Did you know Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, cofounders of the legendary rock band KISS, are also budding restaurateurs?
Their concept, Rock & Brews, which debuted in in El Segundo, California, in 2012, has expanded to 21 locations, including spots in airports and stadiums, as well as two locations in Mexico.
Michael Zislis, a brewmaster and restaurateur with more than 20 years of industry experience, and brothers Dave and Dell Furano, long-time concert industry and merchandising pros, have helped grow the successful brand to where it is today.
Here are some tips from Stanley, the legendary KISS guitarist, on how Rock & Brews is getting it done, and why it’s poised for great things in the future.
“We do have a sense of being committed to the neighborhood, being a good neighbor, and taking up the causes that are important to the neighborhood,” Stanley says. “We bring in as much local produce as possible, and the first people to come through our doors and that we pay tribute to are the military, the vets, and the first responders. Without them there wouldn’t be a Rock & Brews and certainly not a country, so I think what we do resonates with people because it’s much deeper than just great food, even though great food should be enough.”
“Too often you find yourself in positions in restaurants or other service-based businesses where people make you think you’re doing them a favor,” Stanley says. “We make sure that the people understand that not only are staff members there to take care of them, but that there is a joy in doing that. It correlates with KISS—we wanted to be a band that was a wakeup call to people. It was what people should not take any less than. You want to respect the people who put you in the position you’re in and make them feel appreciated, and that’s really what Rock & Brews is about.”
“Anyone who has been watching Rock & Brews sees the phenomenal growth, and at the same time, we are determined to hold back as much as necessary to stay true to our concept,” Stanley says. “It’s almost been a challenge to hold back. Although it’s going at breakneck speed, you don’t want to go at breakneck speed into a wall.”
“Although at first blush someone might compare Rock & Brews to other theme restaurants, the food has no competition,” Stanley says. “There is nothing else on that level available, and theme restaurants are a con game to sell merchandise. It’s certainly not an arcade or anything of that nature … The idea is that you shouldn’t have to compromise your time to have a great meal or a great experience with your family, your pets, or your children.”
“As I started to get older and have children, I saw that for me to have some fun time with them over a meal, it had to be cardboard pizza served by a giant rat, so this was the way to have great food without any compromises or excuses—great craft beers and also an environment that’s both child-friendly and pet-friendly,” Stanley says. “And when you add to that a great staff, you wind up with a situation where people don’t look to this as a one-time or a once in awhile meal. It becomes a lifestyle—a place to go not only to spend time with your friends, but also to socialize even with the staff.”
“Restaurants are quite honestly no different than any successful business. What you need for any venture to prosper is to have a great team, and that goes for sports, that goes for running a country, that goes for running a band, or running a restaurant. The key to it is making sure that you have people who understand their talents and their assets and that you also understand them so that everybody more or less stays in their lane, so the same rules really do apply.”
“I tend to work from something that I call the assumption of commonality, which means that basically most people are very much the same, and if you address your needs you’ll be addressing other people’s needs, whether it’s forming the band that no one ever saw coming and everyone wanted to see or even painting, which I’ve had a very successful career at, and yet it was really just me doing something to please myself.”
“The same tenets that hold true for music or any other business are the foundation of a great restaurant. It’s not different or exclusive. When you give people what you want and make them feel important, they give back and return. When you make people feel appreciated and give them what they deserve and beyond what they might expect, you will have repeat customers and strong word of mouth.”
“The quality of the food is just terrific,” Stanley says. “I have to say that as someone who loves food, the menu in some of these so-called chain restaurants which I’ve been to is just subpar slop, and we are first and foremost a restaurant. We are not Rock & Brews bar; we are a restaurant, and we have a fabulous and ever-expanding selection of craft beers and microbrewery beers and alcohol, but we base who we are on the quality of our food.”