The Food Game – how four restaurant owners balance running a restaurant with being community focused
While many people think of restaurants as a satisfying way to quiet their hunger, local food joints provide more than just a meal for the community.
According to restaurantowner.com, about 90 percent of restaurants fail in their year. Richard Warner, chef and owner of Bingo Burger, said that people don’t understand the entire concept of owning a restaurant.
“A lot of people get in the restaurant business for the wrong reasons,” Warner said. “10 percent of it is cooking and the other 90 percent is the business end. We’re still in business and we have done well and we want to expand to (Colorado) Springs.”
Warner not only has the receipt to a great burger, but he also discovered how to manage a successful restaurant. Warner only uses local ranchers and farmers to give customers the highest quality burger possible.
Using only locals to produce a burger superior to any of the competition is something Warner says consumers appreciate.
“(Customers) can taste the difference in cooked to order food and the quality that goes in it,” Warner said. “People don’t always want crappy fast food. They like the fact that we know where our food comes from.”
Consumers not only enjoy eating a quality meal, they also like to be comfortable where they are eating it.
They Daily Grind Café, located in the heart of downtown Pueblo, offers an environment that welcomes all customers providing a cozy place to enjoy coffee, soup or a sandwich.
Charles Sole, co-Owner of The Daily Grind Café, said that his establishment focuses on providing a service to everyone rather than just emphasizing on one group. Sole believes that helps keep business booming and keeps customers pleased.
“We’re successful because we don’t focus on serving one demographic,” Sole said. “We try to provide a really good atmosphere. We like them (customers) to be impress with the historic district because this is the heart of Pueblo.”
The Daily Grind Café offers tremendous blends of coffee as well as a smorgasbord of other items including breakfast burritos and ice cream sundaes. With the variety on the menu, everyone has something to choose from whether it is just a meal for one or service for many.
“People that have a family of five need somewhere that they can come and eat cheap,” Sole said. “Also there aren’t a lot of places for vegans and vegetarians to eat. It’s hard for them so we provide that as well.”
Both Sole and Warner talked about the quality of their food versus the product crunched out by fast food chains. The tender love and care that goes into each meal is something that the customer recognizes and appreciates each visit.
Warner added chain restaurants are more about serving quantities of food rather than a quality plate of food.
“Having quality food is hard to come by these days. When customers come in, they are used to fast food burgers and fries,” Warner said. “More often than not, restaurants serve for quantity and big plates of food. It is a great thing to have something cooked to order and made especially for you.”
Many locals that eat at Bingo Burger or that have sat down for a cup of Joe and a snack at The Daily Grind Café can tell you how enjoyable it was. Something that they may not know is how much is going back to the community. Sole and Warner give back to the community of Pueblo but in different ways.
Sole hosts various events including charity events and integrating with the community to keep his name out in Pueblo as well as let tourist know about a great spot to relax.
“We try to network with anyone and help out as much as we can,” Sole said. “The Marriott specifically tells people to come to our shop because we care about our product and we love our work.”
The Daily Grind Café also strives to assist those who are facing hard times. Charles Sole said that he understands numerous people in Pueblo are dealing unemployment which is why he developed a program called, “Suspended Coffee” to help those in need.
Suspended Coffee is a program where a customer can buy a drink or meal for someone who cannot do so. Sole said even though he thought it might not work, it has been successful thus far.
“You buy a food or drink item for someone else so they have something to eat. We’ve had a good customer response with that.”
Warner said he wanted to keep his money in local markets. Warner also added that remaining local maintains the quality of the food.
“Many restaurants buy from a wholesaler. Using products like Crisco takes money out of Pueblo,” Warner said. “We’re big on supporting local farmers and ranchers, which helps keep money in Pueblo.”
Pass Key Restaurant attempts to buy majority of its products from local growers as well. Located at 1901 Highway 50 West, Pass Key Restaurant has served delicious meals to the city of Pueblo for more than 50 years.
The family tradition of serving great sandwiches and pasta could not be done without the assistance of local farmers and growers. President Kathy Pagano said their restaurants stick with tradition.
“We purchase our green chilies from local growers,” Pagano said. “We like to buy our products from local growers to help out in the community.”
Pagano added the restaurant has been relevant for years because of the how they choose to stick to the foundation that helped make them successful in the past.
“We stay true to our tradition and continue to work hard,” Pagano said. “We employ a lot of a locals and younger kids. Some kids that start here are only 16.”
Pagano’s parents taught her the value of hard work as well as giving back to the community. During the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire, many victims lost their homes and didn’t know where their next meal would come from. Pagano as well as Pass Key brought food to Channel 5 to aid relief efforts around the state of Colorado.
“We like to do a lot of sponsorships and donations in the community,” Pagano said. “We were taught to treat people fair and stay true to our tradition.”
Having a home away from home is a great luxury to have when out on the road enjoying a meal.
Brothers Jim and Bob Fredregill took over La Renaissance in 1974 and fully opened as a business in 1978. Aside from providing meals for their customers, the brothers have also provided various services to the community.
La Renaissance holds and hosts several events for members of the communities such as birthdays, business meetings, seminars as well as weddings and wedding receptions.
“There is a couple that was married here and they celebrate every anniversary here. They’ve celebrated 37 anniversaries at La Renaissance,” Fredregill said. “We’ve relied on the local population to meet with us and keep us going. We try to give them a very good experience.”
In addition providing the community with another place to call home, La Renaissance attempts to hire employees from within the community.
“We have 25 employees that are all members of the community. Some of them are primary and secondary supporters of their families,” Fredregill said. “Going back to 1966, the reward has been the number young people we’ve hired and the careers they’ve went (on) to do. It’s great to have someone from the ‘70s come back and say ‘I remember working here.’”
“We’re not the only restaurant that hires locals but it’s great to help give some of these kids a start and their work ethic.”
The food scene in Pueblo is a large part of the community. Each has offered something to Pueblonians and tourist with an empty stomach. It may not physically stay with them, but it always has a place in the memories of its visitors.
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