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Behind the Best: Roosters

Every year for our May issue, (614) Magazine tallies up more than a million votes from our readers that result in businesses and people around central Ohio being crowned “The ColumBest” in their respective categories. From brunches and buffets, to bands and bloggers; we look to the readers to tell us who is deserving of the city’s culinary and commercial crowns. With well over a hundred categories, we don’t have the space necessary to give the lip service we want to each winner. The frontrunners in their categories get recognition and applause, and then, being the hardest grinding bosses in the biz, they get right back to work.

But we want to dive a little deeper into the story.

It’s time to take a closer look at the stories behind the best Columbus has to offer. Starting with a little joint where we like to shed all pretense and expectations.

Technically, Rooster’s started in Dayton in 1988, but its rapid expansion to central Ohio after that makes them a default local favorite.

Started by Bob and Corrine Frick, it was intended to be a family-friendly, neighborhood joint where people could head after a softball game, or gather for birthday brews. It was casual by design, and that remains a guiding principle of their business to this day, 30 years later. That and their famously fresh (and never frozen) wings.

The success of the formula resulted in a second location in Columbus on Hamilton Road, followed by the now-classic location in German Village. It was here that Dan Ponton joined the team as an owner, and today he is the president of the company.

Which is one of the aspects of Roosters that draws it apart from other restaurants: an extremely low turnover rate. In a high-pressure business like a restaurant, it’s normal to have employees come and go like the seasons, but Roosters boasts a loyal staff of seasoned vets. They have 40 20-year employees, 52 15-year employees; and 78 10-year employees. That first location in Dayton still has one of its original employees, a chef, with 28 years of service, and a manager with 22. Among the service industry, these are Tom Brady-like stats.

And the family feeling goes even deeper than that. Only hiring from within, every manager and corporate-level suit was once a host or dishwasher, who moved up in the ranks to sling drinks and wings for patrons. This fosters an appreciation for each worker in a way no corporate sensitivity training ever could. Ask a Roosters employee about their company, and they will gush in a way uncharacteristic for someone who works in their field. We heard stories of an employee sadly losing his mom, and the president of the company paying for funeral expenses. Store-sponsored fundraisers galore have been held for employees and long-time regulars. At the Pickerington location alone, they held four benefit events in one year for four of their employees going through personal and family crises. One of the benefits was for an employee’s husband, who started out as a long time regular at the restaurant. Managers worked the bar, donating their tips, and employees paid forward all their earning from the day to help a fellow Rooster in need. Roosters has a “give back” mentality that leads them to constantly give prizes for non-profits and charities to raffle and giveaways.

They regularly work to benefit Ronald McDonald House, Children’s Hospital, and The 2nd and 7 Foundation, and partner with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Crew SC to work toward larger community goals. The Roosters Foundation proudly supports the Buckeye Cruise for Cancer with The James Cancer Hospital, which benefits the Urban and Shelley Meyer Fund for Cancer Research, contributing over $650,000 to date. “Honesty, integrity, dependability and personality are the cornerstones to the foundation” of their business.

If that’s not Midwestern, I don’t know what is.

In addition to their famous wings and sauces, Roosters carries healthy and indulgent, all-American options, and an extensive list of local and global beers. With 38 locations, and number 39 opening this July, Roosters is more than just a place to get wings. (614) readers voted them first place standings in four categories: Best Wings, Best Place to Eat at the Bar, Best Wait Staff, and Best Sports Bar. Not to mention their second and third place wins in multiple other categories. Year after year, they sweep the winnings. There’s just something special about a place where you can take the kids after little league, go on a date night, or take relatives out for a family-size bite, where you’ll know everyone can get exactly what they want.

For more, visit roosters.com.

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