The Farm Restaurant is in the middle of nowhere. And yet this hidden gem thrives when so many others fail. In this episode, co-owner Chris Roth walks us through how they engineer the perfect customer experience in both good times and bad times.
699 Port Crescent Rd
Port Austin, MI 48467
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: And I think one of the keys that makes us successful is with two owners here, making sure everything’s running right. So if things start to go off track, we can correct it immediately and always make sure the customer has the best experience.
Cliff Duvernois: So what makes Michigan a great state? I’m glad you asked.
Cliff Duvernois: 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.
Cliff Duvernois: And you Michigander are coming along for the ride.
Cliff Duvernois: This is the Call of Leadership podcast.
Cliff Duvernois: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to another episode of the Call of Leadership podcast. My name is Cliff DuVernois and today’s actually a little bit of an adventure for me. Um, my guest does not know this, but it was about two years ago. I was driving up around Port Austin way and the GPS told me to go home, taking some back roads, which I did.
Cliff Duvernois: And all of a sudden I ran across the farm restaurant in the middle of nowhere. And I thought to myself, this place has got to have a great story. So joining me today is one of the owners, Chris Roth, who will be, uh, answering my question. So, Chris, how are you?
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: I’m doing well. How are you today?
Cliff Duvernois: I’m doing well.
Cliff Duvernois: Thank you for asking. So first off, don’t you tell us a little bit about where you’re from, where you grew up.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: I grew up in Sterling Heights. Okay. And my family has deep roots up in the thumb area here. So I always came up on weekends and worked up here through, to work my college up here in the summers and met Pam who’s now my wife here in 2005.
Cliff Duvernois: Oh, wonderful. Yeah. Wonderful. So what actually brought you up this way?
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: Well, I, uh, getting serious with Pam and I was offered a job opportunity up in this area. I’d always wanted to work up here and live up here, but there’s not a lot of full-time decent paying jobs. So I was able to move up here to get started with Pam and to start working at a different job down in Caseville.
Cliff Duvernois: Beautiful. Now, if I understand this correctly, we’re it’s in the early nineties. 93.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: Yes.
Cliff Duvernois: probably.
Cliff Duvernois: We’re in the middle of a recession. If memory
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: serves
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: I believe you’re right.
Cliff Duvernois: And you decide to open up a restaurant
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: that was Pam and her ex-husband opened the farm in 93. Oh, okay. They were doing catering in the summer, down at Harbor beach at the harbor beach resort. And they turned around and bought this business. It had been closed. It was previously a restaurant that was called Ye Olde Homestead and they closed down in 89. They bought it 93 and they ran the place together until mid two thousands, about 2005. Then they got a divorce and Pam’s ex ran the restaurant for a couple years.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: Okay. And then her and I took it over together in 2009. Okay.
Cliff Duvernois: now, did you have any restaurant experience?
Cliff Duvernois: None.
Cliff Duvernois: None.
Cliff Duvernois: Now what about Pam?
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: Pam has been, this is her 30th year as a chef here at the farm. Previous to that, she started out when she was, cooking at 14 years old at Mackinaw island.
Cliff Duvernois: Wow
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: Then she worked at a few different restaurants and then decided to go to culinary school.
Cliff Duvernois: So then
Cliff Duvernois: I gotta ask the question and I’m sure that you and Pam have talked about this. And I, I know she’s busy in the kitchen right now. You’ve got a party of 200 that’s coming here very soon. So she’s she’s busy with that.
Cliff Duvernois: Why in the world would you ever think that a restaurant out here in the middle of nowhere would actually work?
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: You know, and that’s something I know she asked herself that a lot, it was previously a restaurant that had a local following. Like I said, it was a deep fried chicken joint, I believe for years.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: Okay. And then when it closed down, so there was a local following to it and it was kind of a field of dreams type thing. If you build it, they will come. So we’re in the worst location imaginable for a restaurant. We’re in the middle of nowhere. We’re at least a mile from the nearest main road, four and a half miles out of town.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: And most weekends in the summer, we turn away just about as many people as we serve.
