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Bookies owner Jay Lambrecht cooks up success in the D

This article appeared in Crain's Detroit Business
Nathan Skid -- Aug. 12, 2010

Since then, Lambrecht has opened an even bigger Bookies on Cass Avenue on the outskirts of Fox Town, overcome a myriad of problems from absentee landlords to inattentive employees, and took over one of the most visible locations in the city at Campus Martius. When Jay Lambrecht opened the first Bookies Bar and Grille on Washington Street seven years ago, he said Detroit was a different place with different rules, a different look and a different feel.

Lambrecht forged his own way in a city with a reputation for taking down restaurateurs who have the best of intentions and seemingly flawless business plans. 


The opening of Fountain Bistro in Campus Martius marked Lambrecht’s biggest achievement so far but he said it won’t be his last. 


He has plans to add a fourth floor to Bookies, as long as the structure can support it, and hopes to take the concept to other big cities around the nation. 


During lunch at the Bistro he shared some of the knowledge he’s gained in his years in Detroit’s restaurant and bar scene.

So you just celebrated seven years as an operator in the city. What has changed?

There is a lot more development. The city is just a more appealing place than it was and it’s starting to bring in more business. But not only are new buildings being built, old ones are being torn down which makes a big difference. But one thing that really makes the most difference is that downtown is cleaner. Cleanliness is paramount to success.

What lessons have you learned the hard way?

You have to be prepared to go out and find customers. Don’t expect them to find you. When someone opens a restaurant or business, they think that once you turn that "Open" sign on, people will line up. That is not going to happen. You have to promote, you have to advertise. 

Do you have any advice for aspiring restaurateurs looking to open a restaurant?

Talk to other restaurateurs in the area. People are more than willing to help because they want other restaurants to be successful and open up. It creates a draw. Plus, it comes in handy to have help when you need it. They will tell you when to expect to be busy and what to look for. 

This isn’t a black and white industry. Go with the flow and listen to criticism. Don’t ignore it. 

What is the one of the biggest challenges to opening a restaurant in the city of Detroit?

Finding staff in Detroit can be difficult. Well, to be honest, we got a ton of applications but not all of them were from experienced people. You have to have experienced people in certain positions. This isn’t any different in Detroit though. This is part of this industry. You have to find dedicated people. 

It takes awhile to build that initial team. But, once that’s in place, it gets easier. It took us a month to create a nucleus at Fountain Bistro. 

All images and content courtesy Crain's Detroit Business.