Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
The restaurant business is one of the toughest businesses there is. According to Forbes Magazine earlier this year, on average, privately owned restaurants with fewer than 20 employees close 90 percent more often than chain restaurants in the U.S.
According to New Mexico’s Workforce report of 2016, employment in accommodation and food services in the state is ranked third, with only health care, social assistance and mining employing more people. Food service in New Mexico is one of the most promising industries and, despite fluctuation in the economy, it is still on the rise.
What is the secret to succeed in the industry?
Tom Winters, the owner of the award-winning restaurant Adobe Rose, has been in the business since 2011 when he and his nephew, Chad Harcrow bought the little bed and breakfast. Winters added a restaurant to the building. Harcrow’s wife, Megan Harcrow, runs the bed and breakfast.
Winters grew up in Artesia. His family moved to Texas before he started high school.
“After college I went into the car business,” Winters said. “My daughter made me switch. She went to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, became a chef and ran a restaurant in Houston. CIA is one of the top culinary schools in the states where all the Food Network people went. It actually used to be — it isn’t anymore — the only school in the U.S. where you could get a four-year degree in the culinary arts.”
Winters’ secret to success is not really a secret. “It’s not rocket science,” he said. “First and foremost, it’s customer service. I make sure that everyone leaves happy, at least satisfied. If I am not here, we always have a manager on duty. Part of our repertoire is to table touch in addition to the service. To go and to make sure things are OK. If something’s not right — we are human beings — we make it right. If someone’s not satisfied, they are not obligated to pay. Bottom line, we don’t let anybody leave who is not satisfied.
“Before we opened the restaurant, literally every restaurant in town had the same menu since I was a kid,” Winters said and laughed. “We try to think out of the box.”
Winters pays attention to the people he hires, and trains them well to give them the tools to be successful. Asked how he finds the right people to hire, Winters said, “It’s hard. We, for one, we demand a lot. I am not a jerk, but you got to do things right or you can’t be part of it. Servers here make good money, more than me,” he said and laughed.
The employees are also motivated.
“They have pride in their work,” Winters said. “We have fun at work. We have theme nights where they get to dress up. We have sales contests and try to do things together like team building.”
Next to investing in his employees, Winters and his daughter use the highest quality of food products available.
“We try to get most of our menu within New Mexico,” Winters said. “Our beef comes from Clovis and most of our vegetables. A lot of our beers and wines we source from New Mexico. It is part of our theme.”
Some of the best clients are the trainees and employees at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, which is across the street from the Adobe Rose. “We want to showcase New Mexico,” Winters said. “I really think some day it is going to be a trade across the country for New Mexico. New Mexico cuisine will be a real thing.
“Chloe has developed a rapport with some fish markets where she buys directly.”
Nothing on the menu has been frozen. The fish is sent fresh next day after being caught. “We only have a small freezer for icecream,” he said.
Despite that the oil and gas industry was suffering, Winters expanded his restaurant, adding a new section that has a roof to protect against the elements. He also expanded his parking lot, and, he purchased a full liquor license.
“That was a scary time for me,” Winters said. “It was a huge investment, but it really paid off.”
There are only a limited number of liquor licenses available in New Mexico. According to the Alcohol and Gaming Division, licenses become available for purchase when a business closes or loses its license. There has not been a new license granted since 1982. The cost of a license varies from $300,000 to close to $1 million, something that private restaurants rarely are able to pay. Anything under $300,000 is considered a bargain.
Last year was the toughest year for Winters and his family with companies in the gas and oil field shutting down and letting their employees go.
“We did feel it,” Winters said. “Where we mainly felt it was lunch, to the point that we were considering closing lunch and having only dinner service. Dinners, it came down a little bit but not tremendously, but lunch and catering really got hit.”
According to Winters, recovery only started this year with the local refinery rehiring. “FLETC hasn’t died down, but hasn’t grown as much as they expected to,” he said. The jobs are there but they can’t bring them in. We don’t know the reasons.”
Winters added live entertainment with focus on local talents from jazz to ‘80s rock and pop. “Roswell has the S.O.Y. Mariachi group, we have them play out here. Those are amazing kids,” he said.
“As far as growth goes, we are maxed out now,” Winters said. “We hope to expand around New Mexico.
“We got a lot of interested parties who ask us to expand. We are going to do it when we are ready. Roswell is one location we consider.
“We had the city manager of Clovis offer financial assistance to put a restaurant there.
Alot of cities have economic development departments and he told us where to apply for the financial assistance. He said, ‘I would be on your side.’”
Asked if Winters worries about somebody imitating his concept, he laughed and said, “We’re too crazy to get copied.”
Christina Stock may be contacted at 622-7710, ext. 309, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.