As I almost always do at this time of year, I sit in reflection of the year past and think how truly lucky I am to be surrounded by so many wonderful people who really seem to care about what we do and how we do it. It’s hard for me to be giving up some of the things I’ve always been “totally responsible” for, but I’m doing it.

My son Casey is a very capable young man with brains, ambition, compassion, and desire to learn; he is a good husband and father, a good son and someone who is most capable to take on what I give to him. He likes the business, the employees and all of our guests who he sees and visits with daily. I’m quite proud of him.

Alex, my younger son, is “me all-the-way”. Chuck Muer once said to me… “Billy, you’re the best Saloon Keeper I’ve ever met.” Alex is the same. I run into so many people who tell me how much they “Love Alex”. I do too! And I’m very proud and anxious to see him grow into whatever he wants to do with my company.

Vince Clark, my partner at the Chop House and friend for 30 years is an inspiration for me in the business. He does it different than I do and that’s good. All of his people love working for him and it shows in the way he operates his restaurant. He makes me laugh and oh, how important that is these days.

Kelly Lupu/Director of Marketing, Rachel Fizzell/Director of HRD and Executive Chef Chris Hessler are so much more than their titles indicate. It’s because they do so much more for me and the company. I need to apologize to them for how hard I push them at times, and I hope they know how much I care for them and that I know that our company could not do what it does without them. They are truly incredible.

We had some great young managers emerge this year, and I always put so much pressure on them to perform. You see…I believe that people are much more capable than they may believe of themselves, and I’m bound and determined to get it out of them; Steve Nichols, Mike Brady, Travis Muir, Lora Hudgens, Matt Wright, Josh Royster, Chris Koppella, Pat Jones, Josh Butz, Michelle Hedrick, Bianca Hill, Erika Coates, Kaitlyn Bartreau, Andrea Mora are just a few who really did so much for the company, as well as so many others.

Next year will be another year of challenges and we’ll win some and we’ll lose some, but we sure as heck will keep trying.

The year was marked by some sadness as well…Joel Rich, a fine young man who worked for us for a long time lost his Mom unexpectedly and he was deeply saddened by her loss. My son Casey’s best friend from the Holy Family grade school days lost his battle to cancer leaving behind a wife and children. When I think of his Mom (and our friend) Michelle, I just don’t know how she gets through it but she will and we’ll do all we can to help her.

And yet, there are always blessings. Mark “Sparky” Armstrong from the Rochester Chop House, and wife Jennifer, welcomed their first child, baby daughter Ava. This came after a very challenging year health wise. Congratulations you guys!

We should all look back on this past year, and thank the Lord for all of the good things and people that we have and have had in our lives. We should do everything we can to show how grateful that we are. When I’m being a “jerk” please remind me of that. My loving wife Cindy has actually gotten quite good at that and I think she is teaching my incredible daughter-in-law Kelly to do the same. Very dangerous!

Lake Orion Roadhouse

We entered 2011 with a plan to take each of the Kruse & Muer restaurants and provide a point of differentiation. This was done to create some competition amongst them, and give our guests a reason to go to each location because of what they had to offer that the others did not. My friend and Designer Ron Rea really helped us accomplish this with the changes made in Lake Orion. The objective was to make it a more casual Kruse & Muer, without taking away the things that helped to make it successful in the first place. We added the sunny new porch (and hopefully a new outdoor dining area in the summer of 2012), exclusive private dining rooms upstairs and a whole new look. Thus far we’ve been pretty successful with it. The Prime Rib weekends have been a huge hit, as have the Fish Tacos, a great Burger and Macaroni & Cheeses.

With the help of our Guest’s feedback, we’re adding back the Stuffed Mushrooms, Corn Chowder and Pan Fried Walleye because as someone once said… “Good is good”. We’ll be doing a lot of things this year to add fun and excitement (which we’ll keep you posted on). Be certain to look for this year’s Caribbean Promotion items exclusively offered at The Roadhouse. They’re “blow-you-away” fun and tasty. Thanks Chef Chris!

Next… Kruse & Muer on Wilshire

Troy will take on a more “Seafoody Image” with its design and menu, but the prices will remain reasonable. I wanted to do something in recognition of the now-gone Charley’s Crab, and of the great restaurant it once was. I believe what we are going to do here would have made Chuck Muer very proud, and will provide a great new alternative to Kruse and Muer dining.

Don’t ask me why… Kruse’s “Deer Lake Inn” in 2012

Yes… I went and did it again (with pressure from my boys). We acquired the Deer Lake Inn in 2011, and are currently underway with the design/construction process. Very fun! I guess that’s why I did it. I do love the challenge, and we always did want to be in Clarkston/Independence Township. We’re planning to open in the Spring, and with the support of the city we’ll remodel and expand this old “treasure”. What a great history the Deer Lake Inn has as a Restaurant & Inn dating back to the early 1900’s. I can’t wait to share that history with you. This restaurant, I believe, will be a good one. Preserving the old look and layout, we’ll add lots of windows and an atmosphere of fun, with great casual seafood, fresh fish, Kruse & Muer Pizza, a fun bar, Carry Out and a place for all to enjoy with their friends and families, during lunch or dinner. Please watch for our updates and displays in all of our restaurants. My sons, Alex and Casey will have a large hand in the operational direction and management of this new property. They’ve earned the right to show “what they can now do”. I love it!

I’m very pleased with the efforts and results of 2011, but now we’ve got to leave that year behind and get on with 2012. With Main Street in Downtown Rochester scheduled to be closed for 5 months, we’ll have our challenges… but we’ve got a plan. Thanks to all of you for your support and patronage.