Call of Leadership

The Call of Leadership

Dave Dittenber is back! He and his investors have opened Drift in Bay City. A great place to hang out and take in the water front views. In this episode, he shares how the idea of Drift came about and what you can expect when you go.

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Dave Dittenber: So I think this whole idea came from conception to reality in about 15 minutes. I guess the local knowledge of the place was always that it was just a really big destination.

 And so it was fun to take some of the ideas that the other partners had seen in other areas and say, Hey, can we do that here? I would say a lot more to put into it, but it’s gotten off to a great start.

Cliff Duvernois: So what makes Michigan a great state? I’m glad you asked. 

My name is Cliff Duvernois and I’m on a quest to answer that exact question. After 20 years, I’ve returned to my native Michigan, and I’m looking to reconnect with my home state. I’m talking to the people who are behind Michigan’s great businesses and top destinations, the same people who work hard every day to make our lives a little bit brighter.

And you Michigander are coming along for the ride. 

This is the Call of Leadership podcast. 

Hello, everyone. Welcome back to another episode of the Call of Leadership podcast. Today, we have a returning guest, Dave Dittenber. Him and his, uh, investors are running.

You’re up to what? Five restaurants now.

Dave Dittenber: Five restaurants. Yep. Uh, Midland based between Midland based city. Yeah. So five. It seems like a lot.

Cliff Duvernois: you keep, you keep doubling down. I tell you, this is a very tough industry. So the sheer fact that you guys actually are growing post COVID, uh, is I consider that to be a good sign.

Dave Dittenber: Yeah, it’s been a great sign. I think, just from a development point of view, there were so many people that were uncertain during COVID as to where business would come back how things would be. But the reality is I think it’s come back bigger and better before actually probably much better than a lot of people would’ve thought from a demand point of view.

So it’s yeah. It’s, it’s great. We love the growth. We love the area and the region. So this one was something that was, sitting empty and it just was a little heartbreaking to be honest with you. So it’s been a fun project to do.

Cliff Duvernois: It certainly has been. And we’re on location right now at drift your newest.

Endeavor. Yep. And I have to say, this is, this is actually one of the reasons why I reached out to Dave because I got invited to follow you on social. And when I did, I was like, wow, that place looks so cool. So this is Drift Beer Garden,

Dave Dittenber: Drift Beer Garden. Yep. And there’s, uh, the partnership is Jennifer Costa.

I don’t know if you know Jen big developer in the region. John Carlson, Tony grant, and Greg Lapell who are part of three mission, which is jolly pumpkin blue tractor traverse city. So that group, so, in our group DRI so really good partnership. And frankly it started Jen and John were meeting.

And this was back at maybe two years ago now and said, Jen just said, Hey, you know, why don’t you come in and meet with us and just wanted to show you what we were thinking about and what we were talking about. And we all sit every, of course, all three of us run late. We get into the meeting spot and, you know, we’re double booked 15 minutes later.

So I think this whole idea came from from conception to reality in about 15 minutes. And it’s just a great group to work with. So good business and development experience and design on Jen’s side John and Greg and Tony of, 25 30 restaurants. I don’t even know how many they have now, but and then also, I mean, we had some local knowledge and some things, and we had, I guess the local knowledge of the place was always that it was just a really big destination.

Uh, and, and so it was fun to. See the idea and then take some of the ideas that the other partners had seen in other areas and say, Hey, can we do that here? So, yeah, we’ve learned a lot and we have a lot more to learn and, and, I would say a lot more to put into it, but it’s gotten off to a great start.

Cliff Duvernois: How did the concept for drift initially get formed? Was it Jen, in this meeting, you were just talking about where they said, Hey, we’ve got this idea for a beer garden.

Dave Dittenber: yeah, Jen had come up with a, we’ll call it a modular type of setup, right? Where there, uh, hop lot in traverse city, back lot in Petoskey, you know, the, this food truck park, but you know, and, and again, it wasn’t something I was really familiar with.

I had just come back from Fort Myers and so we’d went to a place like this, but it was much more. You know, mobile, right. You know, seasonal kind of thing. And so she came up with I would say the general concept of this, and then the other guys with having businesses in Ann Arbor or traverse city, they were much more familiar with the concept.

