By Amy L. Schubert Food Writer Published Apr 26, 2009 at 9:31 AM

I've been involved in a lot of discussions lately about whose responsibility it is to keep Milwaukee restaurants in business. And it is true that if people don't patronize their favorite restaurants, they may end up having to close. So, please, Milwaukeeans, make sure you're holding up your end.

But perhaps what's more important is that it is the restaurant's responsibility to make itself the patrons' favorite. As a restaurant, you have to make yourself the favorite of enough patrons that even if some of them forget about you and don't come in, you'll still be fine.

It's kind of like "American Idol." In a highly competitive market, it's not good enough to simply be a good talent. You have to put your own unique spin to things, or rise so high above the competition that people want to proactively call in and vote for you. Or in this case, patronize you.

Case in point: We often times make the drive out to McBob's for brunch. It's in a challenging location for parking. Sometimes there's a wait. It's a haul for us and there are other closer places to go.

But the food is always spot on, the service is spot on, the drinks are spot on. Nothing ever smells fishy or icky or has to be sent back. We've never had a server with a snotty attitude or a bad meal, and I've been going there for 10 years consistently. Once they even made us a full breakfast for six people when the power was out -- I'm still not sure how they managed that. The owners work their tails off, give back to the community, and always come over to share a drink or say hello.

They worked to make themselves one of our favorites. As a result, we go back. Often. And there are many, many other people out there for whom they've done the same. The hospitality business, chain or locally owned, is a loyalty game, a numbers game, and you have to set yourself apart and you have to be consistent. That's why people like chains -- they always know that no matter what city they're in, they know exactly what they're going to get at that particular restaurant. Good, talented individual restaurateurs get that, and they take it to the next level.

Average isn't good enough -- a restaurant has to have to have a hook, and has to be the place that when people are driving around going, hmm, what should we eat? They remember you, they think of you, and they decide on you. And once you get to that point, your patrons will proactively seek you out, no matter where they may be.


Amy L. Schubert is a 15-year veteran of the hospitality industry and has worked in every aspect of bar and restaurant operations. A graduate of Marquette University (B.A.-Writing Intensive English, 1997) and UW-Milwaukee (M.A.-Rhetoric, Composition, and Professional Writing, 2001), Amy still occasionally moonlights as a guest bartender and she mixes a mean martini.

The restaurant business seems to be in Amy’s blood, and she prides herself in researching and experimenting with culinary combinations and cooking techniques in her own kitchen as well as in friends’ restaurants. Both she and her husband, Scott, are avid cooks and “wine heads,” and love to entertain friends, family and neighbors as frequently as possible.

Amy and Scott live with their boys, Alex and Nick, in Bay View, where they are all very active in the community. Amy finds great pleasure in sharing her knowledge and passions for food and writing in her contributions to