Maple Grove Patch: How did you get involved in the restaurant business?
Tom Bruins: I started in the business when I was 13 years old. I had announced to my parents that I wanted to buy a car when I was 16, so my mom suggested that I go find a job. I got on my bike, and I rode up to the in Edina. We lived in Richfield at the time. And I got a job peeling apples, peeling and dicing and cutting the apples for the apple pancake. I think I did that for longer than anybody had ever peeled apples - I did that for two years before I moved into a cooking position. Then went serving, then management, and I have basically worked at the Pancake House my whole life, and I’m 47. So I opened up the Pancake House in Wayzata back in ‘95 with a partner, did that up until five years ago then I spun off and got my own here.
Maple Grove Patch: What do people like about the Original Pancake House?
Tom Bruins: What they like is the quality ingredients that we use. We make everything from scratch. There aren’t any shortcuts. The last few years with the recession we have proven that we are recession-proof. People still want a good value. Not that it doesn’t get tempting to maybe use regular cream over heavy whipping cream. But we’ve learned over the years that you just don’t. You don’t cut corners. I have seen different operators in this franchise in particular who cut corners and then they wonder why their business drops off.
We give a real personalized service - we try to get to know everybody by name as much as we can, almost like a country club-type feeling. If we can do it, we’ll do it. Whatever they request, we’re at their mercy. My staff gets tired of that, though (laughs).
Maple Grove Patch: Is there a signature item that people shouldn’t miss?
Tom Bruins: The apple pancake is by far the number-one signature. That or the Dutch baby. It’s a German oven-baked pancake that takes 20 minutes to make. It’s a bowl-shape, slather it with butter, squeezed lemon and sprinkle some powdered sugar over it. Fabulous. The apple pancake takes about an hour and 20 minutes to make, but we’re always making them so when you order it to when it comes to your table is like 10 minutes. We are known the most for the apple pancake.
Maple Grove Patch: What does OPH mean to the community of Maple Grove?
Tom Bruins: Different things. There’s business. There are more business deals done here, whether it’s signing a mortgage, whether it’s stockbrokers, whether it’s the companies in the area having their meetings here. But more than that, family. We get to see the kids after their baptism, we get their graduation parties, we get their bridal parties, we get their groom’s dinners, we get Saturday mornings. So, it’s a phenomenal family place.
Maple Grove Patch: Any future plans?
Tom Bruins: Our franchise has been around since 1953 and has never changed the menu. It’s not broken, so don’t fix it. Probably the biggest push right now is the nutritional stuff. We have a franchise meeting this January and that’s number one on all the lists of the franchises. We’ve gotta get some kind of nutritional … we do egg white omelets and some stuff like that, but there’s not much on the menu that’s, ‘Hey, this is healthy.’