Client Spotlight: Elmer’s Restaurants, Inc.

Client Spotlight: Elmer’s Restaurants, Inc.

Dec 6th 2022

Awarding Excellence, Sustaining Growth, and Honoring an Unwavering Commitment to Values and Authenticity.

Nearly 63 years ago, against the advice of several experienced restauranteurs, husband and wife team Walt and Dorothy Elmer took a leap of faith and opened the doors to a new family business in Portland, Oregon. A true “Mom and Pop” establishment, the original Elmer's – then Elmer's Colonial House of Pancakes – was a simple concept, breakfast-only, neighborhood eatery built on a foundation of love, determination, and confidence in a top-secret recipe for what they believed to be some of the best buttermilk pancakes around.

Those fluffy flapjacks were an instant hit and Elmer's quickly became a beloved staple in the local community. Within the first two years, the Elmer family expanded their menu, evolved their name, and began adding new locations. By 1966, Elmer's Pancake and Steak House successfully granted its first franchise. The momentum continued and it wasn't long before Elmer's became a household name across the northwestern United States.

The company’s impressive early growth continues at a steady pace today.

The company's impressive early growth continues at a steady pace today. Elmer's Restaurants, Inc. is now a chain of 25 full-service restaurants and counting, including three Egg N' Joe restaurants, the newest addition to the Elmer's restaurant family. Considering that the restaurant industry has long been notorious for its higher than average rate of failure (say nothing of the added hardships brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic), from a business standpoint, Elmer's sustained success is perhaps as praise-worthy as their famed buttermilk batter.

So, what is Elmer's recipe for success? Like the homestyle favorites on their menu, Elmer's is a satisfying, made-from-scratch meal, skillfully crafted with well-chosen ingredients, and prepared with thoughtful intention every step of the way. They've scaled their business the way great cooks scale their most tried and true recipes—by understanding that making more of a good thing means making a few tweaks here and there, but the central ingredients should never be compromised.

Unchanged values over the years.

Despite their growth, the heart of the Elmer's brand remains unchanged. From their earliest days, Elmer's has been serving up a sense of “home,” from the meals on the menu to the casual, comfortable dining rooms in which patrons of all ages gather to enjoy them. But that's only part of what makes Elmer's, Elmer's. Through each evolution of the business, the Elmer's company has remained true to the values with which it was formed: love of food, love of family, and love of community.

From their unwavering commitment to quality, to the long list of ways in which each restaurant is rooted in its local community, these core tenets are as omnipresent at Elmer's Restaurants today as they were when Walt and Dorothy welcomed their first guests more than a half century ago. For Elmer's, keeping the company's long-running values in alignment with its approach to business and organizational culture is both strategic and earnest.

Vision includes investment in own team and giving back to the community.

With the company ethos backing its big-picture vision, Elmer's invests in the success of each of its restaurants by investing in the people who keep them going—from the owners and teams managing the restaurants, to the people of the communities that embrace and sustain them. Though each Elmer's location is individually managed, and nearly half are independently owned by franchisees, the Elmer's home team maintains an active role with every restaurant under its umbrella, providing on-going support and resources, as well as opportunities to give back to their communities through company sponsored fundraising and volunteer initiatives.

Team recognition program is a valued company tradition.

One of the ways Elmer's bolsters its teams and its brand vision is by celebrating and encouraging success with achievement awards. Elmer's recognition awards program is a valued company tradition that dates back decades. Awards are presented at an annual awards ceremony as part of a multi-day conference, where members of Elmer's leadership team and home office gather with restaurant owners, managers, vendor partners, and other guests from across several states. The conference provides a chance for all attendees to spend time face-to-face, to participate in business meetings and educational seminars, share their own experiences and insights, network and get to know each other better... and have a little fun.

At the awards portion of the event, the company distributes a variety of customized glass awards and trophies, plaques, and crystal awards for categories such as sales performance, leadership excellence, achieving a perfect health inspection, and more. As is often the case with long-running awards programs, Elmer's awards line-up has evolved as the company has expanded, with updates here and there, and occasional new categories added.

This year's event featured 12 unique award categories, some with multiple qualifying honorees, and a few designed to applaud a single victor. Among those is the award for Restaurant of the Year, the top honor of the event. This crowning achievement is bestowed to the location that ranks highest across the board on a tough multi-point evaluation, which includes the quality of its product and hospitality, online reviews received from guests, facility maintenance, employee retention, training, and other factors.

Community spirit and charity are at the heart of the Elmer’s brand.

Elmer's Restaurants - Community Spirit Heart Crystal Tower Award

One of the more special awards for Elmer's is their "Community Spirit Award." Tied straight to the heart of the Elmer's brand, this fitting crystal award is presented to one location each year that went “above and beyond” in supporting their local community. This year, the award went to the Elmer's Restaurant in Grant's Pass, Oregon. In addition to achieving extraordinary results with multiple fundraising campaigns and charitable sponsorships throughout the year, the privately-owned Elmer's jumped into unprompted action to provide hot meals to displaced area residents when wildfires forced many from their homes.

This is the kind of hands-on community support that Elmer's strives for from each of its restaurants. Elmer's encourages all of its owners and employees to take an active role in fundraising, to volunteer, and be involved with community programs. They choose the programs they support with intention, focusing on causes that best reflect the values of their teams and guests. Most often, they partner with organizations that serve children and families—providing meal services to those in need, supporting education, or offering assistance and special experiences to children and families whose lives have been impacted by cancer or severe illness.

While donating to local causes and nonprofits is a regular part of the company's community initiatives, for Elmer's, supporting community has always meant more than simply writing a check and calling it a day; it is about making connections and building relationships—within the communities and within the team. Working together to help others is always a positive bonding experience and a source of pride.

For this category in particular, winning the award may be a bit of a “cherry on top” kind of victory. When it comes to helping others, the true reward is in the experience—in making a difference. Nevertheless, the presentation of the Community Spirit Award is a heartwarming highlight of the annual event that never fails to energize and inspire. For the chosen winner, the engraved crystal statue will serve as a lasting reminder of their efforts and accomplishments, and of the lives they touched along the way. And while there may technically be only one official Community Spirit Award recipient, this is one category in which everyone wins.

Award program offers a way to reinforce Elmer’s company culture and values.

Awards programs like Elmer's can be a great way for organizations to help nudge people toward their goals in a way that is positive, while also reinforcing a company's culture and values. The awards can be an incentive, but often, the greatest value lies not in the prize won, but in the opportunity to come together with peers, to share in the recognition of each other's achievements, cheering each other on and lifting each other up.

All in, Elmer's distributed a total of 59 individual awards at this year's ceremony. The majority of the awards will be proudly displayed in the restaurants where the extended staff and guests will be able to see and share in the honor… and perhaps think to themselves, “You know, this group is really doing something right here.”

Elmer's annual holiday campaign to support Folds of Honor, a nonprofit organization that provides educational scholarships to the immediate families of fallen or disabled members of the United States armed forces, is happening now. For every seasonal entrée purchased through December 31st, Elmer's Restaurants and Egg & Joe will donate $1 to Folds of Honor.

Thinking of starting an awards program at your organization? Or adding some new categories to an existing recognition program? Our team has decades of experience helping organizations of all types and sizes. Even if you're just considering your options, give us a call. We'd be happy to talk ideas and help you design the perfect awards for your winning team!

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