If you want to know what makes a good restaurant who better to ask than a man who has spent his whole life putting plates in front of hungry customers.
Glenn Simon’s self-named restaurant has been at its Gasoline Alley location for 31 years. Before that, he had another restaurant just to the south.
Go even farther back in time to 1969 and that’s when his father started Cy’s Koffee House in Gasoline Alley.
Simon has a simple test to see if a restaurant owner is on the ball.
“There are many clues. I drive around the building and if the back door blows in the wind, don’t go in.
“That means they’ve got mice,” he says.
“That’s your first clue.
“Then when you go in, and the front entrance is clean and the washrooms are good, then probably the rest of the place is clean.”
Cleanliness, good food and good service are the three ingredients every good restaurant must have, he says.
“You’ve got to have all three. Those are the three things that will keep your customers coming back.
“If you want more customers tomorrow, treat the ones you’ve got today well.
“Word of mouth is very powerful.”
Glenn’s Restaurant and Gift Shop and its giant teapot sign have been a landmark and oasis for highway travellers. He prides himself on a tea selection — 240 from around the world — available at the table or can be bought to go.
When it comes to food, fresh is what keeps people returning.
Giant cinnamon buns that could feed a family of four are made the old-fashioned way on site as just one example.
“We make everything as fresh as possible.”
He makes the short drive to Costco three times a week to load up on the freshest supplies.
“We go through a ton of blueberries,” he says, adding he also shops locally for many other ingredients.
While every business talks about their good service, definitions are a little harder to find.
“I can define it perfectly,” says Simon. “Good service is greeting the customer, making eye contact, listening to their concerns, correcting any mistakes and saying ‘thank you.’
“One of my best servers even thanks you for the dirty dishes. Who does that?” he says with a laugh.
That kind of service pays off with good tips. It also tends to take the ornery out of even the most cantankerous customers.
“We do get some grumpy people in, but we kill ‘em with kindness,” he says.
His longest-serving waitress has 37 years on the job with him. “The youngsters have only been here with us 16 or 18 years,” he says.
So where does Simon go when he’s not dining at his own place?
He likes Leto’s Steakhouse and Bar in Lacombe. “I love that place. I have fabulous dill salmon there that I have all the time.”
Another frequent stop for him and his wife Jessie is Red Deer’s Ranch House Restaurant and Bar.
“I have the salmon wellington and their beef wellington in puff pastry. It’s delicious.
“You gotta go there. Where do you get salmon and beef wellington anymore?”