Food to Crow About: Building a Business to Last

Posted by Kristin Arnold on July 8, 2019

As a boy growing up in Crapaud, one of my favourite things was go out for dinner, supper, or snack at the Red Rooster.  Even after our family moved to Charlottetown, we would often return to attend St. John’s church, then go to the Red Rooster for Sunday dinner.

This restaurant has now been around for close to 70 years.  This is an amazing legacy for a food establishment, since 90% of independent restaurants close after one year and the rest have an average life span of five years.  What made them different was each of the owners over the years provided down home hospitality, personal service, and current menu options.

I remember going there as a young boy with only 25¢ in my pocket.  A hot hamburg platter which included fries, and peas was 60¢. You could also get a half hot hamburg sandwich for 30¢.  I did not like peas, so I asked if I could get a half hot hamburg sandwich (without the peas) for 25¢.

The owner’s daughter, Marian Seaton, who was an amazingly kind person, agreed.  After serving it to me she came back and said: “A growing boy should also have something to drink” and gave me a Coke which came in one of those small, thick, green tinted glasses.

In 1973, it was taken over by Ed and Marian Miller who ran it successfully for over 40 years.  They did this by providing great food, friendly hospitality and competitive prices.  The Red Rooster was well known for amazing home cooked meals and fresh baked goods, especially the butter tarts.

In 2018 it was purchased by Alie and Chris Mills who always had a dream to own a restaurant in PEI.  After doing extensive renovations and updates to the building, they opened this Spring to a very appreciative clientele.

Although the prices have certainly changed since the ‘50’s, the reputation for good food, great hospitality, and a friendly comfortable environment remains. The menu still consists of real home cooked meals and has been updated to include gluten free, “healthy” choices, and vegan options.  As a chef herself, Alie oversees the menu to ensure it is current, but maintains its traditional reputation for down home options and flavour.

Most staff are new, which gives Alie the opportunity to instill the culture she wants and create a customer service reputation best suited for today’s demanding clientele.  However, to ensure tradition is not lost, there is one long time employee. Traci MacVittie, who started working there over 16 years ago and has done every job.  She knows the local clientele and is now the Red Rooster’s main cook.

The restaurant is licensed to serve beer and wine and only provides PEI products, which if you order with a meal, you can also purchase extra to take home with you. Their ‘fresh’ home baked options still include cinnamon rolls, butter tarts, and my favorite – date squares.

Not only have they renovated and changed the ambiance, they will now be open year-round on weekends. This is great because many people in the area like to go out as a treat during this time

Some of the great things on the menu that people make a special trip for are: the seafood chowder, fish cakes, root and avocado fries, and fresh lobster bisque from their own recipe.  However, many people still come for the old-fashion burgers made from scratch and fresh cut fries which has been a tradition since the beginning.

Alie and Chris are committed to supporting the community and source their products from the local farmers whenever possible.

They have a philosophy which says; if you are going to create something of value, you must work hard for it, and Alie and Chris certainly have done just that.  They will not ask their staff to do anything they wouldn’t do themselves.

By the way, you can still order that half hot hamburg sandwich I had as a boy  ̶  but of course, the price has certainly changed since then.

My question for managers: Are you building your business legacy for it to be sustainable even after you have moved on?

 

Joseph Sherren, CSP, HoF,

Global Speaking Fellow

International Business Transformation Specialist.

 

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