What drives the nation’s top foodservice operators? We asked the 2018 Silver Plate Class and got an inside look at what makes them the operator all-stars they are today. Find out what they have to say about their passion for foodservice, career accomplishments and what it means to be part of a legendary group of operators.
Craig Huse,President & Co-Owner of Huse Culinary, received the 2018 Silver Plate Award in the Independent Restaurants/Multi-Concept category. Nominated by Ecolab.
What do you enjoy most about your career in foodservice?
The number 1 answer if you’re in the restaurant business is PEOPLE. As industry leaders we serve people – our guests and our hospitality professionals. I overweigh my time towards interacting and developing our staff and leaders. This affords me the best seat in the house to see them grow personally and professionally.
Every meal we serve, is a personal byproduct of many people’s contributions of talent, effort, passion. It’s also enormously rewarding to see so many of our guests dine with us regularly and to celebrate personal milestones such as birthdays, anniversaries, closing business deals, or simply connecting with friends and families. My guests become my friends.
Tell us about your biggest career accomplishments:
- Designing and opening start-up restaurants Harry & Izzy’s (3 locations) and Burger Study (1) come to mind.
- We had a terrific year in 2012 with St. Elmo and Harry & Izzy’s being located effectively at ground-zero as Indianapolis hosted Super Bowl 40. A few months later that same year, my father Steve and I were fortunate enough to have a medal placed around our necks as St. Elmo Steak House was recognized in NYC as a James Beard American Classic.
- But by far what I’m most proud of is my role as a steward of Indianapolis’ 116-year old steak joint, St. Elmo Steak House. We have a large staff of tremendous, passionate stewards of this classic steakhouse and I’m simply proud to be counted among them. My father Steve Huse had the foresight and opportunity to purchase St. Elmo in 1986 from Harry Roth and Isadore Rosen, who were the owner/operators since 1947. Together, my father and I continue to reinvest into the historic buildings, improve the food, wine and beverage offerings, train and empower the service and culinary team, and create a culture of professional, honest, genuine hospitality. As a byproduct of our ongoing drive and commitment to Indy’s iconic restaurant, today, St. Elmo Steak House is the 19th highest volume independent restaurant in the US. Simply keeping an early 1900’s restaurant relevant is not enough, we wish to lead in our category both popularly and critically.
How is your segment making a difference for the foodservice industry?
Independent restaurant operators are exceptionally generous. As a percentage of sales and free time, it’s difficult to identify a more giving segment. Support of community, continued learning and growth opportunities, and social and environmental responsibility is what matters to millennials.
At Huse Culinary, we do the following:
- Send 50 team members into the community each spring for clean-up projects. Supporting volunteering is a priority
- Donate over $200,000 in gift cards and private dinners to over 700 charitable organizations per year
- Create annual leadership groups at each restaurant and in every position to share ideas and innovate with our executives
- Educate team members through experiences with food suppliers, farmers, distillers, wineries and distributors. Connecting frontline professionals with foodservice manufacturers is important for both groups
- Participate in charitable “taste-of” events throughout the year and throughout our community
- Host an annual golf outing for Riley Children’s Foundation, Indiana’s leading children’s hospital, which raises over $75,000
- Host a bi-annual University Day for all Huse Culinary employees focused on personal and professional enrichment
- Fund and administrate an employee benevolence fund called Fork over Change which supports our team members in times of need and/or crisis
- Giving credibility to the profession by offering all positions the opportunity for: career development, 401K, medical/dental/vision, holiday bonuses, performance recognition, and years of service recognition
What advice do you have for someone new to the foodservice industry?
Just say yes when asked. If you’re not asked, step up and volunteer. This industry is people intensive and foodservice organizations move a million miles per hour. Someone always needs assistance on projects and getting known as a willing volunteer is like strapping a rocket onto your professional career. Helping in other areas outside of your specific responsibility is also powerful. Let your personality shine and introduce yourself to the highest people in the organization – make yourself known. You never know when it’s your time to be called up!
What does being an IFMA Silver Plate recipient mean to you?
The restaurant industry can be extremely rewarding but because of that, it is very competitive. Receiving an IFMA Silver Plate not only validates our organization’s pursuit of success in an uber-competitive industry, it recognizes that we have the respect of our vendors and business partners that are vital to our success. We can’t operate great restaurants without great vendors. Together, as partners, we create meaningful, amazing guest experiences.
Join us at the 2018 IFMA Gold & Silver Plate Awards Celebration and help us in honoring Craig Huse and the rest of the Silver Plate Class. Click HERE for event information and to reserve your table now!