And so, we kind of went along with the, I guess in playing the role that from the operational piece that we had the local knowledge in, in terms of putting it together. But yeah, she, Jen’s just unbelievably creative and, uh, has taken. I think the vision that she’s able to put into projects is pretty remarkable.

And then you take guys, you know, on the operations side that have done it, it it’s definitely morphed and it’ll continue to morph, I think, because our market here definitely isn’t traverse city or Ann Arbor, but, we’re finding our way, you know, making the appropriate adjustments, but yeah, it was kind of a thing.

And then all of a sudden we were a partner in this thing and we’ve been off to the races. So it’s been really fun to put together.

Cliff Duvernois: Nice. Now I’ve spent actually a lot of time on foot in bay city. And when I drove up here and I saw drift, I, I kind of had a feeling that I knew this place. It seemed like it had been closed forever. What was the name of the building that was here? What was the name of that

Dave Dittenber: Uh, it was the black Pearl before that. Um, but then it was also the king fish until probably I think seven years ago and some good friends of mine Willis Wells and Greg Kimber who actually. Still own the river rock over on the, on the west side they had had.

So ironically enough, when I first bottled city hall in 1997 I got to know those guys and I used to come drink coffee here with other restaurant tours and all the vendors, like every morning when I was still living in bay city. And so, they were iconic. You know, if you look around here, you’ll see this in the bathrooms or the over in the merchandise thing, this really.

Penmanship and artful thing that was all Greg would sit here and draw that by hand he’d draw all the signs for the bands. That was what his schedule would look like. And I would always tell him, I’m like, man, this is crazy. Like, I I’ve never seen anybody freehand, stuff like that. So we tried to keep some of those iconic things from the king fish.

The black Pearl was just around a few short years before it shut down. It shut down, um, went into COVID and then all of a sudden it was gonna be a. Just a void down here that really needed to be filled. Right. It was hard to hard to watch that place just or the place empty.

That’s, I would say that that unique partnership was what really brought us having interest. Cause I don’t know if I would’ve wanted to tackle that at the time on our own. Right. Cause it was, it was right in the middle

Cliff Duvernois: exactly.

Yep. and every time that I would walk by this place when it was black Pearl, you know, my heart would break cuz you really have killer views of the riverfront here. I mean, this is just got something that’s just gotta be a huge draw for your customers to come.

Dave Dittenber: It’s it’s a huge draw. Like I said, we were we were really lucky that we had places like this as a destination. Because up until probably I would say six or eight years ago, this used to be the summertime where our down months.

We would, that was when we would, do all repairs and do all our things. But the, the, when the king fish was here they had a lot of festivals and, and then they became the, place where people would come and wanna hang out and enjoy the views and, bring the boats down and all that kind of stuff.

And so when that ended, it was difficult because you didn’t have as much of that traffic. And, you know, we’ve got some other good places, like real seafood and you know, that. Outside type of, um, atmosphere, but it wasn’t, know you could tell in this little downtown corridor that, that it was hard to bring the people in.

Right. Right. Cuz even if we would just get someone coming over for a snack or a drink, they would usually start at a place like this. And that’s why those places are pivotal and having ’em in the areas like this. So yeah, it, it was really It was a destination. And that’s what we, I think, again, it it’s a first year.

We had some challenges just with like everything else, supply chain and labor and so forth. So we were a little bit inconsistent when we were able to get open. You know, I think it’s come together really well and it, people are, you can see the traffic continuing to build post pandemic and becoming that destination again, which is fun

Cliff Duvernois: When I’m watching your social media, particularly your Instagram reels or whatnot, it always seems like there’s a good collection of people.

Dave Dittenber: Yeah. It’s been, it’s been really a really good collection of people and you’ve got, all different demographics and then you add, we only have one side of the, the decks or the dock open this year, the boat docks just.

You know, again, supply chain, they need to be floating docks. We order ’em and people are like, oh, it’s 18 months. And we’re like, wow, 

Cliff Duvernois: so,

Dave Dittenber: um, we’ve had to punt and pivot a little bit but overall I think that people have been really receptive. They’ve had a good time the entertainment and just the atmosphere Paige who’s the manager here does a great job with.