Cliff Duvernois: So one thing I do have to say is that just walking around your restaurant, taking it in, there’s a very heavy French influence here.
Cliff Duvernois: Yes. It’s it’s
Cliff Duvernois: on the menu. Uh, if you’ve got it on your signs that are around here, which is great. And one of the things is, is I’ve traveled extensively throughout the countryside in France and in Italy there, it always surprises me when I’m driving down a country road and smack dab in the middle of the field.
Cliff Duvernois: There’s a
Cliff Duvernois: restaurant
Cliff Duvernois: mm-hmm
Cliff Duvernois: and they’re
Cliff Duvernois: serving really good food. You know, they’re not like trying to serve just like, you know, fried food or anything else like that. And they are always busy cuz like you say, they develop a local following. So that’s one of the reasons why when I stopped and looked at
Cliff Duvernois: this place,
Cliff Duvernois: my first thought was,
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: did
Cliff Duvernois: I somehow make it back
Cliff Duvernois: to Europe and see this?
Cliff Duvernois: Kudos to you for being able to, have this place and keep it running for so long. And, and people do love this place.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: Yes And once you talk about the European influence, that has been a huge influence on Pam growing up, her and her parents traveled Europe, did a lot of traveling every year. They would take big trips. She would take trips with her dad a couple weeks at a time, and they would Germany, France, all different parts of Europe, Acapulco, uh, you know, Mexico.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: So airport. Singapore. She actually won a gold medal with the culinary Olympics in Singapore, a number of years back.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: So how cool
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: is that? So she’s got a, she’s used all that travel and all that experience growing up to influence our menu and influence the design in the theme of the restaurant.
Cliff Duvernois: And she’s actually, if memory serves, she has actually got a lot of extensive training. In culinary, she has served in, you know, multiple presidents of multiple culinary boards,
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: right. She’s uh, worked under at least five different master chefs through her career. So when going to school craft college, where she got her culinary degree, there’s a whole boatload of master chefs there. So she’s worked for them in various capacities over the years and through her training and early on in her.
Cliff Duvernois: So now you’ve come along and you
Cliff Duvernois: had no restaurant experience.
Cliff Duvernois: Right And
Cliff Duvernois: you just jumped into this
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: yes. And I think that was a, um, a plus for the restaurant, you know, I’m a, my degree’s in business administration. I’m a okay. Analytical numbers person. Chefs are creative people by nature. You can’t be both creative and analytical.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: I think that’s why a lot of restaurants fail. They know how to cook, but they don’t know how to run a business. And it’s great cuz Pam and I are a great pair like that because she handles the creative side of things. And I’m the answer. I’m the question. I always, I’m the one asking all the questions. Why are we doing this?
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: Why is that? Wait a minute. And what’s the cost on that? What what’s that? What’s the labor on that? So it works good for both the two of us together work well together. So it, uh, has been, uh, great for the rebuilding of the restaurant. And we took over in 2009. There was a lot of issues with businesses, surviving restaurants.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: I mean, they have a hard time just in general surviving. So we’ve been able to take it to the next level, both on the menu and on the business side of things,
Cliff Duvernois: which I do wanna talk about that.
Cliff Duvernois: And we, we quickly referenced it at the beginning of the podcast episode. So. This particular restaurant, Pam and her husband purchased it in the middle of a recession.
Cliff Duvernois: Mm-hmm
Cliff Duvernois: then of course, there’s the.com crash at the end of the nineties, which sent us into another recession 2008, huge recession. Some people even argue it was a, a minor depression,
Cliff Duvernois: right.
Cliff Duvernois: Then we had the C
Cliff Duvernois: storm. Yes.
