Dave Gardiner had no inkling he’d be a Lone Star franchise owner when waiting tables at the chain’s original restaurant.
The self-confessed ordinary maitre d’ at the Christchurch Lone Star during his student days, Gardiner, 37, has recently become outright owner of the thriving Queenstown branch.
Since 2007 he’d been Queenstown managing director and a 20 per cent shareholder along with four old university mates.
“I think I had come to a bit of a crossroads where I had to move on or move up,” he says.
Gardiner says he bought out his business partners – who till recently also owned Auckland’s Lone Star restaurants – with the franchise company’s approval.
“They helped me out a lot at the start and I learnt a lot off them. They are one of the biggest hospitality groups in New Zealand.”
Despite the ownership change, Gardiner says business will continue as usual.
“I always had full control of what was going on, my partners had full confidence in what I was doing.”
Gardiner says he loves everything about his job, from the regular customers and the town to his staff and the atmosphere they try to create.
“We’re in a very unforgiving industry – you’re only as good as the last night you deliver for the customer, and we’re very conscious of that.”
The formula must still be working because Gardiner says the restaurant, now almost 21 years old, had a record-breaking week during the school holidays last month.
That’s helped by the increased seating capacity after an upstairs refit last year and the addition of a function room, he adds.
Though the chain has about 20 restaurants, Gardiner believes Queenstown, which was the second outlet to open, has played a large part in its evolution.
Gardiner pays tribute to the original Queenstown owner James “Chief” Whelan for that.
“He really did set the bar high down here, and I just try to continue that,” Gardiner says.