Merrily Orsini's Thought Leadership

The Early Bird Special: As American as Frogs’ Legs

Everyone knows the restaurant business is competitive and challenging. New eateries are always opening (and closing) and trying out new cuisines packaged with different gimmicks. Every now and then, one comes across a solid eatery that has smartly determined its ideal demographic…and then serves them well and royally. The Houston Inn in Cincinnati, Ohio is one of these restaurants. I had the pleasure of dining there recently with some older friends.

Catering efficiently and effectively to a specifically targeted middle income population the casual, down home cooking at the Houston Inn has kept it open and popular for almost forty years. One finds affordable, solid American fair served in a comfortable setting. The Houston Inn has specifically picked its targeted market well—older Americans with time on their hands, retired persons who like to have choices, and who love a bargain to boot.

Here is what Houston’s does that should serve as an example for all in the restaurant industry who are interested in growing their numbers of the middle income older set. Volume dining sometimes has its positives, and Houston’s has capitalized on these positives. What did I experience that others might want to copy for making dining out with an elderly person/s an enjoyable experience?

  1. Friendly management. It might seem obvious, but a patient and attentive wait staff is not always a given. The Houston Inn management, waiters and waitresses were patient and polite and didn’t mind any idiosyncrasies of clientele. In fact, they seemed to appreciate the particularities of each guest.
  2. Being more than just a reservation. No reservations are accepted at Houston’s, actually. Instead, you call ahead and they prepare space for you. People are names and faces and are greeted like friends. Early diners are welcome.
  3. Oodles of choices. And no choices with any odd foreign names. The salad bar at the Houston Inn has over 54 items on it. The menu is extensive and moderate to low price. Patrons can eat, and eat well, for about $20. And the drinks are full drinks, not smidgeons of whiskey, but 3 fingers of red eye.
  4. Lots of time with no rush to make decisions. Staff did not press upon or rush diners to finish their meals. People were left to their own time to enjoy at a leisurely pace, and to go back to that voluminous salad bar as often as desired.
  5. Don’t we all love that bargain feeling? At Houston’s Inn, portions were huge and the pleasure of taking home a doggie bag is almost 100% guaranteed. Diners leave feeling full and feeling that they have gotten a great value for their meal with leftovers galore!

And will they tell their friends? You betcha! This Houston’s Inn is a place for people who like to eat American food at a good price in a friendly atmosphere.

If you are ever in southern Ohio, be sure to make a stop at The Houston Inn. Their Web site and URL is gloriously unforgettable.

And yes…they do serve frog legs. They taste a bit like chicken. But then fried sort of tastes fried whatever it is!