It started more than 15 years ago, when Mike Cunningham was taking family trips out to Colorado and wanted to bring a little of that home to Hendricks County.
Fifteen years and 12 restaurants spread across Indiana and Ohio later, he celebrates his maiden lodge-type restaurant voyage in Brownsburg with Boulder Creek Nov. 26 through 30.
“The idea came up at the time when my wife had family in Colorado and we were visiting with our kids, and we got the idea of taking a diner and bringing in a world outside of their own, sort of like a mountain lodge theme restaurant,” said Cunningham, owner of Cunningham Restaurant Group.
“When you go in there, you feel like you’re in Colorado. We wanted to take people away for a little while. With all of our restaurants, we concentrate on decor and make people feel like they want to come in there, and come back.”
But more than ambiance, Cunningham says it’s the service that really drives people to Boulder Creek and has allowed it to be so successful.
“I think we do a good job consistently serving good food,” he said. “I think we do a good job connecting with our guests and with our service level and allowing our guests and staff members to get to know one another. It’s not just an order taker taking a food or drink order.”
Emily Kirby, general manager for the Boulder Creek Brownsburg location, echoes that sentiment.
“The biggest thing for us is we have so many long-term employees and it makes people feel comfortable, I think,” she said. “I just like the family atmosphere, all of the guests and co-workers, we all feel like we’re part of something more there.”
Cunningham says the restaurant climate has seen an uptick in dining out over Boulder Creek’s life span.
“I think people over the years have simply dined out more,” he said. “But we have customers and employees that have been here since the day we opened. We have regular customers that have supported us for over a decade. We’re most concerned with what happens inside our four walls and we do the best we can.
“When the economy softened, we paid attention to that. We have our half-price wine and martini nights where we give our guests a break. We have a loyalty program, which is a VIP card that we give to any guest that wants one and it tracks their purchases and gives back 10 percent of what they spend. Those kinds of things are designed to show appreciation and say, ‘Hey, we know we’re not the cheapest place in town, but we think we’re the best place in town’.”
Added Kirby, “I say that you just need to anticipate what people are expecting or wanting. Just know your clientele, giving them what they expect.”
Cunningham says good food or not, success that has been built comes with how people are treated the moment they walk in the door, something he never takes for granted at his restaurants.
“I think we’re a people business, and that’s kind of a cliché, but reality is that it takes good people to please guests when they come in the door,” he said. “It takes good cooks, good management, it takes good servers to have the personality and connectability to make the guests feel like they want to come back. I’ve learned over my career as a life lesson, it’s about how you make people feel. At the end of the day, you have to make them feel like they enjoyed their visit.”
Cunningham said it was his Hendricks County roots that gave birth to the lodge idea of Boulder Creek here and not elsewhere.
“I live in Avon and what initially drove it was it was where I resided and it’s where I knew people felt comfortable doing business,” he said. “It was something that was close to home and I could manage it and it back then was much more a one-man or two-man show. Now we have over 1,000 employees. Brownsburg needed a sit-down restaurant. It was an opportunity that the community didn’t have and it allowed us to take off from the get-go.”
“I think it’s really good food, and really good people. It’s just an easy place to go out to eat,” added Kirby.
For additional information about Boulder Creek, their specials, and their anniversary celebration, visit the website www.bouldercreekdining.com.