look at it. DC Ranch was one of those. We liked the center and the owners’ plans to improve the area. The Place here has a country-chic feel while being homey and comfortable like Glendale. Our son Ryan, who is general manager, wanted to get away from classic diner-style items for brunch and offer something more modern and seasonal while keeping that same comfort-food feel.
Tell us more about sticking with breakfast and lunch. What are the customer-favorite dishes and your go-to Shamrock Foods products?
KM: Even when we tried opening for dinner, we sold more breakfast items than dinner. So do what you’re best at! Closing at 3 p.m. allows us time for family, after-school and other activities. Our bacon is a big deal; customers love it – thank you, Shamrock Foods. For breakfast, biscuits and gravy, omelets, steak and eggs, or bacon and eggs. For lunch, hamburgers made fresh by Gold Canyon – anything from the Gold Canyon line is great. And salads, the Markon® produce is always fresh and top quality. Customers love our daily specials; they’ll come in on a certain day to have their favorite.
Can you outline the logistics of Mead
KM: Ryan has focused mostly on getting Scottsdale going, so he has spent a lot of time there, with 1½ days a week managing any issues in Glendale, plus weekend specials and liquor ordering. Hopefully he’ll spread himself more evenly once Scottsdale gets to where we want it. Steve and our other son, Mike, stay in Glendale overseeing operations there. Mike is a server/manager and helps with the front of house. I go between the two locations, doing bookwork and back-office work. And we’ve always been blessed with great employees who care about our customers and the restaurant.
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