Earlier this month, Think Tasty readers had the opportunity to choose the best restaurant in the Great Lakes region. With ten incredible restaurants from which to choose, picking a favorite was not easy. Until the last moment, readers added their votes and left comments raving about their restaurants. When voting ended, the restaurant that earned the most votes was Scotty’s Brewhouse with seven different locations in Indiana.
I spoke with President/CEO Scott Wise to learn more about this popular dining destination.
TT: How long have you been working in the restaurant industry?
SW: I have been in this industry since I was a freshman in college. I started washing dishes and moved to working in the kitchen. I hated the back of the house and moved to working as a server. It was the one job I had that never felt like work; it was fun. Every summer for 3 years a group of friends and I drove to Panama City, Florida, rented a condo, and worked as waiters. We worked at the same restaurant, Sunset Restaurant and Lounge. At that time I didn’t know it would be a career path. I worked in marketing and PR for a year after college and waitered in the evenings. Then I decided I should get into the business. I was living at home, working for my mom, and a restaurant location became available near college. I told my parents, who were entrepreneurs, I was going to buy it. I rebuilt it myself, which was the first Scotty’s Brewhouse.
TT: What do you like about using social media as part of being CEO of these restaurants?
SW: Social media allows me to make a digital table-touch. My true love was waiting on people as a bartender or waiter. Seven restaurants later I don’t get to do that. Good service is important. You need to go above and beyond.
TT: How often do you change the menu?
SW: The cornerstone of our menu is burgers and fries. However, I let my people guide the ship. Sixty percent of the items on the menu have a name, such as Dan’s Darn Good Wrap. If an item has a name in it, then there was a kid who brought the idea to me. If I remove an item, I get complaints from customers. About every 8 weeks, we change the specials insert. Working with the Director of Menu Development, we change the menu completely once a year.
TT: What do you like about being a restaurant owner in Indiana? What do you dislike?
SW: The benefit of being a burger restaurant is that we’re located in cow country. Scotty’s Lakehouse uses natural, local ingredients and gets their beef, milk, eggs, and produce from local farms. The difficult part of being in Indiana is trying to get exposure.
TT: What is your favorite dish on the menu?
SW: It’s hard choosing, but I guess it would be the Shewman Burger. It has peanut butter on the bun, jalapeños, bacon, and cheese, which gives it a thai flavor. Another favorite are our fried dill pickles, which are hand-breaded at our restaurant.
TT: You have a loyal base of patrons. What is it about your restaurant that you believe makes that so?
SW: People respect that we’re local. They love local boy done good stories. They see the loyalty I show my people. The twenty people I surround myself with make me look a lot smarter than I am. I get a lot more credit than I deserve. I try to portray that to people; I want to be known as an average guy. We try to be humble about where we’re from and where we’re going. It took 14 years to get where we are, but only 14 days to take it all away.