Cliff Duvernois: And you guys are still here.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: We’re still here with, uh, COVID. We, you have to adapt. So we had mother’s day, which is normally one of our biggest years restaurant was CLO or one of our biggest holidays.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: We were closed and it was all carry out. And we, we still served over 200 people just doing carry out and then wonderful. We had a tent out, taken up about a third of the parking lot two summers ago when we were down to 50%. So we were able to offset what we lost seating wise in here to, uh, and have ’em outside in the tent.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: And fortunately that summer, the weather was almost perfect. I think we only had one day that it rained that we were open that affected the tent. So we lucked out there and then there was some. PPP money and restaurant revitalization funds and stuff like that, that helped businesses get through too. So we took advantage of that and we were able to survive and, uh, still continue to grow.
Cliff Duvernois: And with regards to cuz that’s actually clever. I know that there was some places that were doing outdoor seating, but most of them were restaurants having like maybe two or three tables out on the sidewalk.
Cliff Duvernois: Right.
Cliff Duvernois: How did you guys get the idea to drop tents in your parking lot? I mean, your parking lot is huge.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: It it’s huge. But in the, when we’re busy, it’s full. Yes. It’s hard to find a parking spot. And my employer down in Caseville, he owns two party tents for catering, weddings and stuff like that too. So we took advantage of that and got one of the smaller tents and set up a 40 by 40 10 out here. We’re able to put about 12 tables out there.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: Which still gave us our six foot Spacely between tables in here and got us down to our 50% seating and allowed us to also have outside. So between the 12 and the tent, plus the three that we have out had outside the front door, we were able to easily offset what we lost in here.
Cliff Duvernois: Now, how long did it take you working in the restaurant before you said to yourself? I’m
Cliff Duvernois: kinda
Cliff Duvernois: liking this
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: Well, I don’t know if I’ve ever said I like it, but, um, , restaurant’s kind of a love, hate business. So you love it some days and you hate it some days. Sure. But I get really comfortable with it pride by the end of my third year. Learning how to run the front of the house out here, Pam runs a kitchen and I, for the most part, we’re in the front of the house.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: So dealing with that, and there was, uh, the first few years, especially with us taking over and getting. The restaurant back on its feet and all that, there was, uh, customer issues at that point that we were adapting to. And now knock on wood. That’s all pretty much behind us. We have very few customer issues.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: There’s always a few. You can’t keep everybody happy all the time. That’s right. But for the most part, we’re very fortunate. We, uh, we put in the effort, we have got a great staff and our customers appreciate it. So very rarely do we have anything that’s a really long wait. it happens once in a while, but, uh, we, we keep every, we try to keep everybody happy and our reviews show that there’s very few negative reviews that we have out there.
Cliff Duvernois: People love you on Facebook.
Cliff Duvernois: They love you on Yelp. That’s one of the first things I did when I saw this place two years ago and I drove by, I took a photo of your sign out front and I looked you up and I was like, man, people love this place. What do you think it is about?
Cliff Duvernois: The farm that just makes people, I mean, shoot, I drove two hours to get here today.
Cliff Duvernois: So what makes you, what makes it that people want to come here?
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: It’s good food. It’s good service. And I think one of the keys that makes us successful is with two owners here, making sure everything’s running right. Pam’s always in the kitchen. I’m generally, always out here. So if things start to go off track, we can correct it immediately and always make sure the customer has the best experience.
Cliff Duvernois: Beautiful love that.
Cliff Duvernois: Now, what I would like to do is you were talking earlier about when we were talking about surviving, uh, recessions, depressions, and all that other yummy stuff you were talking about how you were taking the level service up a notch.
Cliff Duvernois: Yes.
Cliff Duvernois: Now I know it’s usually common with a lot of restaurants, not all of them but it seems like they start to scale back and cut back.
Cliff Duvernois: But if you’re talking about upping your upping your game,
Cliff Duvernois: Why did you decide to do that?
