How A Restaurant Institution Is Built

Michael Attias Aug 6, 2015
Michael Attias

What’s the “one” factor you would like to have to make your restaurant a huge success and give you an unfair advantage over your competitors?

Is it an A+ location? What about a total restaurant makeover? If you had the best staff in town, would that be it?

The answer for me is simple. I would want to be an institution.

Restaurant institutions survive the test of time. Institutions aren’t chasing the fad or buzzword of the day.

Institutions don’t have to overhaul their concepts every ten years to be fresh and relevant.

When I go back to Memphis to visit family and friends, The Rendezvous is one of my favorite institutions. Hardly a thing has changed since I was in middle school. The tables, chairs, tablecloths, décor and uniforms are all the same. 

They’ve added a new menu item or two, but overall a time machine trip back in time would take you to the exact same spot. 

Last week my girlfriend and I took our kids to Florida for a beach vacation. We love to stay on Highway 30A between Destin and Panama City. 

The 30A area is peaceful and lacks to commercialization of Destin and Panama City. It is a great escape.

On this trip, I decided to take everyone to a Panama City institution; Captain Anderson’s. It’s the same restaurant my parents took me to about forty years ago. 

Frankly, I didn’t know what to expect. As a child I remember the restaurant being on the harbor with these large wooden tables that looked like they were carved out of the side of a large wooden vessel; complete with brass hardware and a half inch of shellac.

Back when I went, there were no refills on soft drinks. It was a contest between siblings to see who could make their Shirley Temple last the longest.

I remember long waits and being famished when we were finally seated. I stuffed my face with the crackers and butter our server brought out.

This visit was quite eye opening. Even though they had updated the building and grounds, the dining room was exactly as I remembered. Those nautical tables and décor and the Scotts plaid carpeting. 

I wanted to take my kids to Captain Anderson’s for the nostalgia, not the food. Frankly, I don’t even remember the food. 

The entire evening was eye opening. Captain Anderson’s has it figured out.

They have a gift shop and seafood market in the front of the restaurant to walk through while you’re waiting an hour for your table. 

They own their own boats and offer group fishing charters. I remember my dad taking me on one. 

I wasn’t expecting the food to be better than the great restaurants on 30A, but I was pleasantly surprised. 

Our appetizers were incredible and my grilled grouper was the best I’ve ever had. They cook over charcoal and use a special house seasoning, which I bought in the gift shop and took home. 

I know gas is easier, but nothing beats grilling over charcoal. I am tempted to ditch my gas grill and get a Weber charcoal grill for the backyard.

My son Jerrod ordered their combo platter with grouper and a steak. He loved his meal. In fact, everyone at our table loved their meal. It was probably the best meal of the week.

Based on the crowds still forming forty years after my last visit, Captain Anderson’s has the “institution” thing down pat. 

Is it food, service or ambience? I’m guessing it is a little bit of everything. 

One thing is for sure, I bet they’ve never veered from who they are: fresh seafood cooked up perfectly. Great service. A cool atmosphere. 

To be an institution, you need to draw the parents in, but leave a big impact on the kids. Captain Anderson’s obviously left a big mark on me. So much so that we drove forty-five minutes out of our way. 

Here’s to you making your restaurant into an institution! 

NOTE: Please mark your calendars. Info coming soon. RCS is putting out a catering conference for clients and non-clients in Nashville next March.

There will be presentations on sales, marketing and operations. Check out our splash page: and be on the lookout for more details. 

Well, that’s all for this issue. 

To Your Restaurant's Marketing & Catering Success, 

Michael Attias

Restaurant Catering Software 

P.S. – If you need help growing catering sales, then please go to and download my free eBook: Cater or Die! 

P.P.S. – I make a limited number of time slots available each week for a free Catering Strategy Session with me. (You also get a catering menu critique and free analysis of your website for “Catering Effectiveness”). For complete details and to grab one of the limited spots, please go to: 

P.P.P.S. – Please check out my podcast at

P.P.P.P.S. - Anyone wishing to reprint my articles may do so. Please email me for the bi-line to use for proper author’s credits.

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