All the social media and Instagram, and that always gets a lot of excitement. So it’s, yeah, it’s just, it’s been a, it’s been a good eclectic group and I think we’re gonna continue to, kind of gain on the momentum as we, get a few more seasons under our belt.

Cliff Duvernois: One of the things that I see quite often on your social media account is the food trucks yeah. That are coming in.

So if I understand it correctly, you do have a menu here, a smaller menu that you offer, but it’s primarily the food trucks.

Dave Dittenber: Correct. Frankly, the, the food trucks in the area, a lot of ’em are booked out, right? So, the good trucks. That has been a, a learning curve for us.

So we have a truck here of our own which is a Cuban men menu. That’s influenced by. Anthony Acosta, Jen’s husband’s family. So, some real cool snacky stuff. And then we have a barbecue concept. So we’ve that one truck kind of deals with those two menus. So we’ve had that in place primarily to fill the voids when we can’t get outside trucks.

It’s that’s been a D. I guess booking process, right? It’s like, and just like good bands or anything else, like they’re busy and they have their spots and they have their customers and clientele. So we were, as a matter of fact, we were just talking at a meeting today. This is something that we have to, I think, really learn from this year, get out to people earlier and then probably take on more of an approach that they’ve done in some of these other areas that are.

Permanent right for the season. So if you go to, I was just in Petoskey for a meeting and went over to backlog, which is great. They had a very they had five trucks that were just built in . Right. So it’s like, they’ve got lo they, they have mobile trucks, but they had such a, a draw that they would, so we’ve gotta get a little bit, I think, more.

Educated on how to do that and probably start to book some of those folks earlier in the season, rather than later. Right. We were a little late to the party last year. So yeah, it, that’s been one of the learning curves, for sure.

Cliff Duvernois: So speaking of learning curves, I just learned something brand new. I did not know that you booked the food trucks. I literally thought a food truck would just pull up somewhere. Open up the gate and start serving food.

But you’re talking about when you’re talking about booking it’s that you reach out to them and say, Hey, could you be here on this date, this date, or every Friday for the month of August? Is that how that works? Yeah,

Dave Dittenber: that’s, that’s how it works. And, and again if it probably will adjust a little bit we’ve had certain regular trucks that have come in and you know, there’s. It’s kind of like a camper setting, right. You know, we

Cliff Duvernois: certainly provide,

Dave Dittenber: Electricity and trash and water and essentially want, we want it to be as easy for the truck to come up and be able to hook up and do business.

Eliminate the generator noise and all that kind of stuff so that the customer can have a good experience. But so a lot of people charge like a lot.

On it. And that’s been a, that’s been an interesting, so we we’ve kinda waved that. And that’s, you know, again, in, in other areas that’s more common here, not so much.

And so we’ve lived and learned a little bit, but the trucks have been real patient with us too, to of work together and get things in line. And so that’s that’s been good, but yeah that’s the. I don’t know if it’ll stay that way, cliff, you know, we don’t know exactly how would it’ll work out, cuz we wanna get through the season, get feedback from the people that we’re working with.

And also you wanna have trucks here that the customers want to

Cliff Duvernois: exactly.

Dave Dittenber: So that, that variety. I, and, and again, I thought of it in the beginning would be more like you described something that was. Pull up and be able to do that. And the only bad part is, is if no one shows up and you don’t know who’s coming and you don’t have food, then you have the guests that’ll come here and say, oh man, I wish you guys had food.

So yes, it’s been a BA it’s been a balance. And definitely a, a lot of learning experiences. That’s part of, opening a new business pivoting adjusting. So certainly, yeah.

Cliff Duvernois: So my next question then would be you, you’ve got all of this restaurant experience now you’ve opened up the, the beer garden and, and along the lines of the food trucks, is there a particular reason why you decided to say, let’s start bringing food trucks in to serve food to our clients?

Or was it something where you like a supply chain issue? Like what, we don’t know what we can serve right now. So let’s bring in food trucks and let them take care of it.

Dave Dittenber: So I would say it’s a two part answer originally. The kitchen and some of the facilities were. Relatively bad shape. And, we went and started to look at the pros and cons to be able to come up with a full service kitchen that could be able to supply both the upper and the lower.

