I was watching the Food Network and thought, I know a good amount about these TV personalities/chefs. I have to admit, I love the concept of Triple D and how Guy gets restaurants to open their doors.
So I am on a mission to get to know Chefs/Owners in Indy. I will be the first to say that this was my first interview since a speech that I had to give in 8th grade, so I am sure the questions will get more hard hitting…or even more random – not sure yet.
I thought, who should I interview first? Scott Wise quickly came to mind. Scott has an undying commitment to his customers and has a winning equation for success. Scotty’s Brewhouse has an extensive menu, honest prices and a great energy about the place.
Scotty’s menu has over 100 items and at many times is very playful. You can take your girl there for a date, or you can drink beers with your home-boys during the game! If you are the type of person to default casual chains and like Chili’s, Apleebee’s, TGI Friday’s, Ruby Tuesday…then you are going to LOVE Scotty’s Brewhouse.
So we got a little chatty, but when I went to edit it was too interesting to cut any part of it!
You can find Scotty’s Brewhouse on Twitter and on the World Wide Web.
WIBIA: Scotty’s is now in the 13th year and expanded from college towns and recently to Downtown Indy and the North Side. If you could attribute your success to one thing, what would it be?
Scott: Well, I’d have to attribute it to many things; but, if I boiled it all down (like the restaurant use of alliteration there?) it would be 2 things: 1) a passion for what I do – I absolutely love my job. 2) I’m surrounded by a management team of equally passionate people that believe in my dream and do everything they can to help us all achieve success. They give 110%, they believe and they are all smarter than me in their respective positions – so, they just make me look even better, like I know what I’m doing. I will always share our success with my team, it is a “team effort” and that gets lost a lot due to the name on the sign.
WIBIA: Tell me about the idea you had that started Scotty’s? I.e., How was Scotty’s born?
Scott: Simply put: a little luck, a lotta’ hard work and a great family support system. I had big shoes to fill from my parents and grandparents. All successful entrepreneurs in Muncie, I was always known as “Jerry’s son.” So, I was always trying to run from those shadows. I went to school at DePauw University my freshman year and after graduating from Ball State I moved to Houston, Texas. Both situations I was running so that I could make my own footprints. But, both times, after being in those towns far away I thought to myself, “What are you doing? You have been given the opportunity to use your last name and bloodline successes to your advantage; but, instead you keep running from them.” So, in both situations, I moved back home. The one thing that was consistent through my collegiate days was working in restaurants. My freshman year I washed dishes and started cooking at a small bar in Muncie (Dill Street Bar & Grill) – still there today. I waited tables at Applebee’s during the school year and during Summer breaks I moved to Panama City, Florida and waited tables at a beachside restaurant with 4 buddies from school.
It is easy to see now; but, at the time, I didn’t realize any of this past “service industry” history. I just loved working in restaurants. I never thought it was going to be a career. When I moved back from Houston, I was living at home and working for my parents. I heard a campus bar was for sale and I thought, “I could do that.” Who wouldn’t want to be a 22 year old bar owner in his hometown? So, after working on a business plan, presenting it to my dad and making an offer to the owner, a handshake, a signed contract and $65,000 bought me my first Scotty’s in 1996.
I got in there and busted ass with a can of paint, some Murphy’s oil soap and lots of hours cleaning. When we started, I was the cook, the bartender, the server, the bouncer and the accountant. A slowly, we got busier and busier and I had to hire 1 cook, then 1 server, then 1 bartender… and Scotty’s Brewhouse began to take form.
WIBIA: Over the past 13 years, I imagine that you have had some hits and misses, tell us about a time that you would like to forget.
Scott: The worst, hardest, most forgettable, yet most educational, experience in my career was the opening and closing of my restaurant Lucy!Lucy. It was a modern, contemporary restaurant in Muncie that I possibly did everything wrong that I could have. But, I learned more in those 3 years of trying to make it succeed than I have in 13 of running Scotty’s. (well, before this economic downturn, that has forced me to learn a lot) I worked with a Chef, a Sous Chef and a Pastry Chef. I employed my wife as a GM. Let’s just say, we were lucky to make it through those years and remain married. It was one of the few times I’ve actually cried in my career. I’ll never forget the night we made the decision to close and I had to tell my staff. It was heartbreaking. We have always treated our employees like family, so it was gut wrenching to see their faces. I felt like a failure and I don’t like to lose in business. But, I had the benefit of youth and stupidity on my side, so instead of wallowing in defeat – I decided to take all that equipment, booths, chairs and begin the expansion of Scotty’s to Bloomington.
WIBIA: What Indy restaurants are on your list to try?
