Anthony Petronella and Chad Craig, owners at Scholars and Scoundrels Bar and Grill at 1251 Pin Oak Road in Katy, said 2020 has been challenging, but focusing on staff, quality food and fun are what …
Anthony Petronella and Chad Craig, owners at Scholars and Scoundrels Bar and Grill at 1251 Pin Oak Road in Katy, said 2020 has been challenging, but focusing on staff, quality food and fun are what they credit with helping them place in or win 17 categories in this year’s Katy Times Best of Katy competition.
“You don’t want to go in and work and not have fun and not be able to joke and laugh and have a good time,” Petronella said.
The pair said they want that fun to be something even diners can participate in. Rather than having the kitchen, where the joking and laughter in most restaurants happen, closed off and away from the customers, they designed the restaurant with an open kitchen so diners can catch the mirth and have a fun experience while eating good food and enjoying time out.
To have opened Dec. 5, 2018 is something the two expressed satisfaction with because that is the anniversary of the end of prohibition in the U.S. which goes with the theme they had in mind when they opened the restaurant.
“The whole thing is always in Scholars and Scoundrels is, it was truly founded on things like hard work gets rewarded,” Craig said. “You know, you put in your effort and you get those things (you’re working for).” You know, you put in your effort and you get those things (you’re working for). And we're also – you work hard, you play hard. We work all day, and then we're going to have some cocktails.”
The pair have “done it all” in the restaurant industry over the years, Craig, a U.S. Navy Veteran said. They’ve worked at other restaurants and even owned a food truck together before opening the storefront restaurant two years ago. The trick they’ve found, they said, is not focusing just on money but also on a goal that’s more important.
“We’re not just two dudes that had money and decided to open a restaurant,” Craig said. “We’re two guys that truly were embedded in the industry over 20 years in one shape, form or another, and we were tired of making money for other people, so that’s kind of where the whole concept came from.”
It helps that the pair are very close friends that can bust each other’s chops regularly and come away from it laughing. Throughout their interview with the Katy Times, the two exchanged barbs with one another that only the best of friends can get away with. From Petronella’s cracks about Craig having half a heart due to a heart surgery some time ago, to joking around about the menu.
“Our menu is like a comedy show,” Craig said. “It’s hilarious to see people actually read the entire menu instead of just scanning the menu and laugh at this or laugh at that.”
Craig and Petronella said they focus on choosing staff that can comprehend that idea and blend into the culture of fun and hard work. Looking at that factor throughout the hiring process helps them create a good customer experience and minimize employee turnover in an industry that can often see staff spin through different restaurants like a series of revolving doors. They’re pleased with their staff and are glad they’ve been able to not only hire great staff from day one, but to retain many of their staff for well beyond the restaurant industry’s average.
Petronella said the pair has an agreement with the staff similar to Mike Rowe on his show, “Dirty Jobs” where the owners agree to a “sweat pledge.”
“It’s a lot of, before I even hire you is learning – what are the things that you can control coming into your performance? And we also say that – this is what I’m asking of you, but this is what we’re going to give you,” Petronella said. “This is a two-way street. We pick you as our employee, but you can pick us as your employer – this is two ways.”
The restaurant isn’t actively hiring now but are always accepting applications and Craig said he was always willing to refer promising people to other restaurant owners that are hiring and reputable. It isn’t a competition, he said. It’s about taking care of people.
Again though, Craig took the conversation back to having fun while you work isn’t just a way of making customers happy, but also about developing staff – whether that be through developing new skills in the kitchen or promoting from within when someone shows potential – especially a potential to maintain the “Cheers” feel they hope their customers and staff feel throughout each day.
“I just think that, you know, life is too short to be overly serious. And, we take the time to do things right, but we’re going to have fun while we’re doing it,” Craig said.
Editor’s Note: To see what categories Scholars and Scoundrels performed well in for the Best of Katy 2020 competition, check out the Best of Katy 2020 publication at this link.