In today’s Four on Friday, we spoke with Ray Schoenbaum of Ray’s Restaurants, which includes Ray’s on the River, Ray’s in the City, Ray’s at Killer Creek and the soon-to-open Ray’s Rio Bravo. Schoenbaum shared how he got his start in the restaurant business and his summer vacation plans. Many thanks to Schoenbaum for this time.
You’ve had a hand in creating some of Atlanta’s best restaurants. What got you into the business originally?
Schoenbaum: My father, Alex Schoenbaum, started Shoney’s, so I was born into the restaurant business. I was a Wendy's franchisee before starting Rio Bravo and Ray’s on the River at same time [in 1984].
“Ray’s Rio Bravo” in Sandy Springs is scheduled to open this summer. What’s the history of the Rio Bravo and how excited are you to see the most recent location open?
Schoenbaum: From the two restaurants I started in 1984, I built my company to 16 restaurants before Applebee's bought it from me. I started Rio Bravo with the concept of creating everything from scratch. There was a real need for this kind of restaurant at the time. I am very excited to bring back a quality food concept.
What are the best tips you have in opening, and maintaining, a successful restaurant?
Schoenbaum: The most important lesson I know is to listen to the guest and give them what they want. I listen every day. I read social media and adjust [based on what’s being said.] The guest is always our focus, and so training is very important to make sure the guest gets what they want.
Any vacation plans for this summer?
Schoenbaum: I have already been to South Africa, which was one of the greatest trips of my life. I have also been to San Francisco and Sonoma, California. I am planning to go to the Bahamas for the Fourth of July, then coming home to open Ray’s Rio Bravo. It's been a great summer so far.