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: Well, we, we are, um, really good food, simple food made. With quality. Okay. Yes. So it’s not real complicated, fancy names, not fancy dishes. We’ve got some really great servers that have been here for a number of years.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: They know the way that Pam and I want things done and they make sure that our new servers coming in are right up to the top standard. So beautiful. So that way in the times when I’m not out here with the, especially the new servers that are, you know, Jenny and Rachel are two senior servers, they’re making sure everything’s done the way we want.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: We want it to be done. And that’s, I think one of the biggest struggles with restaurant people buying restaurants, they have no experience in it. Probably three quarters of the restaurants and bars that are bought are by people that have no knowledge or experience in the field.
Cliff Duvernois: that is so true.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: And then they think I’m just gonna have someone run it for me.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: Yes. And I had some friends that bought a restaurant a number of years ago, and I asked them, which one of you two are gonna quit your job to run it. And they said, well, we’re gonna have people run it for us. I said, you know what? You’re never gonna succeed. and they were never happy and never had good reviews.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: Never successful because your employees care, but nobody will, will run your business. Like an owner will, no matter how hard you try. Yes. And without that extra level of attention, it’s never gonna be truly successful. Yes. Unless you’re paying someone a couple hundred thousand dollars a year to really.
Cliff Duvernois: Yeah, I know that. Uh, so my adventures in cuisine, uh, was inspired a lot by Anthony
Cliff Duvernois: Bourdain.
Cliff Duvernois: Mm-hmm
Cliff Duvernois: and I read his uh um you know,
Cliff Duvernois: culinary adventures, underbelly, the great, great book.
Cliff Duvernois: And one of the things that he commented in there about how was like people have like dinner parties and all of a sudden everybody’s like, oh, you should buy a
Cliff Duvernois: restaurant. And then they buy a restaurant.
Cliff Duvernois: And I laughed at that. Cause I thought it was absurd until, you know, I started having dinner parties at my place and all of a sudden my friends were like, cliff, you should open a restaurant.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: it’s
Cliff Duvernois: what are you talking about?
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: And cooking for 10 people is a lot different than cooking for 200 people.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: It’s, it’s knowing how to cook and, but knowing how to execute that. Big challenge too, is really truly knowing how to execute and executing a presentation. You can’t sacrifice quality and presentation, so you can meet that ticket time. I’d rather have it take two or three minutes longer in the kitchen.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: So every plate goes out perfect. In this day and age of social media, you never know where a picture your food is gonna end up.
Cliff Duvernois: That is true
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: We recently had a couple that was in here and it was great. They just came in know just with reservations and. Videoed everything of their
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: experience
Cliff Duvernois: that video.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: I saw that video.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: Yeah. It’s that was, we had no clue that was being done until they sent it to us and said, look what we did. And that just shows you that you never real, every plate’s gotta come outta that kitchen being perfect because you never know where it’s gonna end up. And it takes one bad picture to turn off hundreds of people.
Cliff Duvernois: Yes And it’s interesting you say that because I remember when I was working in a restaurant back in the day, the owner told us, cuz we were talking about, I, I can’t remember there was some issue, but he was like, you know, if somebody has a bad experience they’ll go tell 20 people.
Cliff Duvernois: Right.
Cliff Duvernois: And I thought that was huge. These days, if somebody has a bad experience, you’re talking hundreds If not thousands of people
Cliff Duvernois: Yes.
Cliff Duvernois: Get to see that. And especially if they do something radical and put it on your Facebook
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: page
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: right Yeah. I think we’re, I don’t know. Last, when I checked we’re six or 7,000 followers on Facebook.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: So if they have a bad experience and tagged the farm at 7,000 people. sees that along with all of their friends and their friends’ friends. So it
Cliff Duvernois: might be
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: 10, 15,000 people.
Cliff Duvernois: Exactly Exactly Let’s talk about the food because that’s the most important part of any restaurant. So let’s start with the basics.
