There’s one thing Rhoda Taylor learned as the cook at Cavalier Agrow’s Meota cookhouse — never scrimp on quantity.
“You don’t want to run out of food,” says Taylor. “I’m a meat and potatoes cook and that’s what everyone expects. They want it to taste good, but the worst thing that could happen is that we run out.”
What started as a way to help staff become more productive, has turned into a great way to meet face-to-face with customers and develop lasting relationships. “We started the cookhouse to feed our staff,” says Cavalier’s owner, Martin Detillieux. “We’re kind of in the middle of nowhere and if you want to go out to eat it takes up a big chunk of your day. By serving lunch we get more done, and we get to know our customers and our reps a bit better.”
Detillieux noticed that many of his customers visited the store over the lunch hour. Opening the cookhouse gave Cavalier’s staff the opportunity to meet with customers over lunch and talk in a more relaxed atmosphere.
And lunch is on Cavalier — Detillieux considers it part of the cost of doing business. And there can be a lot of mouths to feed in the spring. Each year during the month of May, Cavalier serves breakfast daily to all customers who visit the shop, and that can mean more than 50 mouths to feed a day.
“Rhoda feeds us well; she’s been a very fattening addition to our staff,” jokes Detillieux. “And she’s a bit of a mother hen. She gives everyone a hard time if they’re not eating and she cooks food that sticks. During really busy times we serve three square meals and put her and her crockpot onto supper duty.”
For the rest of the year, Taylor estimates that, between staff and customers, the cookhouse has a dozen or so people at the table every day for lunch. She’s gotten to know everyone well, and she says eating together helps them feel more comfortable with each other.
“Cavalier has a real family atmosphere,” says Taylor. “When we sit down to eat we treat (all our guests) like they are sitting around their table at home. And it doesn’t matter if it’s our employees, customers or their reps: everyone is welcome to come join us for a meal.”