The Idaho Statesman
November 28, 2006
Page 1, Business
SMOKY MOUNTAIN BUILDS ON ITS SUCCESS:
Q & A With Dan Todd & John Ryan
Management focuses on good relationships, as well as good food
Written by Ken Dey, The Idaho Statesman
By mid-December, the owners of Smoky Mountain Pizza & Pasta expect to reopen their Meridian restaurant at 980 E. Fairview Ave.
The new location replaces the original restaurant in downtown Meridian that closed last summer. The new restaurant will incorporate an expanded menu as part of the company´s new Smoky Mountain Pizzeria & Grill concept, which builds on the pizza and pasta the company is known for by adding grilled dinner offerings like steaks.
Founded in 1992 in Ketchum by David and Jerry Todd, the family-owned Idaho restaurant chain is nearing its 15th anniversary. The Meridian location will be the ninth restaurant.
In addition to the original Ketchum location, there are three locations in Boise and one each Eagle, Hailey, Mountain Home and Sandy, Utah. In Idaho, the company now employs more than 300 people. President Dan Todd and General Manager John Ryan talked about what the company has done to remain successful.
How much of an impact has the surge of national restaurant chains in the Treasure Valley had on your company?
Todd: Obviously we are well established in the Boise market. Competition certainly is something we´re always paying attention to. We´ve been fortunate because population growth is growing with new restaurants. In that type of market, you can have both good success at our restaurants as well as the new competition coming to town. But what it does is add a new level of scrutiny on how we look at what we´re doing. We try to make sure we are doing our best to compete on the level of any of the national chains.
What sets your restaurant apart from your competition?
Todd: It´s hard to point to any one thing. It´s definitely a combination of things that come together. No. 1 is having the right team. No matter what plans you have or goals you´re trying to accomplish, if you don´t have the right team on board it will be an uphill battle from day one. We´ve been very fortunate to bring on board passionate people who care about the restaurants and customers. They are motivated and driven to excel above just the average industry standards.
Ryan: We take the time to get to know people. Anything we can do to set us apart — things like giving customers fresh watermelon or garlic bread while they´re on a waiting list to making a good dining experience for children. In some restaurants, children are pushed aside because they´re not the ones carrying the wallets; we don´t do that because we know at the end of the day … they are our future customers.
Why is it important to have above-average employees?
Todd: It´s a big deal for us. Our goal is to reach out and build relationships with customers to provide them an extraordinary dining experience. The customers walking th rough our front doors receive much more than they would have expected from walking into a casual dining restaurant. For us, that means making sure the food quality was great, and customers were met with a genuine personality and smile and made to feel like a friend in our restaurants.
What do you strive for when hiring employees?
Ryan: A big part of what makes us successful is having different personalities on the floor. We don´t make robots out of them. Once they are set up and trained, we´re confident that they´ll be a success being themselves. We´re very fortunate to have many of these great people who have been with us for a long, long time. All our general managers have been with us three, five, seven years.
You do have one restaurant in the Salt Lake area, but do you have plans for even further expansion beyond Idaho?
Todd: Right now we´re excited with the restaurants we have. We´re certainly looking at some other Idaho markets … but for now we´re focused, having fun and working with what we have. We´re certainly growth minded. A company has to continue to grow because it helps create more opportunities for our existing team members and betters us as a company by making us strive for the next goal. We´re excited that there will be more communities for us to be a part of, but we kind of take it one by one.