Cliff Duvernois: How much of your food coming through the door is locally source
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: locally sourced food. This time of year is primarily fish. Um, ah, we got the bay poor fish company right down the road here. Yes. And we get. Best way fish in the world from them. They, they harvest it and we pick it up sometimes the day they’ve cleaned it.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: Um, and they also vacuum pack it. They, they filet it vacuum packet and freeze it. So even all through the year when we use that fish, it’s just like, it was fresh caught. It’s not sitting in a cooler for four or five days or in a showcase. And then it’s, so we’re getting local lake trout from them, which it’s lake Huron.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: It’s caught up in the north end of the lake by the native American fishers up there. Right. So that’s the. Two proteins we have on our menu, right? That are local. As we get into the summer in late summer fall, it’s gonna be the fruit and vegetables. We have ed rhubarb, local rhubarb, local asparagus. So in the spring, we’ve got that in the fall.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: It’s uh, more of the other vegetables and fruits. It’s difficult for a restaurant to do true farm to table with beef. And Poult. Right, because you have to have us D da supplier that can supply you with the quantities you need when you need it. And especially up in this area, it’s almost truly impossible, impossible to be a true farm to table restaurant.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: So we take advantage of it where we can and, you know, with our fish. So we get wildlife from them and we’ll get, we’ll do different things. So it’s, uh, in the fall we may do. Pheasant dishes that we can get from the rooster ranch, which.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: You know, they’re south of here, it’s a game farm. So we do a few things like that, but it’s, uh, almost impossible to have a true farm to a hundred percent farm to table.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: Right. And we don’t profess to be a farm to table experience because of that. A lot of our social media posts by our customers and stuff like that. Talk about a farm to table experience, but we don’t profess to necessarily be that because it’s just about impossible to truly be that.
Cliff Duvernois: Right Especially
Cliff Duvernois: when you wanna make sure that you’re getting the ingredients fresh, like what you’re talking about towards the end of summer or the fruit.
Cliff Duvernois: Yes. Because that’s usually the season, right. That they happen and people get so spoiled because they go to their local
Cliff Duvernois: grocery store and they see strawberries in
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: Yeah Right. We, um, we have, uh, we have a farmer’s market up here that starts. I think Memorial day weekend, it goes to October and yeah, in the spring, they’ll have a lot of fresh vegetables there, but they’re peeling off the Walmart stickers and Meyer stickers as are coming into the market.
Cliff Duvernois: Yeah.
Cliff Duvernois: Because
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: it’s just not local except for maybe asparagus and, um, and rhubarb. So
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: we
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: do, uh, desserts with that and the asparagus will be on the dinner plates, but then Pam adapts through the season, as we start getting different lettuces. Peas and different things like that. So she does take advantage of our local farmer’s market.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: We have a sweet corn empty sweet corn, right around the corner here. And once the sweet corn’s in season, they have the best sweet corn in the world. And we have that on our menu quite frequently, um, for mid-August through the end of the season for them, and then squash and pumpkins. She’ll do different things with local vegetables like that.
Cliff Duvernois: Certainly So what I’m hearing now is that your menu changes throughout the season?