And then we, um, one of the things that after talking with the guys before is they always would have issues. Getting the food out just because they didn’t have enough kitchen capacity. Right. So, we have a, a hut down on the lower dock that they used to use as a kitchen, which we were not, they would not allow us to use a kitchen anymore.

Cliff Duvernois: Oh, boo.

Dave Dittenber: right. Um, and it was just a shack that they could serve burgers and, some of the light stuff, So we had to overcome that from a logistical standpoint to say, okay, what can we really, how do you decrease kitchen space? How do you increase numbers? And then, still provide good customer experience.

So, um, we kind of went with this idea that we, the food trucks would be. We thought a better option. Right. And then especially if we participated in that, it would still be something where we still had our own take and creativity in the food service, but also just thought that from being at some of those places and hearing some of Jan and John and Greg and Tony’s feedback about how people really.

Got excited about the different things that it, it potentially could be a draw and a destination in a couple ways, not just from the water anymore, but maybe bringing in people from trucks, that. And I think post COVID, uh, one of the things that I’ve learned is you’ve gotta have these co-branded opportunities and really these B to B business opportunities to really tie into different demographics or kind of enhance your own.

Cliff Duvernois: business. That is something that I didn’t think about because I know that for a lot of food trucks out there, they’re really reliant upon social media to communicate with their followers.

Hey, we’re at this place serving food tonight, right? So people can go and find them because people will drive for a food truck if they really like it. Absolutely. But that’s really excellent. What you were just talking about there, cuz this gives you an opportunity to not only use your social, to draw people here, but use their social to draw people here as.

Dave Dittenber: Yeah. And I would say also again, learning experience, I think overall it’s been positive. Just the coordination and communication.

One of the things I would say, I didn’t really consider when we did this was, you know, you’ve got

the, the business itself, right. So you’ve gotta kind of dial that incorrectly, but then you still have to make sure that. The food service aspect of that even that’s not yours is managed properly. Right.

So it’s I consider it kind of like the door dash third party piece when you participate that if the driver is. Late or something. Isn’t good. There’s still Associa associating that. Right. So there’s and again, it’s just all it’s learning experience. But I do believe that there’s more strength in numbers and looking at some of the, I was always.

Not necessarily food trucks, but food halls and cities like Seattle and, Portland Chicago, where, to me, it kind of had that same feel. Then the, the other elephant in the room, is that okay? What are you do the, you know, what are you do the off seasons, if you will. So you definitely define yourself by doing this as more of a seasonal business, which, that was always something that talking to the previous owners, that’s really what they concentrated on doing, you know?


Cliff Duvernois: So certainly speaking of seasonal, one of the things I thought about here is you I’ve, I’ve seen, I’ve seen it on your social. I’ve seen it here today. You’ve got this beautiful deck going out, back with boat launches. At some point in time, we’re gonna get hit with our Michigan snow. So as you’re playing, just, just everything inside of the building and we’re gonna continue service as usual.

Dave Dittenber: You know, so there, there’s a couple options here and, and I think it, it will probably the outside, unless, we look at some things with some structures or some popups with the igloo dinners and things like that, that we’ve thrown around. I believe that, you know, we’ve had some inquiries about some Christmas parties in December and things, but

Cliff Duvernois: already.

Dave Dittenber: still, yeah, it’s still, but it’s still thing.

To me, it’s always, it’s gonna be driven by the location. People wanna see the freighters, people wanna see the boats, people you’re right. I mean, it just adds a ton to. To all of that. So my, in my opinion it’ll probably, you know, we’re gonna this year, especially from say January to St. Patrick’s day, we’ve got, some things that we wanted to do.

So we’ll definitely be closed for a few months this year, just to be able to of finish the construction things we were unable, we were unable to do. But I, I do believe it’ll, it’ll be a. Month solid a year BI or a month, uh, bus a year, month, a year business. When it’s all said and done

Cliff Duvernois: beautiful now for a lot of PE cuz you’re still brand new. Yeah. So I can imagine there’s gonna be a lot of people that are gonna be listening to this.

That’s never even heard a drift. Yeah. So for those people that are out there and are thinking, you know what, I might want to go check this place out. What can they expect when they come.

Dave Dittenber: we’ve been to your point, we’ve been really trying to communicate out to social media.

