Recipe for longevity – Swiss House celebrates 20th
Karl Resch, co-owner and chef at The Swiss House restaurant in Grass Valley, believes he has cooked up the recipe for surviving in an industry that has more failures then successes.
“If you want to be a success, you have to keep your labor costs under control, work hard and know the business,” he said. “Being in the restaurant business is a big challenge.”
Resch and his wife, Lily, will soon celebrate the 20th anniversary of their Swiss-German eatery at 535 Mill St. That milestone is an accomplishment that few restaurant owners experience.
A recent study by researchers at Ohio State University concluded that 60 percent of restaurants fail within the first five years of opening for business.
Karl attributes the restaurant’s longevity to consistency and tight control over quality and standards, which generates positive word-of-mouth and the repeat customers that keep a restaurant in business.
“We had one concept and we stuck to it,” Karl said. “We make our own soups, sauces and desserts. We could do it, but we’re not interested in fusion cooking.”
They have resisted the temptation to cut corners to save money and improve profitability, a common practice in successful restaurants, Karl said. “We don’t. The people know better.”
All of this entails long days, up to 12 hours even though the restaurant is only open from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday.
Karl runs the kitchen and frequently spends his off days making his own sausage, ravioli and other items. Lily, who has a degree in hotel management, oversees the dining room and bar, which opens at 4 p.m.
“We don’t have kids,” Lily said. “This is the kid.”
They have four part-time employees, but believe they have good control of the business because the kitchen and 110-seat dining room are on the same floor.
Karl was trained in Switzerland and worked as an executive chef at large hotels in Europe and the U.S. before deciding to open his own restaurant in Grass Valley after several visits to the area.
They took over the old Empire Inn, which they now own, and spent three months cleaning up the building before opening for business.
While the restaurant can seat 110, the Resches focus on making sure the people who show up have an enjoyable experience. “I’d rather have less customers who are happy customers,” Karl said.
Karl is willing to tolerate the long hours because he believes food is his calling. “It’s tough, but I like what I’m doing,” he said.
Lily puts it another way: “He enjoys what he’s doing. He drives everybody nuts.”
On the Net
• Swiss House Restaurant
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