Unique Brewmaster Restaurant Leverages History for "Foodtainment"
The Adlys of Waterloo, Ontario are a successful third-generation restaurant family operating the Huether Hotel in Waterloo.
The Adlys family has found success in foodservice with their penchant for positioning food-with-atmosphere as entertainment, while serving it within a historic brewery-themed architecture that predates Confederation.
The Adlys' style is to emphasize "fun" in the management fundamentals of food service quality and customer-centric delivery.
The family management team's story spans three generations and 60 years in business, which resulted in a 2013 local Waterloo newspaper family business profile, which you may click to read here. The article recounts the contribution of the three generations of Adlys family in evolving the Huether Hotel as a unique foodservice experience for their customers.
The Adlys family story traces the combined history of the Huether Hotel building, with the historic brewery operation and the Adlys family since 1953. The family-owned food service operation has nearly a 1,000 seats under management including the 290 in the seasonal outdoor patio. Theirs is a charming story of food, family, fun, and of preserving an architectural treasure that houses it all for customers on multiple levels and leads customers seamlessly to find the room atmosphere they like.
The Huether Hotel has a lot of rooms with a lot of food service options.
"Our main dining area is The Lion Brewery Restaurant, which has a large open kitchen that offers a category of dining we call fine-causal. Our principal Chef Ben, while young at 26, is well trained and educated with a strong passion for cooking and serving customers.
Chef Ben is amazing, and the key is the way he has trained his staff. Everyone has fun in the kitchen. Because it is an open kitchen, customers get to see them cooking. Everybody is on stage similar to a theatre setting in their Chef's black hats. It can get very busy, but we do not have any complaints about the meals even during our busiest times”, says David Adlys.
David and brother Kelly, a trained brew master are carrying on the Adlys family's success story. They work along with their siblings in a management team that includes sister Christina, and Bernie Jr. Their mother Sonia maintains an active weekly office administration schedule while their father Bernie Sr. passed away in 2012, at the age of 72.
A fourth generation of Adlys family members is beginning the same training routine of diving in and learning-on-the-job that the current management team learned as they trailed their father around the building accepting assignments as children.
The family’s business success revolves around a combination of foodservice marketing themes for a total 750 indoor seats plus the patio. Each of the multi-level floor room environments offers a different atmosphere for dining and a brew, offered within the renovated and preserved Huether Hotel building.
"With 40 parking spaces and seating for 750 plus, parking on some occasions at capacity becomes an issue in downtown Waterloo," says David.
The City of Waterloo, Ontario has a population of 98,780 (2011 Census), within a regional pop of 500,000 plus, and is the unofficial “next-generation” technology capitol of Canada. Waterloo also benefits from a large university population of 31,577 (2012 ), from the university of the same name.
"We converted our original hotel rooms to house university students. Our future plans are to renovate this area to offer a high-end boutique hotel experience. Perhaps we will expand our new room plan into a nearby vacant factory area," says David.
"The food service business today is about providing a unique, fun if you will, dining experience for customers. We work hard with our staff to create a memorable experience around the delivery of a meal. We offer up to ten different beer products, from our brewery to accompany any food menu item," says David.
Today, the historic Huether Hotel building is a dining experience emporium operating on vertical levels. The unique interior architecture history hosts three principal restaurants and additional event rooms, served by two kitchens.
The foodservice complex has a staff of 80, plus seasonally adjusted part-timers and operates seven days a week spanning from 7:00 AM to 2:00 AM. At least one family member covers a management shift to make sure that every customer gets a great food and drink experience, says David.
The 60-seat Cafe 1842 opens first for breakfast, with coffee and muffins fare starting at 7:00 AM, and is open all day till 1:00AM. "Our Cafe is where we meet our customers all day, at different times of the day, and for different reasons. It is where everyone can meet", says David.