To the customers, you know, what type of cuisine or trucks that we’re gonna have every night. But that’s one of the challenges too. It’s unpredictable. Right, right. You know, we had a truck cancellation tonight. I was just talking with Paige about it and there was. So it’s, it’s difficult because sometimes people do come over and that’s out of our control, but they can always expect our truck is always open serving the, the barbecue and the the Cuban cuisine just a really fun, cool bar to be around.

You know, they’ve come up with a really great specialty cocktail list and, and very. I know it’s got a good feel like just somewhere that you wanna sit out, be able to enjoy the water enjoy a nice breeze like this on a night like that, watch the goat or go 

Cliff Duvernois: goat 

Dave Dittenber: not goats, uh, boats go by and just, just relax.

So it’s just a very, games out in, in what we call our green space. You can play corn hole and have a cocktail and walk around and sit outside. You go up and check out what you want to have for snacks or dinner that night and go out and grab something off the truck. And we’ve done some things, even technology wise, where you can in the beginning you had to go directly to the truck to order.

Now you can, do it through a QR code at your phone, and then they text you when it’s 

Cliff Duvernois: Sweet 

Dave Dittenber: Just those type of details that I think that is a little bit different of a concept, but I think it’s fun versus just the traditional dining experience. Of sitting at a table and, yeah.

We all love sit down service, but I also really, I think, and probably speak for everybody. Want something that’s a little bit different and a little bit new. 

Cliff Duvernois: with regards to the drink menu, so it’s a combination of beer and cocktails. 

Dave Dittenber: Correct?

Yep. Uh, beer and cocktails and, and, uh, try to.

Features some local brew were definitely partial to north peak and jolly pumpkin, because those are obviously people that we, care very deeply about and brands we really love, but also just working with some of the, Titos for example, or

Cliff Duvernois: Oh yes.

Dave Dittenber: know, so, and again it fits the summer.

People want to go out there and sit and enjoy a mule or, something that has like a freshness and, you can just feel like it, Hey, I’m on the water. Right. But I’m not up north. Right. And that, that’s the other thing. How do you create that up north feel without having to be, up on bay Harbor or something like that.

So, yeah,

Cliff Duvernois: certainly. And before you were also talking too about bands music coming in, how does that work?

Dave Dittenber: Yeah, so, uh, Paige and Brian have done a great job of, tapping into some local bands and people that come from outside of the area. So we have anywhere from acoustic to some, some bigger three, four piece bands that mostly on the weekends.

That’s the other thing you talk about what to expect? Because we got. Start. It was difficult to maybe book some of the other times, and frankly it’s much different than the other places. Like again, if I would do music on a Wednesday night, a at another place. That’s really not as received the same as some, right?

So that’s been a learning curve. Unfortunately by the time you adjust to the learning curve, people are busy and they’ve already done those things. So I think that will be in that time period between kind of end of season. And while we’re getting some, uh, the additional repairs or the additional construction stuff that we were wanted to do those will be things that I think we can get a better idea about.

And, maybe have some more bands booked on. I’d love to see live music every night, to be honest with you. And I think people enjoy that. That’s another thing that drives kind of that customer experience and, and, you know, excitement and wanting to be around a spot and sit outside. So

Cliff Duvernois: certainly certainly one of the things that has been kind of a recurring theme throughout this interview, you’ve said it multiple times is learning curve.

Yeah. How important is having this learning curve and being able to learn from it versus just coming in, setting up shop and saying, okay, this is what we’re gonna do and trying to stick to your plan.

Dave Dittenber: In all the business that I’ve ever done. I always try to think that if you know everything or you think, you know, everything, you also will be the first one probably to fail, you know, and so I, I really, you know, we try to listen to what customers have said, try to listen to, from an employee point of view from just the logistics.

And we keep saying, you know, this summer is a little bit of a practice run. For next summer, even, I’ve opened between other restaurants for other people in my own. I think I’ve opened 40 some restaurants or something to that from ground up. And, uh, this has been one of the most challenging, just because it’s just, so there are so many things that we don’t do.

I mean, we, when you’re sitting in a normal kitchen, if you put. An opening team in the back and know that, Hey, we’re going to, we need to do this many people. And you know, I can sit back and work expo and we can train people on what it is that we’re expected to prep for. This is not that way. You know, I remember the first weekend, and it was just.

