Growing A Hospitality Business By Innovative Thinking, Doing
Canada's independent restaurant owners are often second and third generation family business owners. Nowhere is this truer than in Summerside, Prince Edward Island, (2012 pop.14,751). Meet the Groom family.
Brothers2's David Groom is the third-generation Groom family member to lead the Brothers2 brand of food as entertainment. The flagship branding includes a family restaurant, a dinner theater, and a resort-styled accommodation. To round it out there is a nine hole, three par golf course attraction among the many guest amenities.
Today's modern, multi-story Quality Inn & Suites Garden of the Gulf , started out in business life in 1938. David's grandfather Vaughn, now deceased, started the Groom family's hospitality holdings with early roadside cabins. Cabins became a motel and later grew to become a resort themed-inn. Vaughn's innovative thinking lead to joining the Choice Hotel network 61 years ago.
Vaughn saw an opportunity to bring potential new business to PEI and his location. As a result, Summerside's Quality Inn & Suites is Canada's oldest Choice location. It is also one of the oldest in the US based, now global hotel flag chain. Initially, the Choice network linked independent accommodation owners along the then new I-95 corridor to Florida, from Canada.
Today, Vaughn’s son Alfred, and David’s father, is a spritely 80 years of age, and a former Canadian record holding pole vaulter. Alfred still looks in on David's progress in building the family's innovation legacy. So too does David's uncle Don, who continues to deliver Dinner Theatre productions for David’s Dinner Theatre venue.
The Brothers2 Restaurant launched in 1971 with David's father Alfred, and his brother Don. The result of their partnership is a great restaurant food experience and Dinner Theatre entertainment combination with resort activity-based accommodations. "I benefited from their outside of the box thinking in making us a food destination", says David.
"My uncle's dinner theater innovation evolved in popularity leading to the launch the Island's now popular Grafton Dinner Theatre. My uncle was also an early member of UNIPCO when it was just getting started decades ago".
David and his father brought significant innovation to the accommodations industry in the early 90’s with their use of new and emerging technology in being early adopters of a room booking reservation software for their hotel rooms.
"We started using the computer program "Lodging Touch" room reservation booking system in the early-90's. Computerized room booking was innovative thinking as was the use of computers at that time. My father and I travelled to the US Choice head office where we showed them our room booking platform. They liked it and Lodging Touch became Choice Hotel's global reservation platform. Shortly after that Best Western chose the same software platform as well. "Bringing that innovation to a global accommodation business is a big achievement for us. Especially for a small hotel operator, coming from Canada's smallest Province", says David.
"Later, we tried to convince Choice to locate their reservation support call centre on the Island. We almost had it here. We thought it would be great for the Island. But, at the last minute, a decision was made for a Toronto location. We are proud to be part of the Choice flag as it has grown to become one of the largest hotel chains in the World," says David.
Innovative thinking is the Groom family's hospitality brand. Over years of construction, the enclosure of a central 200-foot x 20-foot garden court resulted in creating an indoor garden area. On our site, we have both an indoor and outdoor pool. The result is more of a resort style location for our guests, which includes a golf course, fitness centre, gift shop and a coffee shop added to the downtown location.
David purchased Brothers2 Restaurant in 2009 after completing a university business degree in 1983. After university, he worked for a short time in another field. "I grew up in the family hospitality business starting when I was 14. I had great business role models in my grandfather, father, and uncle. They were always looking for ways to improve the business, and I do the same practice today of seeking better ways to do things, thanks to them," says David.
"One kitchen innovation that David highlights is the use of two kitchen-cooking Rationals that combine different cooking methods into one compact equipment design. It has made a world of difference in our kitchen production. My cooks love them", he says. We are focusing on fresh poultry, beef, and fish in our menus, which is very popular with our customers.
"In 1996, I launched five Dooly's billiards locations in Newfoundland. I continue to operate two Doolys' locations in St. John's, NFLD.
David has five children ranging in age from 17 to 25 and is celebrating his 30th wedding anniversary. As well as supporting many community charities and participating in fundraisers, David is into hockey. He is part owner of Summerside's Junior A hockey team, the Western Capitals. He is the ownership group's president.
"I just finished a cook-off fundraiser for Kids for Sports, and we raised $16,000. We are raising $40,000 for Summerside's Three Oaks High School for purchasing new student athletic uniforms. My fund-raising effort takes me into the community and raises the profile of our business by giving back to the community in return for the support we receive."
"We promote heavily by marketing on Facebook and Twitter for good result. We recently added entertainment on Friday night and will add live entertainment to Saturday night as well. Entertainment scheduling helps with our customer promotions on social media and food with entertainment sets us apart to attract guests locally. We have a Wing Night promotion, and we will add Appetizer Nights to our promotional calendar".
"Currently, we have 94 rooms in the hotel and just completed the renewal of the room heating and cooling with energy efficient heat pump technology. We can seat 120 in the restaurant level and 120 in the Dinner Theatre level. The Dinner Theatre creates a unique dining experience, which is popular for Christmas party entertainment. We have a main floor restaurant kitchen and a lower level kitchen for the dinner theater that is also a prep kitchen. We employ 20 full-time and 20 part-time staff”.
“I have good people around me, and some staff members have been here for 15-20-25 years. Without their help, I would not be where I am today as a successful food experience."
“For us, UNIPCO is a powerful buying group. I saw the power of the buying group in 2009 on the food side of our brand. There is a strong business benefit to our being a member. UNIPCO is a great watchdog for our food pricing, and it is a real advantage for us to buy through UNIPCO," says David.