Restaurants Unlimited has been in the hospitality industry for half a century, and isn’t slowing down anytime soon.
“Hospitality is people. You cannot be exceptional if you do not have exceptional people. Great people provide a great experience.”
Jim Eschweiler, the CEO of Restaurants Unlimited Inc. (RUI), knows what it takes to be great in the hospitality industry. A veteran of the venerable Starbucks Coffee Company and Starbucks Coffee International, the CFO turned CEO has a passion for the hospitality industry. RUI is the perfect fit.
He lived in Seattle while working for Starbucks, and found himself frequenting Cutters Crabhouse, Palomino, and Palisade both with his wife and when Starbucks team members and potential partners would come into town. When his opportunity at RUI came about, he already had a great connection to the company.
Crystal Grays, CFO at RUI, has felt a similar pull to the hospitality industry. She had worked for big companies, including PACCAR Inc and Starbucks, but felt like she could build and create more at an organization like RUI.
“I have the opportunity to make an impact on this business every day, which I love. I also get to wear multiple hats beyond CFO,” she said.
Passion like this is important in this industry, especially at RUI. The umbrella company oversees 20 unique brands in 44 locations across the United States. RUI has been delighting its guests with incredible dining experiences in some of the best locales across the country for almost 50 years.
A Focus on Talent and Values
Recently, the leadership team at RUI unveiled a set of core values that supports its “make it right, make it special, make it happen,” service vision. Eschweiler stated that by bringing themes like Exceptional People and Remarkable Hospitality to the forefront of the organization, RUI now has an established framework of core values to be able to discuss who they are and what they do.
“Fifty years in this industry is not a small accomplishment,” he said. “With that has come a really long-tenured team, where some of our team members have been here for 30 years or more. This tenure proves we’ve been doing things right culturally, and helps us keep the bar high.”
This hospitality industry company’s primary focus over the last few years has been on talent and hiring the right people who fit these values.
“People have to have a curiosity for the business, not just the numbers,” said Grays, discussing hiring in the accounting and finance department.
Since joining the team as CFO, Grays has brought together team members in new ways. Each month, the company goes through a brand review of their portfolio to assess each restaurant’s performance.
Today, all functional departments—including marketing, operations, finance, and the creative team—are around the table learning about the last 30 days and deciding how the team as a whole can be more strategic.
“We’re spending more time thinking about the future and big picture issues,” Eschweiler shared. “While we navigate industry and external challenges we are being careful not to compromise our 50-year legacy of exceptional service and quality.”
Adding to the Portfolio
RUI has 14 locations in Oregon, 14 locations in Washington state, eight in California, and another eight scattered throughout the U.S. As if managing a portfolio with so wide a reach isn’t impressive enough, the company also offers a large breadth of concepts.
“We know there are a lot of things we can do, from a 30th floor fine dining opportunity to a limited service Neapolitan style pizzeria. There are many options for growth,” said Jim.
On one end of the spectrum is their tavern model. The focus of the company the last few years has been Henry’s Tavern. The last two restaurants RUI has opened are Henry’s locations, and the next two that are opening soon are also Henry’s Tavern.
The two new Henry’s are in the greater Seattle area, which allows the team to leverage existing partners such as Sysco, Charlie’s Produce, Pacific Seafood, and FSIC, and its own team members to hire from within, guaranteeing the same level of quality across all Henry’s locations.
For future additions to RUI’s burgeoning portfolio, Eschweiler and Grays see the advantage of pursuing several different opportunities, including expanding in markets where they already have a footprint, in-field opportunities, and acquisitions in the right situation.
Eschweiler sees that as the industry continues to evolve and brands go through tough times together, there may be situations in the future for partnerships. Grays sees a strategic focus for the future where geography is the guiding principle. Because of RUI’s ability to manage across the spectrum, there is room for both strategies to play out.
Love What You Do
“Remarkable hospitality will always be our goal,” Jim said. “On the other hand, we’re cognizant of what else is going on in the marketplace.”
RUI has its hand on the pulse of the industry’s biggest trends, and is actively pursuing options for third party delivery, catering and business to business partnerships.
“We’re excited about the future,” he said. “Every day is another opportunity to touch another guest. Every time we walk into one of our restaurants, we want to hear a story of exceptional service.
“We love what we do here.”
Passionate about food and service, Restaurants Unlimited has been delighting our guests with outstanding dining experiences in some of the best locales across the nation for almost 50 years. Choose from 20 unique brands—from seafood to steaks, upscale to casual—in 44 locations.