As you would expect in an opening, people are bouncing around and we didn’t have, a lot of our orders are done via handhelds at the table. Things that are more convenient, so little, little less I would say. Mainstream. The, the routers weren’t working correctly and they weren’t sending the drinks correctly and we needed to update some of that thing.

And, you know, and again, the customers were very understanding, they’re out here spending money and at some point it’s like, okay, we’ll let you practice. But, you know, we can’t. But, and the other reason I say that is most of the time we would have. Especially when I was working in opening, Outback steakhouses and things like that.

We’d spend two weeks to open a restaurant. Right. It was very deliberate. It was very staged. We didn’t really get a chance to do that because as soon as the weather turned and it’s like, all right, we wish we had another month to do this, but we had to go. So that was a little bit and people coming out of pandemic.

I mean, the demand is there and they’re like, let’s go, let’s go. Let’s go. And so we decided we would figure some of that out on the fly. So I think that, you know, we’ve learned a ton. I know there’s ways that we can do better, that the customers will really appreciate. And I’m a marathon guy, not a sprint guy, so it it’s, and again, in the other places it’s just, you get to a point where you’re like, Hey, we’ve gotta do something different.

Right. And, and that sometimes doesn’t happen overnight, but new businesses, I just feel it’s very important to, if you hear something once or twice, maybe you’re not. The ears are not as perked as when you start to hear something multiple times. Right? So that’s been the deal. But we, like I said our main objective is to get better for next season and take what we’ve learned this year and really improve upon it and both the food and the beverage sides of the business.

Cliff Duvernois: What I think is interesting. You were saying before about how you’ve opened probably close to 40 restaurants now. Yeah. And they’re still a learning curve, right? It doesn’t, there doesn’t seem to be like one single pattern. Like you’ve licked it. Like you could write a book and then retire on an island somewhere and say, this is how you.

Dave Dittenber: The, the guys who are really great at scaling anything, right. They have a system. and I would say, you know, when we open molasses in Midland or Tavern 1 0 1, uh, American kitchen, the, they were very similar service models. That we had always done. And so, frankly, those seemed just so much less difficult.

Right? Right. And not saying you would, I mean, every night we would sit down as an opening staff and we’d have, a stack of comment cards from every, table and we’d go through and we’d look, all right, this was good. This was bad. This is what you consider. , we would try to be able.

Make those adjustments, whether it was menu, that kind of thing, but this is completely different than that. Right? You it’s, that type of business is way more con predictable, then you think you can do it all correctly and then you still have the weather to deal with. Right? Like, and so there there’s so many things that you don’t think of.

So it. There are a lot of things. Like you try to keep the same service principles and things like that. Getting drinks in front of people quickly, hellos, thank you. That kind of training. But then when you’re trying to like educate cuz yes. What people should expect when they get here. We also needed to have some education with the tables to say, Hey, this is how this works.

Right, because if they’re just sitting there and they’re waiting for a food menu or something, they’re say, oh, how do I do this? That becomes a little confusing, you know, so that, that’s where the nontraditional type of thing I think hurt us. So we’re trying, again, I mentioned the order and pay at tables and some things that maybe can help that process.

But, you know, if I get my mom who’s, goes, loves to go out, to eat and loves to do all that stuff. I mean, that can be a little intimidating, and you wanna make it something that’s very comfortable and you’ve got people that are willing to help them through that. Even when it’s busy.

Right? That’s that, that right? Yeah. So it it’s that those have been some other areas of, challenge and different, but I think the principal’s still the same. It’s just, it just took a little longer and I’m not a, I wish I was the guy that picks it up on the first read, but, you know, I need to. I need to write it down and play that out a few times situationally before I can sit there and say, okay, yeah, this is definitely a better, not a better way to do this, but a way that we can improve it and not, I guess, screw it up even more,

Cliff Duvernois: Yeah, exactly. Yes. One of the things. Came up in another interview that I did. Uh, so it was Chris Roth. He has the farm restaurant way over there, port Austin.

Dave Dittenber: lo it’s. I love it. It’s one of my favorite. I’ve been there multiple times.

Cliff Duvernois: How is this place like not been revealed to me before.

