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Danny's Inn Restaurant & Conference Centre

Member Since: 
January, 1997

The first thing you notice arriving at Danny's Inn Restaurant & Conference Centre, in Beresford, just north of the City of Bathurst, New Brunswick, is the freshness, and visual appeal of the buildings and grounds complex.
 
There is a freshness quality to the place inside and out. Even after 65 plus years in the hospitality business, it is no accident that the coordinated design and decor appears appealing and inviting to guests. That is because every staff and family member is carefully trained to focus on a customer's first impression as a Danny's guest.
 
Fresh, friendly, and highly functional comes to mind as the focus of staff training in core hospitality principles at Danny's. Guest comments over the years reveal that Danny's customers appreciate their efforts.



Photo Credit: Saltscape Magazine
 
The sense of friendly as a brand experience can start with the answer to a phone call, or when arriving at the reception desk. It is noticeable because it is a consistent service quality from over 40+-year experience of this writer being a customer. At Danny's, there is a carefully executed effort in the staff greeting tone to make sure every guest genuinely feels welcome. Friendly staff attitude is part of Danny's core branding experience for customers.
 
The execution of freshness as a branding experience starts with the physical polish of the facility's features and room functions, which also extends into Danny's kitchen. For example, the legendary Northern New Brunswick specialty dish called affectionately "The Danny Burger", named after the founder, Daniel DeGrace, now deceased, is always cooked with fresh meat.  Daniel and his wife Adeline launched Danny’s along with their four sons at the time Rodney, Bernel, Bob and Keith.



 
Bernal, together with his father, invented the famous Danny Burger, a cut-up cheeseburger topped with a tangy sauce—a three-generation-long secret of the DeGrace family. “The meat for The Danny Burger, now a regionally famous house specialty menu item, is delivered fresh daily by an attentive local supplier, says Robert (Bob) DeGrace, President of Danny's Limited.
 
Bob and Kathy DeGrace's daughter, and Danny's General Manager Erika reports that on a recent dinner sitting of a family table of 14 at Thanksgiving, one of the diners informed her that the menu should include a warning message. "One of our dinner guests called out to me and said, you know you should have a warning on the menu, next to the Danny Burger that when eating, you have to remember to breathe. It's that good," Erika says. 
 
The Danny Burger is today, a registered trademark of Danny’s Inn Ltd., and is frequently ordered when visiting Danny's. "We still do all our own baking in our kitchen, even my grandfather’s original Apple Pie recipe. Our guests often comment on how fresh and tasty our desert menu is, and that is because of our great kitchen staff. We have employees that have been here for over 25 years, and some for over 33 years”, says Erika. 


Photo Credit: Saltscape Magazine
 
The freshness feel comes from the coordinated color décor and designer touches that create the visual appeal of Danny’s today. This is the result of the stylistic designer eye of Bob’s wife Kathy, as the complex was renovated and refreshed over the years of operation. The success of the family business is because of the efforts of the third generation of DeGrace children, Adam and Erika, and their parents who together have continued the family style and loyalty to the business.
 
Despite retaining many long-term staff members, the changing marketplace economy, and the requirements for finding and keeping staff, remains a constant and growing source of time and effort.  "It used to take 10% of our time, and now today, it is more like 90%", says Erika.
 
"We put a lot of time into training our staff. Today, an operator has to put a lot of time into HR issues to insure that the staff know the correct way to treat guests"
 
Danny's has overcome numerous business challenges as the local economy of northern New Brunswick has changed. The loss of the region's pulp mills, and more recently, the closing of major mines has contributed a financial blow to the region's overall economy.
 
"We faced one of our biggest challenges at Danny's when the highway changed in the 70's, and we lost access to the drive-by-traveller opportunity with the opening of new Bathurst bypass highway. But we started our off-premise food service, where for example we delivered 100 daily meals to one of the nearby mines in the region. We have fed over 800-1,400 guests at Bathurst's K.C. Irving Civic Centre, says Erika".
 
The 70's era re-alignment of the major transportation highway left Danny's location invisible to many travellers on the then new north-south Route 11 highway. The DeGrace family responded by investing in creating a second hospitality location called Atlantic Host Inn, which is located at the main interchange of Route 11's entrance into Bathurst.
 
Bob's brother Keith owns and operates the Atlantic Host Inn, which continues to be a strategic business move for the DeGrace family businesses.  Danny's has seating for 300 in their conference centre with 37 guest rooms, while the Atlantic Host is nearby with many more rooms to offer a group booking. The result is that the two locations work together closely so both can accommodate larger number of guests and attract bigger events to Bathurst.
 
The Atlantic Host includes a dining room where the family's iconic menu item, the Danny Burger, is also served. "Atlantic Host is also a UNIPCO member, as is the Danny’s Group former food business operation, the Big D Drive-In restaurant. The Big D is now owned and operated by a Richard Dobson, and the Big D is a UNIPCO member as well”. 

 
Photo Credit: Saltscape Magazine

UNIPCO and Bob DeGrace, and his family go back a long way to the beginning of UNIPCO. A few years ago, son Adam served as Chair of the UNIPCO Board during the eight years he served in the family business as then General Manager of Danny’s Inn. Today, Adam is working outside the northern NB region, and gaining more exposure to the hospitality industry management practices in a larger urban centre. Adam is the General Manager of a national hospitality chain hotel.
 
Bob and Keith are part of the original group of five New Brunswick foodservice operators who came together to explore working together to get a better price through group purchasing power. From this meeting, an agreement to negotiate as one group, and to be compliant in their purchasing, UNIPCO was formed. "It is incredible to me, how big and how successful UNIPCO is today, with over 600 plus members", says Bob.
 
"We felt then that there was a need in the industry for purchasing power, if we independents were to survive. Our food cost would be much higher without our belonging to UNIPCO"
 
"Big help in food and beverage cost savings to us, and in knowing that UNIPCO is a watchdog on the prices we pay for our products. We UNIPCO members come a long way from when we started trying to save a few cents on the negotiated soft drink volume purchases", says Bob.
 
"I find UNIPCO is flexible on compliance requirements. Especially when we have to order special order products for a wedding or special catering event menu. I think any operator is better off inside UNIPCO, than on their own outside our buying group. It more than pays for itself," says Erika.
 
“The cost of menu ingredients, especially in the past 12 months, is a serious problem for any operator. We have reprinted our menus three times this year because of rising commodity product pricing. You have to be so careful in food cost and menu pricing today”.
 
For more about the Danny’s and the DeGrace family’s entrepreneurial story of success, click through to read Atlantic Canada’s premiere lifestyle publication,  Saltscape Magazines’ recent business profile as an excerpt. This PDF story sample is published as a link for UNIPCO members with permission.

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