Barker’s passes 20-year milestoneLongevity in the restaurant business is a rare commodity. Barker’s Bar and Grill is doing more that beating the odds — it is thriving and beginning its 21st year in business.
By: Margaret Ontl, Hudson Star-Observer
Longevity in the restaurant business is a rare commodity. Barker’s Bar and Grill is doing more that beating the odds — it is thriving and beginning its 21st year in business.
Owner Pete Foster is no stranger to the business; in fact, he has been a part of the operation for nearly the entire 20 years. The 1988 Hudson High School graduate started to work at Barker’s in 1989 just months after Bob Wasmund opened the new establishment.
“It was lean for a lot of years,” said Foster. “It was just Bob and I cooking and bartending, but I wanted to get hands-on experience, and this was close to home.”
Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday and summers Foster came back to Hudson to work at Barker’s from 1989 to 1993, when he graduated from UW-Stout with a degree in hotel, restaurant and tourism management.
“It was the newest place in town and it was the first of its kind in Hudson with an exhibition kitchen,” said Foster, who during high school had worked at the bakery and Hudson Harbor.
Foster worked a brief stint in the corporate world in the Chicago area for Marcus Corp. and at the St. Paul Radisson. In July 1996, Wasmund approached Foster about working with him, and by 1998 Foster was in partnership with Wasmund as a co-owner.
In 2003 Foster bought out Wasmund, taking full ownership. He embarked on a total renovation, completed in less than a week. When they reopened, they were smoke free, seeing an immediate 12 percent increase in revenue.
Success is not by accident. According to a study done by Cornell and Michigan State University, 60 percent of new restaurants fail at the five-year mark and 70 percent are gone after 10 years.
“It’s what I preach to the staff,” said Foster about Barker’s longevity. “It is the three golden rules: The quality of the food, quality of the service and the cleanliness of the establishment.”
“Based on my education and experience, especially in a town like Hudson, you need to stay consistent no matter what you do. We absolutely would not be here without our local customers.”
Over time, Foster phased Barker’s out of the bar scene by establishing regular hours from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Foster knows the business inside and out, from cooking to dishwashing and even cleaning the toilets.
“I have done it all; that is why I have great appreciation for what my staff does,” said Foster, who admits he is at Barker’s seven days a week unless he is out of town on vacation.
“It is what I signed up for, and it is what I want to do.”
To celebrate the 20-year anniversary, Barker’s Bar and Grill served its original 1988 menu for one day at the original prices. In a 12-hour period, they sold 600 items off the original menu. One of the biggest hits was the stuffed bacon burger – they sold 70 in the 12 hours; normally they sell 50 in a week.
As for the future, it looks bright. While continuing to respect the history of the business and the building Foster said he is “just going to continue to do what we do. We have our concept down.”
For more information, visit www.barkersbarandgrill.com. The restaurant is located at 413 Second St.