Dave Dittenber: it is beautiful.

It is beautiful. And they do a phenomenal job. I don’t know them well, but I’ve been in the establishment a bunch and, and again, they I’m sure. I remember they started more seasonal. I don’t know if that’s still the thing, if they do that. I’m sure their supply chain is really yes. Dependent on seasonality, but yeah.

Great spot.

Cliff Duvernois: Great spot. One of the things that he educated me on, and I, I worked in a restaurant for six or seven years. No one ever told me this before, but he was revealing to me like, for instance, if you don’t have somebody asking for cocktails within the first few minutes of a party sitting down odds are they won’t order them.

And the longer they have to wait, the less that they order. And he was re rattling off all these statistics that he trains his staff to meet these particular numbers. So I can imagine coming in here, you see the same thing. If people just sit down at a table, they’re waiting for menus, they’re waiting for this when the QR code’s actually on the table.

Yeah. Right. How do you train. Your not only your employees, but kind of like the customers at the same point in time that, Hey, this is, this is how we do things.

Dave Dittenber: We have a, a training program and this is, these are the consistent, and these are the the ones that we try to, hang our hat on in all the places.

And I always say, there’s usually the restaurants, there’s an 80 20 rule. The 80% is consistent amongst training and product and all that kind of stuff. The 20% is the personality of the restaurant. If you will, you know, what makes it unique? this place I would say is even 60, 40. Right because a lot of the, the we’ll call ’em the policies and they all have it in their server book, drinks within our greetings within a minute drinks within three.

Yeah. Foods usually within 20 at the other places. When you have that,

and yet you didn’t. I was mentioned in kind of the infrastructure in the beginning. It’s like, okay, well, somebody can come meet someone. And, but yet if the order’s not being sent so you need, need to, you needed to provide all the tech, the convenience and technology things need to match up with what the customers want and frankly what our expectations are.

Right. And so I think so we have a, a good core.

Group of expectations that I think everybody tries very hard to, and again, we have ’em printed on our wall in the back and our mottos, we try to do it right all the time and we try to make things very simple. But. Sometimes it’s hard for people to do that.

To your point, if we wanna meet those standards or exceed those standards, not just from a time or a quality point of view, how all of a sudden, do you get through that education with, you have four tables sit down at the same time. And, somebody at the end of that four is gonna, as you know, being from the west restaurant industry, the person sitting at the end of that line is gonna wait.

And, you know, at that point it’s like, It, it definitely affects the standards and how that comes together. And we’ve tried to add technology to be able to do that. We’ve tried to I guess really train the people to make sure that there is a scripted, introduction. Have you been here before here?

Here’s some of our cocktails do some suggestive selling to get things going. Cause Chris is exactly right. The, the two things that people hate the most. they hate waiting to start and they hate waiting. Well, and, and of course they’re gonna, you can get through by doing things for product to stretch that out.

Right. But they don’t wanna wait to pay either. right. They don’t wanna wait when they get there and they don’t wanna wait for the, and if you look at customer surveys, like 70% of all restaurant problems app happen in the first five minutes or the last, 10 minutes of a shift. You know, first five minutes, when a patient went a patient, when a customer gets there in the, you know, the last 10 minutes, of those were the highest number of comps and, people being upset.

However, you can improve that. But you can’t, and again, I’m a, I’m a hospitality guy. First. You, you can’t just automate all that. There has to be someone that guides ’em through the process and holds their hand and makes them feel. Like you’re special to me. And that, that’s what a little bit I think of the difficulty is with, oh, I mean, when somebody told me, oh, I gotta go pick up my own F walk and pick up my own food. Right. That’s a different one. Right. So we even playing with around with the ideas and that’s part of what we’ve done here is food runners, maybe from the trucks or, the service can go in there. Assist that process when they know things are coming up. So it, it, those are, I think some of the things, but very hard to keep standards up in a non-traditional service model.

And that’s really what this is. How do you perfect that and make it better?

Cliff Duvernois: Yeah. Cause I could just see, I didn’t even think about that until you just brought it up, but I could see somebody sitting here at a table, they scan your QR code, goes to a food truck and the food truck says your food’s ready.

