Food for thought

It’s difficult enough to make one restaurant succeed — according to Hospitality Works, a restaurant consulting firm, 30 percent of restaurants fail within the first year and 70 percent have closed after five years.

That’s why the seven Northeast Ohio Yours Truly Restaurants, run by the Shibley siblings — Arthur, Lawrence, Jeffrey and Darlene Shibley Ziegenhagen — are such an industry anomaly. Not only is the chain family-run and independent, but most of the restaurants have been around for more than 10 years.

The main ingredient in their success is the same element that has worked for restaurant chains from McDonald’s to Morton’s Steak House: Consistency. Customer know what to expect when they dine at Yours Truly in terms of the menu, dining room, service and price, no matter where the restaurant is located.

To ensure that consistency, the Shibleys designed a highly regimented system that began when the three brothers opened the first Yours Truly in Beachwood in 1981 and that they continued to hone throughout the chain’s development.

“The system is pretty extensive,” says Lawrence Shibley. “It’s training for every single position, it’s documentation of every recipe. Every assembly of each menu item is photographed with a detailed assembly chart to go with it. We have extensive handbooks, classroom training for servers and coaches within each dining room for the new servers. It’s endless.”

The Yours Truly system became more critical when the chain expanded beyond the capacity of its four partners. (Darlene joined the company in 1985). When the fifth restaurant opened in Shaker Square in 1993, the Shibleys promoted assistant managers from the restaurants to general managers, with the siblings overseeing the entire company.

“It was a slow progression,” Shibley says. “As we expanded from five to seven stores, we kept taking even more steps to ensure quality in the absence of partner presence, and manager presence for that matter, because they can’t be involved in every transaction.” How to reach: Yours Truly Restaurants, (440) 247-8338 or