Waiter on the Way: Growing a business by ‘doing the right thing’
May31

Waiter on the Way: Growing a business by ‘doing the right thing’

This story was originally published in the May 23, 2018 issue of Input Fort Wayne as Waiter on the Way: Growing a business by ‘doing the right thing’.    Have you ever wanted delivery service from a restaurant that doesn’t offer it? That’s the idea behind Waiter on the Way. The process is simple. Visit the website, and you’ll find a list of local and national restaurants you can order from with detailed menus and weekly blog stories. Simply call or place an order on the mobile-friendly interface, and the food you’re craving will be delivered to your home or office. While other delivery services have come and gone in northeast Indiana over the years, Waiter on the Way has remained a community staple. Based out of downtown Fort Wayne, it continues to grow its influence in the region. When the owner, Derek Berkes, purchased the company in 2001, he had a staff of 20 people and delivered from 20 restaurants. Today, he has more than 110 employees, delivering from more than 140 restaurants, including local favorites like Casa, Coney Island, and Shigs In Pit. “When we started, we were averaging about 65 orders a day. Now, we average 265 orders a day,” Berkes says. He may have been honored with a 2017 Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly Business Excellence Award for “Business of the Year – Revenue Less than $5 Million,” but money was not always easily accessible for him. Instead, he says his personal failures and his ability to learn from them are what gave him the work ethic he has today. From debt to success Before Berkes turned 30, he accumulated massive amounts of debt as a result of trying to build a business, create cash flow, and hire a large staff. He wanted to take Waiter on the Way to the next level and believed that accumulating debt while doing so was the only viable approach. In his attempt to grow the company, the pressure of making money for the sake of making money become overbearing. He knew he needed to change something. “I used to chase money. I made the profit more important than anything else because I had so many people relying on the success of the business.” Berkes says. “That approach simply doesn’t work. I was very driven. I still am, but I changed what I allowed to drive me.” In his early 30s, he decided to reset his approach around creating value for the Fort Wayne community. “I focus on the quality and the relationships,” Berkes says. “I want to do the right thing every time and with every interaction. Those components...

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Hop River Brewing Company – Creating an inclusive environment
Apr19

Hop River Brewing Company – Creating an inclusive environment

This story was originally published in the April 4, 2018 issue of Input Fort Wayne as Creating an inclusive environment.    With a fifteen-barrel brew house, Hop River Brewing Company has seven to nine beers on tap with plans to grow that number by this summer. But what they are building is more than a brewery and taproom. They have relationships with other local breweries, like Junk Ditch Brewing Company and Mad Anthony Brewing Company. Both are currently available on guest taps. On top of that, the taproom is open to all ages—not just ages 21 and over. It’s not uncommon to see kids and high schoolers sitting at the community tables, playing board games. In many ways, the brewery has built an inclusive environment on Fort Wayne’s Historic Wells Street Corridor that is not only a welcoming place for guests, but also for the staff. With 13 employees, the brewery puts as much emphasis on its team members, its relationships, and its community as it does the quality of its beer. It’s this emphasis that is paying off. A brewing family The 1515 N. Harrison Street location is home to the Hop River Brewing Company staff, and it is clear that their love for each other is as great as their love for beer. The brewery started as a dream in 2015 by co-founders Ben Jackson, President, and Paris McFarthing, Vice President. Hard work by these founders and their team members lead to a grand opening on January 29. Team members include Kevin Debs, Mary Corinne Lowenstein-DeGood, Amanda Wendt, and Zach Croy. Watching them interact is like watching siblings with a long history. They get along, and there is an easy camaraderie among them. Debs, the Head Brewer, moved to Fort Wayne from Detroit to join the Hop River Brewing Company family. “I moved here for the job, and to be able to share beer with people,” he says. “I wanted to be able to develop recipes and a beer culture. To turn people on to different beer styles they didn’t know about is what this is all about.” Lowenstein-DeGood, Director of Marketing, came on board in January, 2017, and is equally excited about being part of the team. She says the opportunity to be part of a community and a business focused on staff culture was what she signed on for. “We have learned each other’s dynamic, and we grew close during the process of opening the brewery,” Lowenstein-DeGood says. “We rocked the grand opening because we learned to trust each other.” A longtime local resident and previous employee at downtown hangouts like Dash-In, Wendt is the Head...

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