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LockKeepers restaurant caters to convention goers who are hoping to dodge the “eye of the storm”

By Lauren Sable Freiman  |  Photos by Gery Petrof

Although the staff at LockKeepers is accustomed to a packed dining room and bustling crowd, July is typically a quiet month for the Italian restaurant nestled in the Cuyahoga Valley between the Erie Canal and the Cuyahoga River. With the Republican National Convention in town, this July will be very different.

“I could realistically project a 100 percent increase in business volume for that week,” General Manager Brian Woehrman says. “As July is typically a ‘soft’ month for business-related parties and a slower time for dining out in general, the convention comes at a great time where there is availability at the restaurant. The hotels are generally well occupied over here but never saturated like they will be for that period. Time will tell, but we have high hopes for sure.”

LockKeepers is already a busy restaurant with large lunchtime, happy hour, and dinner crowds. At maximum capacity, it can serve 400 people in its dining room and banquet space. On a typical evening, Woehrman says that LockKeepers could have 35 reservations and serve 235 for dinner. The staff frequently serves dignitaries, political figures, sports stars, and celebrities. Nonetheless, the energy and excitement surrounding the RNC is palpable.

“We are really excited about it, but there is a lot of unknown for us,” Woehrman says. “We expect the place to be jamming and will make the most of it. We have a great staff and everyone is really committed to delivering and executing on our service. We are professionally trained at it, and it is what we do every day.”

In addition to expertly trained staff, LockKeepers has protocols in place to keep things running smoothly on busy days and nights. Valet parking alleviates any issues with crowded parking lots, and extra security can be brought in when necessary.

“It depends on who might come in and book with us, but we’ve dealt with having extra security if that’s required,” Woehrman says. “Recently I had a basketball star in town who had to be directed upstairs through our side entrance, a private way without being noticed.”

With 25 years in the restaurant industry and 10 of those at LockKeepers, Woehrman has developed additional plans to handle the influx in business. He is dissuading staff from taking vacations, has on-call staff in his back pocket in case of a larger-than-anticipated crowd, and is making sure the restaurant is in pristine condition.

“Our patio will be decked out with flowers and ready to go,” Woehrman says. “We have our great seasonal Italian menu and there might be some fun specials catered towards the Republican Party. We’ll see what we come up with.”

One thing that Woehrman is certain of is that he will be stocking up on non-perishable supplies in advance of convention week. His wine inventory will grow from 5,000 bottles to 7,500 bottles.

Woehrman is also working to find the balance between serving regular customers and bringing in new diners and convention-related parties.

“It is about protecting the ongoing viable business we have but also optimizing revenue potential and taking advantage of it,” Woehrman says. “I’ve blocked space for the convention dates anticipating that we are going to get big convention parties. It’s a little bit of a game of chicken.”

Based on conversations he’s had with journalists and others familiar with political conventions, Woehrman says he thinks LockKeepers, which is close to downtown, close to the airport, and has easy highway access, is ideally positioned to serve convention-goers.

“I was told that people are looking for a retreat to get out of the hustle and bustle of downtown for a meal and then head back into the eye of the storm after that,” Woehrman says.

Being situated close to but not in downtown Cleveland means that LockKeepers will have the advantage of serving convention goers while continuing to receive deliveries without issue.

“Restaurants downtown are really anxious about this,” Woehrman says. “For us, it’s an ideal situation. We will still be business as usual but revved up a little bit.”

Woehrman and the entire LockKeepers team understand the significance of a large-scale event like the RNC and they are looking forward to their chance to shine on the national stage.

“Every time a guest walks through the door you have a chance to make a positive impression on them,” Woehrman says. “Every single person that comes in for a special occasion and takes a picture of their plate and Instagrams or Facebooks it, it’s all good.”

Because word spreads fast via social media and other channels, Woehrman knows that his team must perform at their very best during convention week. He says he is hopeful that increased traffic during the convention will translate to an increase in business from business travelers throughout the year.

“This is a chance to showcase what we do, and we’ve got to execute,” Woehrman says. “If people have a bad experience, whether locals or out-of-towners, it can be devastating. You have to be prepared. Better to overstaff and deliver a great product and service than struggle and turn people off.” 

For more information: lockkeepers.com

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