And they say, okay, but they don’t get up and leave the table. Cause they assume somebody’s bringing it. Cuz at our traditional restaurant, that’s what always happens. So their food sitting on the food truck getting cold. Yeah. They’re getting angry cuz their food’s not coming. So then they.

Dave Dittenber: we’ve had it. We’ve had it, especially in the beginning, you know, it’s like, okay, how do you get the food out quicker?

And how do you get the, how do you get the drinks, it’s warm, so Hey, I’m gonna go out and wait, I’m gonna get a drink. And you know, and you, you can’t even that education, you know, you can tell ’em, Hey, listen, you.

Go out, play a game, feel free to walk around with your cocktail and carry your phone with you.

They’ll text you when your order’s ready, that kind of thing, but just that education. Right. And I, I remember like going to BDs Mongolian barbecue for the first time, or, going to Weber’s, grill in Chicago. There are things that the grill, your own steak at the table kind of thing.

Like there’s an education component to that. And if you don’t do it right, you can really, people get a bad taste in their mouth. And so we’ve had, we’ve taken a few lumps there, but like I said, I think some additional training, maybe even signage, things like that, where you’re.

Letting ’em know what to expect. Right. Trying to make that experience easier. And more importantly, even if for, you know, say for example, things didn’t go well on first visit, but they overall, had a good experience and they had good service and people were nice to ’em when they come back in and they see that you’ve made adjustments or done things that they’re so appreciative.

Right. Right. Because they, they,

Cliff Duvernois: you listened,

Dave Dittenber: you listened you and again, comment cards and things that you do. Those things are all very. Important. And you know, we take that stuff very seriously. We wanna be north of 4.5 out of five on all the review sites. when you’re not that to me, that indicates the quality level of a restaurant.

And those things are really important. You can’t just do, I love social media and I love that, but at some point the product needs to deliver. That’s what they wanna be. Yeah. They need to feel like they’re getting what they’re paying for.

Cliff Duvernois: So based on our conversation here and from what I’ve seen, drift really is a unique experience.

I, I can’t think of any other restaurant I’ve been to that has, that offers this. And to be honest, I think it’s nice. I actually think it’s kind of refreshing

Dave Dittenber: people have had, have had that same reaction. I believe that it’s something that.

you’re gonna, you, I’m sure people have seen it in different aspects in different markets, but for bay city, for the great lakes bay region, to me, it really is something that if you want, if you’re coming in, if you got guests coming in from out of town, or if you’re coming in and wanting to look for a unique casual and that’s, that’s the other thing I think in this type of environment, it really speaks to being able to be casual.

It’s very communal it’s very, open, it’s kind of simple which if you can come out here and you can, really enjoy that type of experience and just take in the views and all that. Like, I think that’s a great way to, to look at it. And it, and that unique experience, where will it be for everybody?

Not, you know, not necessarily, but I think if people have an open mind, What that experience is, cuz it’s just, I mean, you know, every, there’s so many places that are just me too.

Cliff Duvernois: right?


Dave Dittenber: You know, and me too, from a food point of view, me too, from a, experienced point of view from a price point of view I like a place where I left and I’m like, yeah, I, I’ve not, I’ve not done that before.

And that was kind of fun. So that’s what we’re going for.

Cliff Duvernois: Beautiful. Absolutely love it.

Dave, if somebody’s listening to this episode right now, they want to come and check out drift or maybe find you online. What’s the best way for them to do that.

Dave Dittenber: So drift beer company dot com is the website, like you mentioned, Instagram, Facebook TikTok, all that on, on drift beer co.

And, you know, we’ve been trying to get out. I think, and again, appreciate the opportunity to walk through the concept and stuff, because it, this really helps. I think, hearing it from us to, for people to really understand what it is, what to expect when they get here, but the normal social media channels.

And then we’re, you know, we’re doing some more radio and some more promotional stuff that people start to hear. Yeah, but really easy to get, downtown bay city really easy to get to.


Cliff Duvernois: it certainly is.

Dave Dittenber: Yeah.

Cliff Duvernois: for audience, we’ll have all those links in the show notes down below David. It’s been awesome.

Having you back on the podcast today, talking about your latest creation

Dave Dittenber: Cliff, it’s always great to talk to you and thanks for making the trip over to bay city. Really enjoyed it.