The backbone of any successful, long-standing restaurant By Jillian Chandler | Photo by Annie Zasadny
John Grollmus and longtime friend and business partner Brad Fosseen grew up in the restaurant industry, working and learning from the ground—or should we say dish pit—up. Today, they are the visionaries behind Moon Time in Coeur d’Alene, The Porch in Hayden Lake, and The Elk, Two Seven and El Que in Spokane.
Employing an average of 100 staff members between all establishments, there are several components to their recipe for success. First off is location, with each restaurant located in neighborhood-centric spots to develop a hyper-local appeal. Then there’s consistency. For well over two decades, this has been key to their unwavering success—consistent menus, consistent service, consistent principles and … consistent, enthusiastic team members. “Having employees who have worked with us for a lengthy period and who are also passionate about our restaurant is key on many levels,” affirms John. “Employee retention helps create a consistent environment for our guests not only in regard to table service but also in the food on the plate. Guests are always happy to see the same smiling faces when visiting, and having such a long-tenured kitchen staff helps ensure that guests will get the same top-notch quality food every time they eat with us.”
In addition, both John and Brad spend time in all of their restaurants, ensuring that they maintain their high standards of service, food and beverages.
As many restaurants experience high turnover rates, John and Brad have created a work environment that enables employees to grow with them. “Restaurant work is often thought of as short term, but with us, it becomes a way of life and a pathway to fulfilling goals,” affirms John. “You need to take care of your staff on many levels. It’s important to be respectful, friendly and thankful, but it’s also important to pay well and offer benefits too. We have always wanted to provide an environment that makes it possible to have stability, so our staff members’ desire to be able to buy a house, have kids, create a home for themselves and become an essential part of their communities is attainable.”
Some of these longstanding employees include Chris Schultz, chef and general manager of Moon Time. For the past 26 years, Chris—who has been a close friend of both Brad and John since before their opening and remains so to this day—has been an integral part of the business.
Kevin Russel has a long history with John, dating back to when they were both cooks at Schweitzer Mountain. Kevin first joined the Elk team 23 years ago as a cook and was eventually promoted to chef. While these days he is primarily the chef/manager of the Two Seven kitchen, he also plays an essential role in keeping The Elk kitchen going strong as well, according to John.
Lark Patton has been a part of the Moon Time family for the past 17 years, and when the restaurant acquired a spirits/hard liquor license last year, Lark was promoted to bar/front-of-house manager. John shares that after 16 years as one of the finest servers in the city, “it was a natural move to promote Lark into her new role as bar manager.”
Marshall Powell began as a bartender at The Elk 19 years ago and today is general manager of Two Seven, where he is the hands-on front-of-the-house manager in addition to helping with many behind-the-scenes tasks for all the restaurants including book work, policy writing, insurance and much more.
When it comes to why their employees love working for this family of restaurants, John smiles, “Because we’re awesome guys! In all seriousness, though, we love and cherish every employee as though they are a part of our families. Since neither Brad nor I have children, our employees are actually, in a way, our families.”
While most of the focus from the press in the industry tends to be about what’s new and hot, John can honestly say that he is extremely proud to experience continued growth from the shadows. “It is always a treat to meet people who are over-the-top excited to describe how much they love our restaurants and how personal they are to them. After all, we may have inadvertently created a corn pasta cult.”
The Porch Public House 1658 E. Miles Ave. Hayden Lake, ID 208.772.7711
The Elk Public House 1931 W. Pacific Ave. Spokane, WA 509.363.1973
Two Seven Public House 2727 S. Mt. Vernon St. #5 Spokane, WA 509.473.9766
El Que 141 S. Cannon St. Spokane, WA 509.624.5412