"We’ve been open three weeks and we’ve exceeded all expectations and doubled our projected numbers."
Jeff McCusker is managing partner with investor Bob Fleckenstein of the 450-seat River & Post Restaurant and Rooftop Lounge at 1000 Riverside Ave. in the nine-story Summit Tower. The 300-seat restaurant is on the ground floor and the 150-seat lounge overlooks the St. Johns River and the Jacksonville skyline.
We’ve been open three weeks and we’ve exceeded all expectations and doubled our projected numbers. We couldn’t be happier. Also with that, we’re executing well. That’s what I care about. People are coming in, they’re leaving extremely happy, they’re loving the atmosphere and the environment and the rooftop. Things are good.
I’ve been working at a restaurant since I was 14, washing dishes and then in a lot of different positions. When I moved to Jacksonville, I was working for a restaurant group, Southern Table Hospitality. They own Marker 32 and the Fish Camps and Safe Harbor. I gained my management experience with them while I was in school and when I finished school, they made me an offer to stay. And I did. It was a great experience. They’re incredible restaurant operators and I learned a lot from them.
I went to Troy State University on a scholarship to play football for a year and a half until I broke my ankle. Then I came down to Jacksonville and met a friend who was going to the University of North Florida. I said, “This is the place for me.” I attended UNF, majoring in business and finance.
I didn’t realize that I wanted to do this until I was 21 or so. I was bartending. I saw the lifestyle of the owners of a restaurant where I was working. It really attracted me. They worked extremely hard but they’re around all their friends. You always want people to come in and appreciate what you do.
I always wanted to own my own restaurant. I thought it would be at the end of some strip mall somewhere. I didn’t realize it would be one of the largest restaurants in Northeast Florida. I have a very good partner and we work together on every single detail and I’m very fortunate to be where I am.
River & Post is predominantly a seafood and steak restaurant. When you’re here, you get a feeling of being in Chicago or San Francisco or Austin, Texas, or New York. So much goes into it. We wanted to have a metropolitan city feel.
You’re not successful in this business until you realize that it’s just like inviting your in-laws into your house every night. What are you going to do? You’re going to clean it. You’re going to make sure you’re prepped. Bathrooms are going to be cleaned. The guest rooms are going to be cleaned. You’re going to have a wonderful spread of food out. That’s how you have to think of it. When people come and see that and appreciate that, it makes you feel special.
There are things I enjoy doing outside of work, like being outdoors surfing, fishing, hunting. I’m looking forward to getting this place to the operational point where I can take a couple of days off to do some of those things.
The biggest piece of advice I’d give, and I tell all my staff, every day you’re an ambassador of yourself. You choose your own destiny. Nobody is going to hand you anything. Everybody is awarded the same opportunities, but you just have to market yourself. You get a network and meet people. It’s just the world we live in.
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