Episode 94

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Published on:

14th Nov 2023

The Norbert & The Orville in West Bend with Tony Koebel

This week, I'm excited to welcome Tony Koebel, owner of The Norbert and The Orville restaurants in downtown West Bend, Wisconsin. Tony joins me to discuss how his restaurants adapted during the pandemic, the recent renovation of The Norbert during the Main Street reconstruction project, and the importance of keeping things fresh in order to stay successful. Despite numerous external challenges, Tony's passion for bringing delicious food and amazing dining experiences to West Bend has led to two awesome dining establishments in our community. This is one of my favorite interviews in the first 94 episodes of the show!

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Transcript

Fuzz Martin 0:00

Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. Oh boy. I've been waiting for this one for a while. Hello everybody, I'm Fuzz Martin and this is Fifteen Minutes with Fuzz last year, or it could have been the year before time. You know how it goes. It's all melding together. Anyway, I reached out to a gentleman named Tony Koebel, you may know him. He's the owner of The Norbert and The Orville restaurants in West Bend. And I asked if he would join me on this show. And this week, I'm happy to tell you, we finally been able to make it happen. He's here. His restaurants have seen their share of challenges due to the pandemic and the road construction bots. He has constantly been finding ways to adapt and improve. It's a super inspirational story. I'm glad that you get to experience it with me. And with that, here are 15 minutes on The Norbert and The Orville with Tony Koebel on Fifteen Minutes with Fuzz.

Fuzz Martin 1:13

All right, Tony, first off, how did you get started in the restaurant business was what was your first restaurant? And what inspired you to get into this?

Tony Koebel 1:24

was a time back in the early:

Fuzz Martin 2:54

it was a lot of fun. So then when did you purchase the Norbert

Tony Koebel 2:57

ind of started in December of:

Fuzz Martin 4:04

Awesome. So you now have two popular restaurants here in West Bend, which can be a tough market, what would you say is the key to creating a successful restaurant experience here in West Bend?

Tony Koebel 4:16

ing used to look like back in:

Fuzz Martin 5:20

Okay, well, that's awesome. You've obviously everybody here in in, I guess the world had some challenges during the pandemic, but specifically to restaurants over the last few years, you dealt with the pandemic, and then again, with the downtown Main Street renovation, how do you take on challenges or take on those challenges and adapt that? Well,

Tony Koebel 5:41

found out in April or May of:

Fuzz Martin 8:05

Yeah. So during the pandemic, you took the opportunity to remodel and rename the poplar into the Orville direct. What all went into to that update?

Tony Koebel 8:18

when we bought the poplar in:

Fuzz Martin:

Yeah. Well, then, when the farmer's market moved to this area, you also pivoted, I think at at the Orville as well, right and started doing some brunch things. And so yeah,

Tony Koebel:

yeah, I actually love cooking brunch, which now makes me kind of a weird person. Because it's a very early morning. For those of you listening, poaching 120 eggs does not happen by snapping your fingers. So we, we saw this as an opportunity again, and I have to say how beautiful it was to have the Farmers Market in front of the Orville, it was just gorgeous out there. And everyone seemed to have a good time it was picturesque. I loved having the tower. You know, the old courthouse right in the middle of it. It just felt like such a town square kind of feel. So we said, well, let's let's open up for brunch. Of course, this is all part of the master plan that started when we found out that downtown was going to be closed. So in order to maintain about 55 employees between the two restaurants, we had to decide, well, let's move everyone up the streets will open up for more hours, we'll do Monday nights, we'll do Sunday nights, we'll do Saturday brunch, just to keep everyone employed because I knew how difficult it was to get folks that we had. Yeah. And I've got great folks, I've got the best staff in the world. So I didn't want to lose any of them. We had to open up opportunity for them to make money somewhere else instead of go to other restaurants, for sure.

Fuzz Martin:

And then during that time, you remodeled the Norbert Yep. Right. So what what all went into the lead model there.

Tony Koebel:

So that was another that was different in that I had about a year and a half to do the poplar in this time, we had a set deadline. And that was October 27, the city had told us that that's when the street was going to be reopening. So to say that it was a difficult summer would be an understatement. I had to raise a lot of money very quickly. And then also, I had to do an absolute ton of work. That was that was so much I'm still kind of my buddies somehow compress from at all sure I'm running a marathon. Yeah, and I'm still just trying to get a grip. You know, the funny thing is, you can't because now we're open. And now is the time that you really have to invest in the business. I just, it's just a box. Granted, it's a gorgeous box with this beautiful tin ceiling. But the business side of things is filling the space with customers, I should say people and getting the staff ready to go in this completely new environment with a completely new menu, which has drawn the ire of some folks. But I'm actually excited about it. Good. Yeah, it was a great opportunity.

Fuzz Martin:

So you're constantly innovating both your businesses, what, you know, what's the driver behind that?

Tony Koebel:

Yeah. Believe it or not, I'm, I'm a person that somehow in my crazy head thinks that whatever works for you, like today, or yesterday, well don't do it again. And I know that restaurants fail if they're inconsistent. Well, why can't a restaurant be consistently good at creating new things all the time, and be progressive, and changing and, you know, West Bend is an interesting market. They're very supportive market, but they also like what they like, and they want things to sometimes stay the same. And I'm, I'm challenging that thought. And I am proud of my staff for being there with me to do it, because they're doing it too. We are constantly trying to raise the stakes of, of dining in West Bend and bring something new, and some of the big city feel and big city character and new flavors and trending things. That's that's what we're trying to do. Yeah.

