Veterans Feeding Body and Soul
Today we’d like to bring you four brief stories of vets who share more in common than their military service. The common thread that binds them is their passion for the restaurant industry.
Each of these vets and their restaurants’ stand as a striking example of what true service can mean; not just on the battlefield, but in the “trenches” of everyday life. We hope you’ll be as inspired as we are by the restaurants our featured vets are running and the way they are feeding not just the bodies but the souls of those in their communities.
Tammy Kemper-Pena and Roland Pena, husband and wife team of Bradenton Beach seafood restaurant, Cast-n-Cage, are both vets whose dream of opening their own restaurant has also proven to be a dream come true for their fellow vets.
Opened with the express intention of being a place where vets could find employment and receive support from others who had walked in their shoes, Cast-n-Cage has already hired ten vets and further extended the restaurant’s welcome with a 10% discount to their military patrons. Said local Navy veteran Glenn Schneider, “It’s touching that someone out there is helping other veterans. It almost makes me cry.”
Drop Zone Cafe and Bar
On the outskirts of Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, lies the Drop Zone Cafe and Bar. Founded by retired Army Command Sgt. Major Ed Fernandez and his wife Hope, it’s a morning, noon, and night hotspot for veterans. They come not just for the Tex-Mex, American comfort food, and legendary barbecue and brisket, but for the fellowship they find at a place that is a virtual shrine to service people.
Among the thousands of military-related photos and newspaper clippings that line the walls of the restaurant is what may be the most moving symbol of all: In the corner stands an empty dining table draped in snow white linen, accompanied by a chair left permanently vacant for POW’s and those missing in action.
Avocado Cafe and Juice Bar
Within a restored, century-old house nestled among vintage shops and shady oak trees is Avocado Cafe and Juice Bar. Opened as a niche dining offering by Retired Air Force Major Gale Lynn Goodman-Floyd, the restaurant serves lighter fare and vegan and vegetarian options, each infused with flavors from all over the world that Goodman-Floyd learned to love during her twenty-two years of military service.
In addition to its popular juice bar and regular menu, the restaurant also serves authentic ramen as Goodman-Floyd learned to make it in Okinawa, Japan, while teaching for the Department of Defense. “It’s not your run-of-the-mill food,” says Goodman-Floyd, “we’re filling an eclectic niche no one else has now.”
Rachael Harris, artisan baker and founder of pop-up restaurant, Vic’s Homegrown, credits her return to cooking and the creative outlet of her enterprise as something of a lifesaver. Suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome after her time in the military, she found a sense of solace and security in returning to the recipes she learned to make as a child.
A graduate of Dog Tag Bakery, an intense five-month program that helps vets find their voice (in order to share their stories and struggles) as well as their way into the workforce by teaching business and entrepreneurship skills, Rachael says she’s finally getting her feet back under her. Judging from the enthusiastic reception of her fabled buttermilk biscuits and bacon-bit chocolate-chip cookies, things can only continue to look up.
According to a recent report by the National Restaurant Association, veterans own or co-own nearly 66,000 restaurants nationwide. Impressively, 19% of veterans who work in the restaurant business hold management positions, which is almost twice the number of non-veterans working in the industry.
At Marketing Vitals, we supply state-of-the-art software technology for helping restaurants (and the vets who run them) optimize their operations. Hearing stories like these, we couldn’t be more proud of our vets or the role we may get to play in their success.