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: Yes, it does. And one thing we do that it’s probably not the most ecological friendly thing, but we print a menu fresh. it’s based on what we have. Beautiful. And it’s a challenge right now with supply chain issues because Pam can on Sunday order everything she wants for the week and we get three quarters of it.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: Right. And I just cringe and I see restaurants with pre-printed menus that they’ve taken marker and scratched out, or put stickers over to change the price. I mean, our prices are changing by the week. Sometime around here. So we have to keep adapting our menu pricing and, and our menu items. So she’ll put stuff on, she’ll get a limited quantity, cuz it’s a new idea.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: We don’t know how it’s gonna sell. So she’ll have 25 of something. So then once that sells out, we’ll run upstairs and reprint the menu. So customers and coming in and saying, okay, here’s our menu, but we don’t have this, this and this. So yes, it happens a little bit, but if. If it’s near the end of the night, we might not reprint ’em, but in general, we’ll start out fresh.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: Every day we went to a restaurant, oh, about five years ago. And it was one that opened up south of here and everybody kept saying, boy, this place is gonna give the farm, the run for its money. So we met my sister and brother-in-law there for dinner on a Sunday and we are the first table seated. And they said, okay, you look at the menu, there’s eight things on it.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: And we couldn’t have three of ’em. They were out and that’s just. A big pet peeve for both of us. So yes, we always make sure that the menu has everything. We have the freshest items and. It changes. She might change, keep the protein, but change the way we make it because she made it the first way on Friday and said, ah, I’d like it.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: I’d like to do it this way instead. So might be shrimp on Friday. And then Saturday shrimp is completely different presentation,
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: So it’s a little bit more difficult right now because of pricing issues and supply issues than it used to be. So we’re kind of limited. Sometimes one of our long time favorites on the menus are file.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: And it’s when we can even get the filets right now, it’s, uh, the price doesn’t even make it possible to put it on. We’d have to sell the FLAS for about $80.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: So
Cliff Duvernois: Wow.
Cliff Duvernois: Based
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: on with the quality of meat that we’re used to using,
Cliff Duvernois: Right And then you consider
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: and
Cliff Duvernois: yes
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: of the piece of meat is gone up two and a half times in the last six months.
Cliff Duvernois: Whoa, that’s crazy Right
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: Right So. The our cost on the piece of meat right now is getting closer with our selling price was a year and a half ago for it.
Cliff Duvernois: Dang. So the, the, the question I gotta ask for you is, is that, how do you make that judgment call? If you’re like, for instance, let’s take,
Cliff Duvernois: take
Cliff Duvernois: your filet mm-hmm
Cliff Duvernois: okay.
Cliff Duvernois: It’s
Cliff Duvernois: getting
Cliff Duvernois: to
Cliff Duvernois: the
Cliff Duvernois: point
Cliff Duvernois: where
Cliff Duvernois: it’s,
Cliff Duvernois: you know,
Cliff Duvernois: $80 for one
Cliff Duvernois: steak Granted not a lot of people are gonna pay 80 bucks for filet because, you know, a year ago
Cliff Duvernois: they
Cliff Duvernois: were
Cliff Duvernois: probably paying 50 right?
Cliff Duvernois: Like where you were
Cliff Duvernois: talking
Cliff Duvernois: about
Cliff Duvernois: before. So how do you sit back and, and make
Cliff Duvernois: like
Cliff Duvernois: that
Cliff Duvernois: judgment
Cliff Duvernois: call?
Cliff Duvernois: I
Cliff Duvernois: mean,
Cliff Duvernois: do
Cliff Duvernois: you
Cliff Duvernois: look at
Cliff Duvernois: the
Cliff Duvernois: prices
Cliff Duvernois: before you
Cliff Duvernois: even order
Cliff Duvernois: it?
Cliff Duvernois: Or
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: Or how
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: does that,
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: Pam on Sunday mornings is doing a lot of our ordering for the week and we sit there and she’ll say, wow, this has gone up to this amount and we’ll calculate what we’re gonna have to sell it for say, wow, we gotta come up with an alternative
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: Right. And she’s the, the stake we have in the menu right now. It’s a ribeye, it’s pretty reasonable priced and it’s really phenomenal quality. You know, people, our two main suppliers are Gordon foods in Cisco and people will frow on that, but that’s because the mom and pop diner in town that orders from them gets the same low quality, whatever you want day after day after day.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: Right?
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: When you go to look at ground beef, for example, you’ve got 90 different options for ground beef. You go to look at stakes, there might be 200 different options for stakes in there. So you just have to find what you really wanna do and what you wanna put out on your menu, whether it’s choice, select or prime, there’s different options there.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: And you just can’t always take the cheapest one that’s out there.
Cliff Duvernois: Certainly, certainly. So you’ve had, I mean, you’ve, Pam’s been with the restaurant
Cliff Duvernois: since
Cliff Duvernois: 93, you came on board in 2009,
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: correct?
