Nestled in the curve in the road, in the idyllic Waterford setting that used to be home to Key Largo and before that O’Toole’s, is now Fork n’ Pint. Brothers Doug and Burge Young opened its doors back in December 2015 and business has been hopping ever since. Indeed, when you turn and drive down the hill, you can see this is a place where you could have a lot of fun.
This is a big restaurant with seating indoors for 200, plus a banquet room that seats an additional 80 people. The barn doors that close it off can be opened as needed.
With a 135-seat patio that overlooks Coles Bay of Cass Lake and the warmer weather just starting to make its 2017 debut, Fork n’ Pint owners, managers and staff are looking forward to a second busy spring/summer season. The twinkle lights and the fire pits outside beckon patrons to enjoy the fresh breeze off the lake.
“People love to sit on that patio,” Doug Young says.
The decor is warm, inviting and comfortable. “My sister-in-law, Laura Young, is the designer,” Young shares. She did a good job of making the big space inside feel more intimate and soft, like a large living room.
“We are in the hospitality business. We happen to serve food and drinks, but we are not a restaurant first; we are hospitality first,” says Young, who credits that statement as the key to their success.
Fork n’ Pint is not your ordinary restaurant, and when asked why he thought his restaurant would succeed when others had failed in the same location, Young confidently replied, “Businesses fail everywhere. All businesses can fail regardless of the location. Hard work is the secret. Know your trade; know your skill; build tools; and educate your staff so that they can achieve the objectives.
“We have a different philosophy,” he adds. “Let’s systemize things; let’s build a program; make the information available and hire good people who can take that information and produce a consistent product and service.”
As with their other restaurant business, the Irish Tavern located just around the corner, some told him that it would never work. They were wrong. Not only is the Tavern thriving, it recently won a local award for beautification of the city.
Corporate Chef Ted Teeter brings a wealth of culinary and business knowledge to the operation, and runs the kitchen like a Rolex timepiece. He coordinates with General Manager Jay Andrews to ensure that the systems and processes in place drive the success of his kitchen, the bar and the staff.
They have integrated an approach that actually mirrors aspects of Lean Six Sigma, a collaborative team effort methodology developed in the manufacturing industry sector several decades ago to systematically eliminate waste.
Dozens of clipboards line the back wall of the
large, clean kitchen, tracking everything in great detail, from inventory to mistakes to social media reviews. Charts and graphs are produced to drill down on where improvements can be leveraged throughout the operation. The entire staff can view progress and participate in and benefit from the measurable gains. With this intentional design in operations, they have figured out the formula to lock down success.
“You need a team. Our restaurant is very team-oriented, and it is all for the benefit of the consumer in the end,” Young says.
“So many people get stuck and don’t work on improving themselves,” Chef Teeter adds.
The menu is eclectic American fare with favorites being the Brussels sprout appetizer, the walleye and the artisan pizzas. The No. 1 pit item is the pulled pork.
On Sundays, Fork n’ Pint offers the full menu as well as a brunch menu and mimosa bar that is wildly popular. Everything on the brunch menu is from scratch, from the biscuits and sausage gravy to the Cuban beans, French toast and cobbler. The mimosa bar has loads of fresh fruit and is served as a “10 plus 1” — your first mimosa is $10, and every one after is $1.
The bar has 24 tap handles and carries products that you just cannot find anywhere else. They recently had a very popular KBS (Kentucky Bourbon Stout) tapping. It was standing room only when they tapped the barrel. In an hour and a half, the entire keg was gone. They specialize in Michigan beers, but they get some very highly specialized beer as well.
Aside from serving food and drink to patrons, the owners, management and staff of Fork n’ Pint have an interest in giving back and investing in the community. With participation in events and organizations like the walk for cancer, Leader Dogs for the Blind and the Waterford Youth Coalition, Fork n’ Pint gives back by donating food and labor. Time spent in these activities and events are seen as a critical part of their doing business in the community.
Fork n’ Pint