In June of 1999, after five years, they decided to sell it to three sisters Jill, Kristi, and Stacy. Chef Jill is a graduate of the California Culinary Academy of San Francisco. Jill’s stepfather, Duke Woodruff, sent her to culinary school with a plan for all three sisters to eventually own their own restaurant. While he died in 1998, he left the sisters enough money to pursue his and their dream.
They were eager to start a new venture together as a family. After acquiring the place, Chef Jill converted the strictly pub fare into a family-friendly menu, with healthier choices along with classic comfort food dishes.
The entrees are a nod to the Irish beginnings but mix in some of the Italian flavors from their family background. The food is approachable and comforting, the type of food you would expect from a local restaurant but within the fun atmosphere of a pub. No greasy fries or frozen chicken nuggets here, folks!
Chef Jill and her sisters have grown the business slowly and deliberately. They successfully transitioned the customers that were accustomed to the original pub scene into becoming regulars of the new family-style local restaurant.
They started with offering weekly specials then that grew into signature dishes they named after special patrons like; The Duke, Carolyn’s Mother Clucker, Logan’s Texas Style nachos, Jeff’s Fried Zucchini, Morgan’s Chicken Nuggets and Jillicious Fish Tacos. It brought a certain hometown feel and added local color to their menu. Along with the specials, Carolyn, the girls’ mother, creates mouth-watering homemade desserts to serve the customers.
The weekday specials were topped off with an amazing brunch on the weekends. Families come in to just be able to relax, eat great food, and have a good time.
We made it our goal to bring our customers homemade, fresh food in a friendly, family-oriented atmosphere.
Keeping it fresh
In the restaurant business, there is a lot of pressure to keep up with trends in dining, sourcing cheaper ingredients, or creating a fresh menu every other season. Chef Jill admitted that it was tempting to switch things up, but ultimately it was their dedication to their customers that kept them on the right path.
People aren’t looking for the cheapest restaurant around. If you try to compete (with other restaurants) on price, there’s only so far you can go. If someone wants a cheap burger, they can go to In-N-Out. Tracy’s is more than just the food.
How do they keep things fresh on the menu? They rotate and purchase for weekly specials. This way they can keep things interesting in both the food their offer and for the staff in the kitchen. It gives them an outlet to try new recipes or ideas. Their customers let them know whether they have hit a home run or if it was a miss.
Tracy’s Bar and Grill also provides live entertainment from local bands on Friday and Saturday nights. The lists of locations for local musicians to perform are becoming short in supply, Tracy’s provides a place for them, knowing that they are supporting their community by doing it.
Loyalty has its own reward
Running a restaurant is one of the hardest jobs in the world. Tracy’s has over 25 people on staff – each with their own personalities. Keeping professional kitchen staff is challenging, as some move on to other restaurants and training in-coming staff takes time. Customers have become accustomed to a certain level of service and dining experience, so when you have a change in staff, training is critical.
Each of us come in to work from a good, okay, or lousy day. Then, we open our doors to seat people all in a similar situation. Some days are better than others, but at the end of the day, we are all in this together.
Despite all the challenges of running a business in a constantly changing economy, Chef Jill has managed to keep her business going without too much turnover. Most of her staff has been with them since the beginning and those that have moved on come back to visit.
From their POS system, to finally getting themselves on social media, Tracy’s has made some changes. But through it all, they’ve never lost sight of doing what they love most – making customers happy and maintaining a home away from home.
Tracy’s Bar and Grill has been in business for over 20 years now. It has become a generational restaurant as a local family favorite for celebrations and events from birthdays to graduations. Those loyal customers, that helped build the business in the early years, are now seeing their own children and families become regulars.
I think my stepfather would be proud of what we built. We honor him every day by running this restaurant. The love and support we get from our dedicated customers will help us serve them for many years to come.