Cliff Duvernois: now you’re
Cliff Duvernois: looking for a new
Cliff Duvernois: chapter. Yes.
Cliff Duvernois: You know you’re looking
Cliff Duvernois: to
Cliff Duvernois: find
Cliff Duvernois: new
Cliff Duvernois: owners for for the
Cliff Duvernois: farm.
Cliff Duvernois: So
Cliff Duvernois: what kind of made that decision come.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: Well, what really, you know, after 30 years, Pam’s just tired. We wanna be tourists. We don’t wanna be tied down every single weekend in the summer. Every holiday, every mother’s day. Every oh yes. So yes, Pam hasn’t been able to celebrate a mother’s day in 30 years because she’s always tied up. New year’s Eve we’re always tied in here.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: So we wanna be able to kind of be tourists. We had had a plan. Our son went to college four years ago and our goal was to be outta the restaurant business. By the time he graduated, then something called COVID hit. Oh. So. It was impossible to even try to think about selling a business during that. I mean, he had to survive before he could even think about selling it.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: So he was able to keep going to classes and he graduated on schedule this past spring. So now he’s two years ahead of us. So we figured now’s the time. Well, put it on the market and we know it’s gonna take a while for the right person to come along. So we figured now was the time to start because it may be a year or two before I find that right fit.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: Right. We we’d like to see this continue on as it’s been, and we wanna make sure we have the right person to take over.
Cliff Duvernois: Right.
Cliff Duvernois: We
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: to set someone up to fail.
Cliff Duvernois: Well, definitely not. And you guys have done a lot
Cliff Duvernois: of work
Cliff Duvernois: with
Cliff Duvernois: regards to building the reputation for this place. The following for this place, your social media presence is very strong, which is phenomenal.
Cliff Duvernois: Mm-hmm so yeah, you would wanna make sure that somebody coming in here is going to be able to, to follow.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: Yes.
Cliff Duvernois: it is you’ve been doing
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: Right. And one thing speaking, you know, social media is like, we’ve talked about a bit earlier. That’s the make or break for a business right now, especially at restaurant.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: We’re pretty fortunate. We, it surprised us in the spring, we were awarded a travelers choice awards by trip advisor, right. Which we didn’t know much about until we looked into it and found out that that was the top 10% of the restaurants worldwide, based on the reviews. Yes We’d
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: have been happy statewide and turned out that we were, uh, the top 10% worldwide.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: That was a real shock to both of us,
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: Point is, yeah, we can add that in there if you want to. Yeah, we can do that. Um, we limit party size on big nights, so, okay. On weekends in the summer, we won’t take a group more than of 10. It’s gotta be like at four 30 or five or after seven 30, because you get, it’s easy to take a group of 16 people and say, yeah, I don’t know how do you turn that down?
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: But 16 people shuts that kitchen down for the amount of time that four to five tables would. Plus big groups like that tend to spend less money per person.
Cliff Duvernois: Oh, interesting. I did not know
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: if two, if four, a couple or four people come, they’re gonna get an appetizer to, you know, for the table. They’re gonna get a bottle of wine to split, but you get 12 or 14 people, unless one person’s paying the bill each couple doesn’t wanna order something like that because they feel guilty eating it
Cliff Duvernois: in front of other people. Yes.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: So the average spend per customer drop. On that, and those groups take a lot longer to turn because you get a group of 14 people. Sure enough. There’s always one, couple that’s running late and they don’t wanna order until that couple gets there.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: So we have an hour and 45 minute average turn on our tables. But once you get over 10 people at a table that turn time goes out another half hour.
Cliff Duvernois: Yeah, you’re right. And kinda like what we were talking about before, when your kitchen is designed for a certain level of capacity.
Cliff Duvernois: If you start to go above that, something, something somewhere has gotta give.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: Yep. And when the 14 top hits of kitchen, everything else stops. Yes. How often have you been at the restaurant said, man, we better order before that big table does.
