We are excited to share two new awards that have just been announced for very deserving members of our Fireside family.  The Wisconsin Restaurant Association has selected our Operations Manager, Chris Ott, for their 2022 Best of House – Back of House Award for Region 5, and Ryan and Kristi Klopcic for their Innovation Award recognizing creative thinking during the pandemic shutdown.

While Chris Ott is just as deserving of a Front of House Award for his caring customer service and superb rapport with our guests, his work behind the scenes during the pandemic was critical to our survival.  When we were first shut down in March of 2020 Chris jumped on the “to-go” bandwagon with the restaurant team to convert our popular Friday Night Fish Fry into a take-out meal that would meet our high-quality standards. That led to a weekly Barbecued Ribs night, carryout Mother’s Day Brunch, and take-and-bake events for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Chris designed a check-in/packaging/delivery system that was the smoothest and largest carryout operation in town! Once re-opening was allowed, Chris completed training and put procedures in place to certify The Fireside for the WRA’s “Ready to Serve Safely” program. As we set out to present weekend tribute concerts for very small, socially distanced audiences, Chris worked with our HVAC vendor to install state-of-the-art air purifying technology on the theatre air units. This helped our audiences feel extremely safe and allowed us to provide a much-appreciated entertainment opportunity for those people ready to venture out. (Those units have since been added to our entire HVAC system.) Over the last two years Chris has truly done “whatever it took” to accomplish our goals. With the staffing challenges all restaurants faced, that included working countless hours in whatever department needed him most on top of his own job. He did this with a positive can-do attitude and customer-focused decision making, while always remaining calm, invigorated by his drive to succeed. He’s been our “rock” and we are thrilled to see him receive this recognition.

The WRA Innovation Award was created to recognize the challenges the restaurant industry has faced and reward those with “outside the box” ideas.  At the onset of the pandemic, Ryan and Kristi Klopcic knew they needed to make use of our existing inventory. Kristi led the gift shop team as they created an online store on a brand-new platform and began sending merchandise across the country. Ryan empowered the restaurant team to implement “to go” service for the first time in our history. Each of the managers took on extra responsibilities that best fit their skills to fill in the staffing gaps.  Our Stage Manager ran curbside pickup, the IT manager and accountant assisted the chefs and washed dishes, and the marketing manager promoted everything using only free platforms and learned to seat guests in the restaurant. Once it was clear that the theatre productions would be moved to the following year, Ryan initiated a Summer Concert Series which ended up lasting nine months! Since the concert audiences were much smaller than normal due to social distancing rules, we were able to try out a new menu concept that had been considered pre-pandemic but was never able to be implemented. This paved the way for the new Featured Menu choices now available for the 2022 Season. Throughout all of 2020 and 2021 as the team slowly grew and we returned to our traditional business model, Ryan and Kristi’s vision, commitment, thoughtful decision making, ever-present sense of humor, and exceptional leadership steered The Fireside through the worst of the Covid-19 devastation and set us on a path to continued success. They are extremely honored to have been selected to receive this award and thank everyone for their support and patronage.