(Café) 1842 commemorates the year that the Lion Brewery was founded by the original Huether family, which is now preserved by the Adlys family. The brewery is one of the oldest in Canada. The novel brewery output is the heart of the Adlys' savvy marketing approach of food-as-entertainment.
The Lion Brewery Restaurant opens at 11:00 AM and runs to 1:00 AM as a fine casual dining menu experience. "The brewery is in the back of the restaurant along with an open kitchen concept, which offers a variety of menu items and a relaxed atmosphere for dining."
"The interior design is unique as a brewery restaurant. Restaurant seating is in the area where the former use decades ago were malting of the grains, and aging of the beer. We have restored the brick facings and wooden beams as part of the visual appeal in the building. Each level offers a little something different for our customers", says David.
"You can come in and relax and have a couple of our craft beers with your meal. We put a menu down on every table setting in the building, and allow the customer to choose when and what they want to eat".
Our approach is to encourage customers to move through the building and find the atmosphere or menu items they prefer. Each room is unique and feeds the other as a blended experience for our dining customer," says David.
The Barley Works Public House & Grill is a restaurant bar. This location pulls sports game on modern 60 inch TV's together with the ambiance of a 170-plus-year-old historic building. The room features a 40' bar and plenty of screens. The upstairs room overlooks the room below and can host private functions.
And if that were not enough options for any dining palate and activity seeker, there is a downstairs billiards room with another 80 seats. In a causal fun setting, you can order a novel brew beer, shoot a game of pool, or play one of the historic and well maintained pinball machines.
The historic electro-mechanical pinball machines are relics from a much earlier generation and were a must have attraction favored by the late family patriarch, Bernie Sr.
The Jazz Room is club membership idea and is a pure smart marketing play. From September to the end of June, the Jazz Club is open for member ticket sales on Friday and Saturday nights only.
The Grand River Jazz Society, as the sponsor club, and Huether Hotel partner to foster live jazz in the region. Their partnership promotes local talent on Friday night. Then on Saturday night it features international jazz talent from both sides of the border.
"The Jazz Club room with another 120 seats brings people from all over to our building. Many of these people would not know of us or our unique venue and food without this marketing feature. It is working well as a promotion and community contribution", says David.
Another thing that works well for the Adlys family is their UNIPCO membership.
“UNIPCO has been good for our bottom line. We sell a lot of food in this establishment, and UNIPCO has been very good for our operation.
UNIPCO came in and did their assessment. They came back and said they could save us an extra amount of dollars, which was off the charts for us. The decision to join UNIPCO was a no-brainer. “
“We completed the process and I knew their guy from Flanagan since we were kids. If I have a problem on the weekend, he will help us out immediately. Great service from our distributor, plus the purchase savings from ordering through UNIPCO. I had to make sure that our Chef Ben understood why we were ordering through UNIPCO. I had to explain the math to him.”
“We had some learning to do in joining UNIPCO, but today it is a lot easier, and the relationship is great. Then when you see it on your bottom line, which is important today, because everything is expensive; it makes you realize UNIPCO’s value.
The Adlys management approach has three core components including:
- No gray areas. Everything is written down in a policy manual that is adhered to when there are only a few customers, or if the place is jammed with customers. If a complaint comes in, it comes to David’s Blackberry and is dealt with immediately.
- Keep prices reasonable and pay good wages. Pay to get the best people on the floor possible because good people get well rewarded by happy customers who are happy with the food, the fun, and the service from a happy server. Happy customers are generous with the staff, and that makes happy servers. Repeat.
- Use technology effectively. "We know the cost of doing business on every shift. We monitor staff employment cost levels according to the amount of business in the building. We track every drink poured, and all our information is captured back into our new POS system. Today’s technology lets me log in from anywhere and know how we are doing at any time of the day or night whether I am in the building or not, says David Adlys.
The Adlys’ Bottom Line strategy: In order to have fun in the foodservice business, everything has to function properly so that the customer is happy, and when the customer is happy everyone gets rewarded.