:: Pink Poodle History ::
To those of us who lived in the area, the Pink Poodle may seem like a convenient place to stop by for dinner or a drink. But to most customers, it is a "destination restaurant," according to Mary Jo. That means it is out of the way for most metro residents, so they decide specifically to go to the Pink Poodle rather than just to "go out to eat."
"That's why I hate bad-road weather reports," she said. "Even if the roads don't get bad, it cuts way into our business. That and big sport events like the Super Bowl, World Series or Big Red Football. People don't go out to eat, or they eat close to home."
For the most part, however, a lot of people choose the Pink Poodle as their destination. Saturday is their biggest night, when they serve an average of 500 meals. The best season for business is summer. The best individual days are Mother's Day, Valentine's Day, and New Year's Eve.
Mary Jo estimates that about half of her customers are from Omaha and the other half from Council Bluffs and southwest Iowa. "We get alot of local business, of course. Many others are regulars who come in every month or two. But we keep reminding them that we are here. That's why we advertise a lot on the radio," she explained.
What brings them to crescent to eat? "There are hundreds of choices in the metro area," Mary Jo said. "We cater to the beef eaters and people who want good food and plenty of it."
Mary Jo said the Pink Poodle is known for it's prime rib which is the "best in the area." Over 50 percent of their business is prime rib. They have six special ovens and begin cooking the beef at 9 a.m.
The "plenty of it" desires of diners are met by the "all you can eat" soup and salad policy. For years, soup and salad were served family style; the soup tureen and salad bowl were left at the table. "But the health inspector made us stop that," Mary Jo said. "So now we bring customers more from the kitchen. All they have to do is ask."
Besides prime rib, the Pink Poodle offers the usual steak house fare. They have added a boneless pork and are planning to add a chicken breast dish to appeal to lighter eaters. "We want to have something for everyone in a party," Mary Jo said.
The other specialty of the house, she thinks, is service. If diners have a reservation, they can expect to have the table ready when they come. And at the end of the meal, they pay the waitress at the table. "I hate waiting in line to pay a check," Mary Jo said. "This is our way of giving service right up until the customer actually walks out the door."
She also feels the staff is an incentive ot come to the Pink Poodle. The restaurant employs about 40 people, full and part-time. Many of the adults have been with her 15 years or more. "We tease Donna Collins Malone that she came with the business," Mary Jo said. "But customers know her and many of the others and appreciate the experience and friendliness."
About 15 teenagers are employed currently. Mary Jo tries to hire kids from many different high schools. In part to give work to kids from different towns. But mostly so they don't all want off work the same night for Prom or some other special school event.
As an incentive to stay on, she gives her high school seniors, who have worked for her a long time, a scholarship. They are called the Art Paulison Memorial Scholarships. "The scholarship money originally came from memorials people gave after Art's death," Mary Jo said. And friends often donate to the fund in lieu of giving me gifts." This year five seniors will receive about $500 apiece.