Scott: I wish Indy had a better restaurant scene. Don’t get me wrong, there are a few great chefs and owners trying. But, after I visit Chicago, I always feel like we are Chain City, USA. And, I know people would say I am starting to fall into that category. I don’t believe that, though. We are independently owned and operated. We still possess a lot of character and personality. So, I always try to frequent the local, independents in Indy. My fave’s are (no particular order): Zing, Meridian, Ale Emporium, Patachou, Cancun, La Piedad, Binkley’s, Zest, Adobo, Barcelona Tapas and probably a few others I’m forgetting…
WIBIA: Tell me about the best meal that you have had.
Scott: Best meal I’ve ever had… hmmmm… well, let me tell you of two experiences that come to mind: First, Tru in Chicago. It wasn’t the best meal; but, the best service I’ve ever seen. They had my wife’s name and “happy birthday” typed on our menus for a party of 4. They had little stools for the women to set their purses on, next to your chair. The service was the best I’ve ever experienced in my life. My favorite restaurant, as of today, is Avec in Chicago. The food, atmosphere, menu, service – everything is perfect. You sit at tables in a communal setting, so you are sitting right beside other people you don’t know. I think it is just the most creative, cool, innovative restaurant I’ve ever experienced.
But, the second favorite/best meal I’ve ever had is probably with Chef Tony and Bonge’s Tavern in Perkinsville, Indiana. For my 30th birthday, my parents rented the entire place out and we took a limo. I didn’t know any of this was happening. The food at Bonge’s is incredible and that night was memorable.
WIBIA: From reading the site, you know that we are big eaters…have you thought about having an eating challenge at Scotty’s? Wings, huge burger, etc…?
Scott: We actually have thought about this. A wing challenge of some sort. I love Bub’s in Carmel and I love their Big Ugly Burger that they challenge people to eat. (with a picture on the wall if you complete the task) I’d love to do this if my guest’s would want it…
WIBIA: You have all you can eat wings on the first Monday of each month, what is the most wings that 1 person has ever put down?
Scott: Because this has been so popular, and to tie it into football season with Monday Night Football, we are now going to do this EVERY Monday. I have heard reports of a few 50+ wing eaters. I just can’t imagine that could feel good. If not that night, for sure not the next morning.
WIBIA: If I walked into Scotty’s and I asked you to give me your favorite item on the menu, what would you give me?
Scott: That’s funny, I always get asked that and it is like asking a parent, “which is your favorite child?” The menu and restaurant was created very selfishly. I created a menu with myself as the imagined customer. So, the reason we carry most of the items we do, is because I liked them. There was a point in my career where I ate at the restaurant for lunch and dinner, 7 days a week. So, when people wonder why the menu is so big, one of the reasons was because I wanted to be able to get something different every day. I love our wings and the Mo’Fo’ Mustard homemade sauce that goes with them – perfection. I also love a good cheeseburger. We hand patty every burger and I think this makes it one of the best items on the menu. And, finally, our wraps – I love our Buffalo Chicken Wrap. I love spicy food. Our Mo’Fo’ Cluck is one of my favorite items we offer because it is so unique.
WIBIA: You know the premise of the site, Would I Buy It Again? What would keep me coming back?
Scott: The menu variety is important. Over 100 different items to choose from. You can eat healthy or you can splurge. The uniqueness of what we offer has always been what I prided this restaurant on. For example, French Press Coffee – not many “sports pubs” like us would offer something like this. We do. Why? Because I like it and it makes us different, unique and a notch up on the “sports bar” theme. Fresh flowers on the tables, daily. A high school lunch tray that we offer with 6 different mini sandwiches to choose from. All things we do that are different and unique.
Of course there are great specials, the fact that we cater to all walks of life – businessmen/women, families, college kids and even children. I think we have made a concept work with a demographic from age 4 to 64. That is a rare thing to do.
I think what keeps my guests coming back and staying so loyal is our commitment to service and guest satisfaction. Lots of restaurants say this; but, not many owners will reply to every Tweet, Facebook or online comment people submit on our website. I do. Every. Single. One. We are in no means perfect, far from it. We make our fair share of mistakes. But, what we do better than most is accept responsibility for our mistakes and take corrective action. We can take a customer’s bad experience at one of our restaurants and make them one of our most loyal, raving fans. Obviously, you have to have a good product, with good value and pricing, a good atmosphere… but, at the end of the day, I tell my people, “This isn’t rocket science – it’s burgers and fries – and if we don’t offer this with personality and service above all others, our guests have lots of choices and will find somewhere else to go.” My staff’s personality is what sells this restaurant. Smiles, service and great personality.