Fuzz Martin:

Obviously, you talk a lot about your team and your staff at both locations. And obviously getting it right and that that experience that you have when it comes to a restaurant is of the utmost important. What do you look for when you're hiring somebody at the Orville or the neural, Norbert?

Tony Koebel:

Likable people. Okay. Obviously, a great resume. Looks good, you know, is it is the person within budget. Can we bring on really talented folks. And so much of it is, can we be inspired by them? And can we inspire them? I've got a great core of people. And there's there's really no tears in the company. Forgive me, but I used to think there were tears of employees that, but it's not. It's everyone's really, we all need each other to complete a great service. And yeah, likeability is the biggest thing. And then somehow, people come to me in the street, or in the grocery store, or wherever, and they say, your staff is so kind, they're so likable, and you have to believe me, you won't, but you have to believe, Fuzz, that there's not a lot of training that goes into that. There's some training on the, you know, the specifics of how to handle a table or put silverware, dial on or wash dishes or cook certain things. Sure. But the kindness literally comes from them. And they don't give themselves enough credit for that. I I have very little to do with how kind and wonderful my staff is, that's just who they are. I'm very blessed

Fuzz Martin:

In one sentence each. How would you describe the Norbert and the Orville and what makes them unique from one another.

Tony Koebel:

Oh boy. The Norbert right now is a very progressive, urban setting. small plates restaurant, we do focus on shareable meals. The Orville would be more of a cozy old school Steakhouse, Mr. pod.com on that sentence, and say that we do make our own pasta. Oh, make our own bread. And that goes a long way. I think that's been that's that's really fueling and right now. One is very fast paced and chaotic and crazy. Not that the Orville can't be and some nights, but the Orville is more of a relaxed atmosphere where, you know, a lot of couples come or special occasions, they're going to spend a little bit more money. The Norbert is just a rocket ship. It's just crazy. I love it.

Fuzz Martin:

Strap in. So we're heading into the busy holiday season. Do you have any advice for those who are looking to dine at your restaurants?

Tony Koebel:

Oh, if if they could please be patient, I would really, really appreciate that. Both restaurants are seeing quite an uptick right now on reservations, which people probably should make. It's it just helps us and actually it helps any restaurant out. If they take them. It's good for a kitchen staff or for the front of the house to know what's coming. And to help prepare to to make a better experience. We do have our our annual gift cards special coming up which has just grown and grown and grown and that is that starts on Thanksgiving. That's real quickly. You know, you buy $100 gift card, you get a $50 and when you buy a 50 you get a 25 and you buy 25 and you get a 10 for free. So okay, it's, it's more or less. People are always buying gifts for each and well. We'd like to give you a gift for giving us some some money. And let's let's get you back in because I I'd like you to enjoy the space. Yeah. Well,

Fuzz Martin:

Tony, I love what you're doing with the restaurants here. It's great to have in our community. Again, if you're if you listening would like to check out the Norbert it's thenorbert.com then 115 South Main Street and the Orville is at 518 Poplar Street. That's theorvillewb.com I really appreciate you coming in. We've been wanting to talk for a while that I know you've been super nice appreciate you haven't

Tony Koebel:

you mentioned this a few years ago and this is really exciting. I'm very proud of everything. Obviously you're doing for the community too. And like and this I found out about this and I I've been listening to these. These are fantastic. Thank you everybody. And you've got great questions. You do a nice job.

Fuzz Martin:

Thanks, Tony. I appreciate it. Thank you again so much to Tony cable of the Norbert and the Orville restaurants in West Bend for joining me on this week's episode of Fifteen Minutes with Fuzz. Again, you can find more about the Norbert at thenorbert.com or the Orville at theorvillewb.com You'll enjoy them both. I promise you. Treat yourself.

Fuzz Martin:

That will do it for this week's show. If you ever have an idea for a guest reach out, you can email me fifteenwithfuzz@gmail.com That is 15 spelled out with fuzz @gmail.com or use the form that's on my website you can go to fuzz.cc/guest that is fuzz dot c c slash guest new episodes drop on Tuesdays. Hit the little Follow button or the plus symbol in your podcast player right now to make sure you're getting notified when new episodes of Fifteen Minutes with Fuzz air. And I'll drop in again with you next week. Right here on Fifteen Minutes

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About the Podcast

Fifteen Minutes with Fuzz
Showcasing the positive things happening in Washington County, Wisconsin.
Fifteen Minutes with Fuzz is sheds light on all the great things going on in and around Washington County, Wisconsin. The host, Fuzz Martin, is a local business owner (EPIC Creative) and a former radio personality (92.5 WBWI - now Buzz Country). New episodes launch on Tuesday mornings. https://fifteenwithfuzz.com

Whether you're in West Bend, Kewaskum, Slinger, Hartford, Germantown, Richfield, Jackson, or anywhere else in the area, 15 Minutes with Fuzz serves the community with fun and positive people, places, events, and attractions.

About your host

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Fuzz Martin

Fuzz Martin is a partner and Chief Strategy Officer at EPIC Creative in West Bend, Wis.