Park City’s Eating Establishment shares its secret to success

Story by LAUREN DEANE
Photos by LAUREN DEANE, JULI SALMI, MIRANDA BLAKE AND JORDANNA CHRIS

Juli Salmi, the head manager at the Eating Establishment (EE) in Park City, outlined three essential ingredients for a successful restaurant: great people, a working system and delicious food.

The EE was opened in 1972 and is the oldest full-service restaurant in Park City, Utah. In 2011, it was awarded the achievement of No. 2 best breakfast restaurant in Park City by tasteofparkcity.com.  It was also shown on the Rachael Ray Show, Rachael’s Vacation, on the Food Network Channel and was listed as a local’s favorite by skitownresaurants.com.

According to Salmi, the first vital ingredient for a successful restaurant is to hire hardworking people focused on communication. One of the most indispensable personalities of a restaurant is the owner. The owner has a huge part to play in the success of his or her company.

Salmi said part of the reason why the EE is so successful is because of the effort and heart the owner, Rick Sine, brings to his restaurant.

“He is constantly in and out of the restaurant. He feels it is incredibly important, as the owner, to be around the restaurant daily,” Salmi said. “He works multiple shifts a week as the host and is involved in everything the restaurant does. When he isn’t working he is constantly coming in just to chat with the staff, say hello, thank loyal customers and see if there is anything he can do to help during busy hours.”

Another key personality to any restaurant is in the management position. The EE has two main managers, Salmi and the kitchen manager, Craig Wells. One of the reasons why Salmi and Wells are an effective partnership is because they are in relationship; they have been working side-by-side at the EE and dating for the past seven years.

“We met at the Eating Establishment and soon after started dating. We are both into outdoor sports and started climbing the ranks professionally together,” Salmi said. “He went from the sous chef position, to the head chef and finally the kitchen manager. I went from a waitress, to a manager, to the head manager.”

Miranda Blake, who has been a waitress at the EE for the past six years, said, “We call them ‘the power couple.’ We all know that a lot of the success that has come to the restaurant is because of these two and their integrated work dynamic.”

Salmi appreciates her ability to communicate so easily with Wells. “We always bounce ideas of each other by talking about problems with our staff, the shipping [arrivals and issues] and anything else. It’s easy to communicate with the other manager when you live together,” she said with a laugh.

A successful restaurant also needs great employees in other roles, such as servers and dishwashers. Salmi said that the right employees will create a stable and successful restaurant.

Elizabeth Twilline has worked in the restaurant industry her entire life and has been at the Eating Establishment for the past 10 years. “One thing that I see in the EE that isn’t in other restaurants is the front of the house — the employees that interact with the customers — and the back of the house —the employees that do not interact with the customers — work incredibly together,” she said. “In some of my other waitressing experiences, the kitchen won’t talk to the servers and vice versa. This never creates a good work environment and it also makes it virtually impossible to make customers happy.”

Blake added, “The experience I have had here with the kitchen is completely different than anything else I have ever experienced. We yell, laugh, talk and work with each other.”

The average amount of years that an employee stays at the EE is in double figures, 10 years. Salmi said this statistic is practically unheard of in the restaurant industry. The EE is keeping employees so long they created a retirement program for its employees.

Salmi’s second necessity for a successful restaurant is a working system.

The system at the EE is different from most other restaurants, Wells explained. He said most restaurant systems function by having the kitchen do all the food-related work and the servers do all the customer-support chores. The EE’s system has some of those components with a “special twist.”

At the Eating Establishment, servers prepare items for customers that don’t need to be cooked, such as oatmeal, granola and fruit. Servers also “dress” dishes — they add hollandaise sauce to the eggs benedict and slices of lemon to create balance — before taking plates to customers.

“The kitchen is not responsible for making the food pretty, they make it delicious. The waitresses are in charge of the beauty in a dish,” Blake said.

Wells said it is an exhausting cycle for the servers, but it helps make them in charge of all the services they provide the customer. It also makes sure the kitchen staff is focused on the most important part of their job, the taste and quality of the food they are preparing.

Finally, Salmi believes that a perfect restaurant must have great food.

“The service and the system might be perfect but the most important part is what the public puts into their mouth,” Salmi said. “You need to make sure your food is undeniably the best thing they have ever tasted.”

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