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chain profile 96 • FOODSERVICE EQUIPMENT & SUPPLIES • APRIL 2017 W hen a lot has changed in life, it's always good to stop, take a breath and take stock of where you stand and where you want to be. What's true for people is also true for restaurants — in this case, Rusty Bucket Restaurant and Tavern. This 24-unit polished-casual chain out of Ohio under- went its largest growth period in late 2015 and early 2016. In seven months, it opened five restaurants, including locations in new markets in Sarasota, Fla., and Charlotte, N.C. Rusty Bucket also completed remodels on three existing locations. The company has used the time since then to hone its design and its operations, says director of operations Jim Sauter. "We look at this period like it's a time to refocus on what got us here and take it to the next level so when we are back in growth mode in 2018, we really have our feet underneath us." The effort has resulted in refinements to the front of the house, changes to the menu, and adjustments to the kitchen prep and production processes to make the operation more smooth and efficient. 50-50 View Rusty Bucket was founded in 2002, with the first location opening in Dublin, Ohio, a northwest suburb of Columbus. The chain seeks these suburban locations first and foremost, according to Sauter. "We opened up with the idea of creating a neighborhood place where people could get a drink and good food in a neighborhood setting," he says. From a strategy standpoint, Rusty Bucket tries to walk the line between food and drink, bar and restaurant. Guests entering the operation, in fact, encounter a view that is half dining room and half bar. By Toby Weber Following a period of growth, this polished-casual chain put a short pause on expansion to refine its look and improve kitchen operations. RUSTY BUCKET SHARPENS ITS GAME Photography by Don Snyder Photography Inc.