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The Taste, part II

Edd and Nina Hendee were out to dinner, three kids in tow.

It was 35 years ago and Edd can still recall, “It was one of the worst meals I’ve ever put in my mouth. Not to mention the service was ghastly.”

At the time their Taste of Texas in Houston was struggling, “trying to be too many things to too many people. Too many pages of mediocrity.”

It left them broke but that dinner sparked an idea in the duo.

“I left there thinking, ‘darn it, there have to be more people like me in the world who want to take their family out and have a nice dinner.’” Nothing fancy; just good food and impeccable service. “That’s when I said, ‘gosh, that may just be our niche,” Edd says.

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A staple outside of the Houston restaurant, this tombstone uses humor to show their commitment to quality beef through CAB.

It wasn’t long after that they signed on with CAB and have since honed that focus on quality day in and day out.

“CAB changed the dynamic of this place,” Nina says. Everything and everyone had to step up their game. “We went from mediocrity to excellence in all that we did.”

The service, the sweet tea, the salad bar, all was put to the consumer test.

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Plenty said a salad bar was outdated but the Hendees listened to what their customers wanted. “Without them, we’re done,” he says. The salad bar remains.

“Our customers may not know why they love the Taste of Texas, or the details of it, but they know there’s an excellence here and that excellence creates value for them” Edd says.

It’s not just the obvious things. It’s the seemingly small things that make as much of the difference as the big stuff. After all, a competitor down the street can sell CAB.

Thirty-five years with the brand and all the teachings since, “We figured out we’ve got to specialize,” Edd says. “We can’t be everything to everybody. We’ve got to be something special to somebody.”

That’s why you’ll hear no talk of franchising. Edd and Nina made that decision years ago and they’re people who stick by their word.

“I have one rule,” Edd says. “One wife, one restaurant. Two of either of them could cause you a lot of problems.”

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Edd and Nina feed off of each other’s energy and humor. They’ve been together since the 70s and have no plans to retire.

So where does that leave Houston’s mega spot? In 2016 and 2017, The Taste grossed more than $17 million in sales.

“I tell our staff one of the biggest assets that we have, is we’re a high-volume, very busy restaurant. One of the worst challenges we have, is we’re a high-volume, very busy restaurant,” Edd says.

Every customer is critical.

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“We seat 500 with more than 200 employees, and we serve a thousand people a day,” Nina says. “With that comes a lot of chaos, but it’s so satisfying to know that people have left happy.”

A family is going to come in for that same special dinner Edd and Nina hoped for years ago. They’re going to have moved heaven and earth to get there.

That short time spent at The Taste, “It’s got to be something special, because they’re going to leave out the door with an opinion of this restaurant,” Edd says, “and if it isn’t excellent, we lose that sell going forward.”

Sounds like some cattlemen I know.

Thanks for allowing me to tell your story,

Laura

PS – If you’re interested in learning more about the Taste of Texas and Edd and Nina’s journey of struggle to success, look out for the October issue of the Angus Journal. Catch up on The Taste, part I here.

blackinklaura Visit Website
Born and raised in the Sunshine State, I grew up surrounded by more livestock than people on my family’s working cattle ranch. A willingness to address a crowd and an eagerness to ask questions led to my passion for spreading the word of agriculture. A lover of words, cattle and those who produce them, I couldn't ask for a better job. A Gator grad, blessed by years of learning and Tebow football, I’m a firm believer that people should be honest, lyrics should be moving and tea should be sweet. I love music, my family, my God, and of course writing for CAB.
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