A Prize Package: The Coach Sports Grille of Madison Heights, Michigan
"I got back a dead and dirty restaurant," says restaurant owner and manager Cynthia Krstich. After a 40-year run, the old Coachman Lounge in Madison Heights, Michigan, needed a lot of help and repair, as the owners of the building took back the building and took over as the restaurant's new management. There was much to do. One of the first items on the agenda was to mix the old with the new in a name change. The "Coachman," as locals knew it, had some good recognition value but there was a need to let both new and current customers know things were changing for the better. Now called The Coach Sports Grille, the restaurant, just outside the Detroit metro area, was ready to head down a new road of improvement.
Coachman was known for pizza and sandwiches, but years of neglect left the restaurant's 2,400-square-foot interior in need of some serious makeover help. But like all restaurants needing an overhaul, money and expert advice were in short supply. But then Krstich heard from one of her distributors, Salvatore Foodservice in Shelby Township, Michigan, about the "inspired Restaurant Makeover Contest," sponsored by Unilever Foods. The online essay contest asked small, independent restaurant operators across the country to tell judges how Unilever could help their business grow.
The prize was significant: a $100,000 package that included more than 100 hours of one-on-one consultation services on areas of "guests," "menus" and "kitchen," a year's supply of free Unilever Food Solutions products, cash to investing in front- and back-of-house improvements, and a trip to world-famous Culinary Institue of America (CIA) Napa, California, campus for training.
"In her entry, owner Krstich made it clear she and her team need to conduct business in a more structured way," said Ted Skodol, director of Customer and Channel Marketing at North American Unilever Food Solutions. "Cynthia and her staff have a real passion to make The Coach Sports Grille the best it can be and the commitment serves as an inspiration to us... we can make a real impact on their business and we're looking forward to doing just that."
New tables and rearranged dining and bar areas are just a few of the physical changes. Krstich and her staff have added a heated smoking "garden" in the outside back area of the restaurant and continue to provide several instant games of chance, such as state sponsored lotteries and a Keno Bar. This is an area that many restaurants are unaware of, but on The Coach Sports Grille gambling sales of about $500,000 a year, they receive a 2 percent commission, and if there is a winner an additional 1 percent is paid to the restaurant. Krstich also says that gamblers tip well too. These commissions pay a lot of ordinary monthly expenses, she says.
The menu and kitchen areas were a key part of the "Coach" makeover and Chef Jerry Collins was in the middle of all the new menu items and the extensive training by both Unilever in-house chefs and training staffs and the people at the CIA. Several new menu items have been added to the restaurant menu with proper costing and preparation systems put in place. Beyond preparing pizza and flat breads, Jerry also prepares all styles of soups, chicken wings, burgers, sandwiches, ribs and fresh salads. "We really learned how to utilize our products better, saving a lot of waste and at the same time the assistance we've gotten has helped us develop healthier, better-tasting menu items," Krstich says.
Marketing the "new" Coach is a recent grand reopening, new logo, a "PR" program and extensive use of their Facebook page, with posting almost every day. "We've really tried to rebrand our place," Krstich says. "We never close and we keep the Coach very clean. Our customers tell me it's like their own "cheers" bar... a friendly place. We want to keep it that way and introduce lots of new customers to what we are offering. I believe if we do these things right word of mouth will help us grow."