Even at the height of the recent financial fiasco, Glacier Restaurant Group (GRG) was able to remain loyal to its most fundamental goal: to provide customers with the ultimate dinning experience. Operating at a time when consumer confidence was at a staggering low, GRG wowed patrons with a simple recipe of quality and outstanding service. And, as the dust from the financial storm begins to settle, GRG is stronger than ever. The company weathered the lean years by staying true to a solid set of business practices and keeping an eye on the future.
Here We Grow
GRG operates 21 restaurants throughout Montana, Idaho, Indiana and Washington state. Four brands function under the GRG umbrella, and each has its own distinct theme. Latitude 48 – with only one location, in Whitefish, Mont. – offers upscale dining with a Mediterranean flair. The Craggy Range Bar & Grill – also consisting of one location in Whitefish – sets the tone as a neighborhood bar, grill and music venue.
GRG’s Ciao Mambo offers a more elegant dining experience with “immigrant-style Italian cuisine” that is prepared in full view of customers. There are five locations of Ciao Mambo throughout Montana, Washington and Idaho, and each carries the same theme: chic and fun. As the brand’s tagline states: “Where even the pasta is sexy.”
The largest and oldest of the GRG brands is MacKenzie River Pizza Company. The original restaurant opened in 1993, and in 2007 it became a part of GRG. Over the years, MacKenzie River Pizza Company has grown to include 15 locations throughout Montana and Idaho and, just recently, Indiana and Washington.
With these four brands, GRG has become the largest restaurant group in Montana. And, according to Brad Ridgeway, chief operating officer for GRG, the company has plans for further expansion. “We have a pretty good chunk of the market in the state of Montana and we’ve expanded into Idaho, Washington, and most recently, into Indianapolis.”
As Ridgeway explains, GRG recently brought the MacKenzie River Pizza brand to the Midwest, which is a leap from the company’s current plan to grow into states surrounding Montana. “The Indianapolis location is a bit far-reaching for us, but we had our sights set on a franchise opportunity in the Midwest,” he explains. “I don’t think there’s a better market to introduce a brand than the Midwest. The new store opened in mid-May and already it’s doing great.”
Restaurant-goers today have endless dining choices. With that in mind, GRG strives to attract customers with the lure of a memorable dining experience. “The customer has to be impressed. They’re going to have higher expectations if they’re going to spend those dollars,” Ridgeway notes. “Therefore, everything we do is closely scrutinized. From the purchasing of our ingredients to how the meals are prepared to how the food is presented to the table – we’re conscious of every detail.”
Everything we do is closely scrutinized. From the purchasing of our ingredients to how the meals are prepared to how the food is presented to the table – we’re conscious of every detail.
Since 2007, GRG has met customer expectations by serving quality in every aspect of the business. “It’s unique in the matter of pride that we have in our products,” Ridgeway explains. “We prep everything from scratch – we’re not a rip-open-a-bag type of concept. From the sauces to the chicken to the dough, the items are made by us every day. There’s a lot of pride in that. We’ll never sacrifice the quality of our food.”
GRG also is obsessed with the quality of its staff, the company says. At peak season, the company employs nearly 800 dedicated and knowledgeable restaurant staff to ensure the ultimate customer experience.
According to Erica Coffman, director of marketing for GRG, a director of training and development coordinates the training efforts in all 21 restaurants. From there, the operation relies heavily on in-store managers to ensure that the staff of each restaurant has the right knowledge for their jobs.
“On a corporate level, we ensure each of our servers has the materials they need to really understand the brand,” Coffman says. GRG takes special care when it comes to employees and managers. To create a strong sense of unity among managers and staff, GRG hosts an annual retreat in the resort setting of Whitefish, Mont., to focus on strategies of growth for each brand. During these events, employees are recognized for their achievements and encouraged to continue making the GRG brand a memorable one.
“Through the years, we’ve always known that if we take care of our employees, our employees will take care of us,” Ridgeway notes. “We never underestimate the value of the people who work for us.”