THE MootHouseMOOT HOUSE is a Fort Collins landmark: serving the community since the 1970s, and a flagship of the Hot Corner Concepts group for 25 years.  They’re known for their top-notch food and fantastic people.  A superb date night out.

There’s more to the story, though.

We all know that restaurants are one of the toughest businesses to be in – hard-to-please customers and tight margins.  Especially when you market yourself with high standards.

Moot House roomI sat down with Paul Schickler recently, managing partner of The Moot House.  I’d seen him give a presentation a couple of months ago about the philosophy of Hot Corner Concepts, and was intrigued to find out more.

Their formula is amazingly simple:

  1. Each restaurant has its own distinct character, but it’s always about quality.
  2. They find and develop great people at all levels.

It sounds almost trivial, I know.  And in fact, many restaurant owners will tell you that they do exactly these things.  The difference here is that they structure the company around it, and work hard to not get distracted from this core.

Hot Corner Scott SteveIt all starts at the top, with the philosophy of Scott McCarthy and Steve Taylor.  They believe that a restaurant is only successful because of its people – not only those who have direct contact with diners, but everyone in the company.

If those people are respected, developed, coached, and treated right, then they’ll deliver consistently outstanding food and service for customers.

And deliver they do.  Which makes for a successful company.

Steve and Scott could go crazy and start a lot more restaurants – after all, they’ve established that their philosophy works, and they have the touch that it takes.  But they’re cautious, carefully expanding when they know that they can maintain this powerful corporate culture.

I asked Paul about the great number of charitable events that they get involved in.  Sure, it gets their name out in the community and helps customers to view them as “nice guys.”  But the point is actually much deeper:  They do it because generosity and giving back is in the DNA of the company, and it develops character in their employees.

Their management philosophy is a keystone for developing their people. It starts with selecting people who aren’t just looking for a short-term summer job, but who bring much more to their career in the industry.  It then extends to indepth training, coaching, feedback, reinforcement, and rewarding for performance.

A few years ago, Hot Corner Concepts hosted a 20th-year reunion of all its current and past employees.  The restaurant closed its doors for the event.  I find that this says a lot about the character of the company, how much it cares about the contributions of and connections to all these people who made it successful.

This year, The Moot House remodeled.  They closed for a few months, then reopened in May.  For loyal customers, there was trepidation with changing anything at all, so it’s been a bit of a journey for them.  But the decor is fresh and welcoming, the food still amazing, and customers aren’t staying away.  Paul is answering every complaint and suggestion personally – it wouldn’t be right to do otherwise.

Of course, my wife and I celebrated our anniversary there in August.  It was wonderful.