The Voices of Interlude: Rex Brice
By Rachel Miller
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS- Rex Brice is the owner of Rex’s Family of Restaurants, which consists of seven restaurants throughout Steamboat Springs.
How did you get into the business of owning multiple restaurants throughout town?
I was a chef for many years, and I thought that was what I was going to do for the rest of my life. It occurred to me at some point that I wanted more, and the best way to get that “more” was to open a restaurant. If I was going to open one, then I probably needed to open multiple restaurants if I wanted to have a life.
So, what has it been like being a business owner during the pandemic?
I would describe it as terrifying, in the beginning in particular. It is very scary that something that you’ve worked your lifetime to create has literally just been yanked out from under you in a matter of hours. And recognizing that can happen is a very scary thing. The first two weeks after the closure were two of the toughest weeks of my life, I would say. One of the things we were known for – are known for – and pride ourselves in is the community culture we have built within our organization. The backbone of our company is the people, and we were forced to lay off all of our 325 employees. And that was the tough thing, it wasn’t just the closing of the business itself, it was the dismantling of the family we have built over the last 15 years that really hurt.
What ways have you and your team adapted through all of this?
We recognized immediately that it was going to be different. What we found in the shutdown was that we were chasing our tail a lot. Literally the information was coming in by the hour and it wasn’t always accurate information. So, we made a reopening plan that included limited hours of operation, limited staff, limited menus, simplified operations overall and then a phase-in process that we had determined pretty early on that it was not going to happen until the governor rescinded the stay-at-home and issued a new safer-at-home order. Our team has been incredible through this. Everyone in our organization has really stepped up to that plate to do what it takes to keep people safe.
What has been the most gratifying part of your job through all of this?
It’s realizing that I’m surrounded by an incredible group of people that have a shared vision as myself and we can find a way to create great hospitality in such an odd time. Our community has been great, too. The community support during these troubling times has been exceptional.
What have you been doing with your free time?
There hasn’t been a lot of free time to be honest. For myself and our executive team, life hasn’t really slowed down. We’ve been working harder than ever to try and keep our business afloat.
Any lessons or silver linings you see in this situation?
I think there are always silver linings and there are always lessons to be learned. I think one of the big lessons to be learned is to be prepared. You never know what is around the corner. We wouldn’t have guessed that this was coming, and I don’t think there was a way to fully prepare for this, so if you can be prepared for changing times as best you can, then that’s a smart thing. Don’t just assume everything will be good.
Is there any message you would like to give to the public right now?
Be patient and support your restaurants. When you go into your favorite restaurant, and your favorite thing isn’t on the menu, cut them some slack. Understand they are literally just trying to stay in business, and they are trying to serve you as best as they can right now, but it is hard right now. Supply chains have been disrupted; most restaurants are having to reduce their menus to reduce prep to stay in business. And it’s all a little bit shaky right now, so please be patient and support your local restaurants.