Cliff Duvernois: oh, so many times.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: Right?
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: So by managing the reservations like that were able to, uh, keep that flow going through the kitchen and not have, uh, have it shut us down.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: So that improves the experience.
Cliff Duvernois: You know, what I’d like to ask you about too, is we were talking before about you having tents out in the parking lot, right. During the COVID time, but you no longer have the tents out there. Why is that?
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: We can’t handle the extra volume of people. When we had the tent out there, the tables that were out there were reduced in here, and it would be easy to just say, let’s, uh, take the extra customers, but we can’t handle that volume.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: So I’d rather take less customers and give a quality experience than be greedy. Let’s say, and take every seat we can. And then, um, it just increases the service time for everybody.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: Certainly
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: we’ve also found that. We try to limit the amount of customers. A server handles a night. I’ve found that about 24 people is the sweet spot on average, that first server to handle a night.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: Once you get over that their average spend per customers tends to go down because the person sitting with an empty glass, waiting for the server to get there, to reorder. I want them to have the time to get there when there’s two inches left in the glass and say, would you like another, right? I don’t want them sitting there looking around, waiting for the server.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: I also want them to be at the table before the customer’s ready to order. If a server gets to the table and the customer’s ready to order, we’ve blown it because they’ve had too much time to look at the menu and they, we haven’t been there. We haven’t been responsive enough to get. So that’s something that I’m big on is giving, uh, getting someone to a table than five minutes after their
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: customers are seated. Certainly you miss the opportunity for the first round of drinks or an appetizer like that. If they’re ready to order their menu they’re dinners, when the server gets there, likely they’re not gonna order an appetizer. Right. So it’s that little things like that, that help make us make us successful and profitable.
Cliff Duvernois: Sure. And from the customer standpoint, I get that there’s been a number of times where I’ve gone to a restaurant and I’m thinking, yeah, I’m gonna get an appetizer, I’ll get a cocktail. And then I sit and I wait 15 minutes.
Cliff Duvernois: Mm-hmm before somebody even walks up to the table, right. By then I’m thinking to myself, you know what? They’re pretty busy. So maybe I should just skip that and go to the entree. But, and I understand this and correct me if I’m wrong, restaurants usually make most of their money on appetizers and desserts
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: and alcohol.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: Yep.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: Those are
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: the 3 So if we don’t, if we get there too late where they don’t app.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: Order the appetizer or the first round of drinks
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: and then, or they’re too rushed and they don’t have time for dessert or the server doesn’t have time to talk to them about the, the desserts we have to offer. We lose and the server loses and the
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: customer loses, So they can make more money per person waiting unless people giving quality service.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: So everybody wins that way.
Cliff Duvernois: Beautiful Awesome. Uh well, Chris, uh, so if anybody is listening to this interview and they want to come and check you out or find you on the socials or whatever, where would be the best place for them to go
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: start with our website, the farm restaurant.com or follow some Facebook, the farm restaurant, and, uh, that will give you all the information you need and you can start following us that way.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: and, uh, I just highly recommend don’t stop in outta the blue, make a reservation, especially in the summer, on weekends in the summer, I turn away a ton of people that show up without a reservation and
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: we will accept people without a reservation if we can. But sometimes people get quite upset because, well, you’re.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: Your face, your, uh, website, doesn’t say reservation’s required. Well, it’s not required.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: It’s
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: I will seat you. Yes. It’s recommended I will gladly seat you if I’m able to, but the 200 people that planned ahead, I have to accommodate them first.
Cliff Duvernois: Exactly
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: So,
Cliff Duvernois: So for our audience, we’ll have those links in the show notes down below and make sure to make a reservation. Yes definitely Yes Chris it’s been awesome. Chatting with you today I thoroughly have enjoyed, uh being here for a while and I’m looking forward to trying out your dinner tonight.
Chris Roth, The Farm Restaurant: All right. Thank you.