Four decades of dining — Barleycorn’s drives success with top service, employees


How does a local, family-owned and operated restaurant remain successful and continue to grow for four decades? If you ask the Heil family, it all comes down to exceptional service, dedicated employees and commitment to the community.

Barleycorn’s neighborhood restaurant and bar, with three operating locations in Northern Kentucky, is celebrating its 40th year in business.

Ken Heil opened the first Barleycorn’s restaurant in downtown Cincinnati. That location, originally named Barleycorn’s Aluminum Sash and Storm Door Co. Inc., catered to the downtown after-work crowd. The original concept combined the lively atmosphere of Mount Adams with the downtown singles scene.

Today, there are three Northern Kentucky locations in Cold Spring, Lakeside Park and Florence. Each location takes pride in offering a tasty menu in a fun, family-friendly atmosphere.

Customer satisfaction is key

Barleycorn’s emphasizes exceptional customer satisfaction. Quality food, outstanding service and a friendly staff bring customers back again and again. When a guest leaves the restaurant, the staff doesn’t just say, “Have a good night,” but rather, “See you next time.”

Barleycorn’s also sustains close relationships with food suppliers and vendors in order to maintain standards of fresh, quality food. In the kitchen, high priority is placed on training to ensure accuracy, speed and quality food presentation.

Joe Heil, Barleycorn’s co-owner and manager of operations, attributes much of the restaurant’s success to the virtues his parents instilled in him and his siblings at a young age. Strong work ethic, Christian values and customer service help keep the family business thriving.

“We were taught the value of hard work at a young age,” Heil says. “Our managers are hands-on operators, and we see the fruit of our labor in smiling guests.”

Employees are part of the family

The Heil family has been blessed with quality, longstanding employees. The restaurant takes great pride in its hiring practices, which has led to high staff retention.

Twenty-five percent of Barleycorn’s employees have worked at the restaurant for more than 10 years and more than 50 percent of employees have been with the business for at least two years. Those are pretty significant numbers for an industry that has one of the highest employee turnovers.

“I’ve been with Barleycorn’s longer than Joe’s wife has been around,” long-time employee Teri Rabe says.

How does Barleycorn’s retain employees? The Barleycorn’s team is treated like family; in addition, Barleycorn’s provides top-shelf training and an environment in which employees can achieve greater responsibility. Employees also are encouraged to share the ideas they have to help bring families together and create an even better customer experience.

“We are very fortunate to have excellent employees,” Heil says. “We place a high priority on training and work with our staff to ensure great quality standards.”

Making an impact

Success isn’t just about treating employees and customers well — the Heil family believes that you also have to take care of your community.

Barleycorn’s has provided financial and service support to dozens of organizations over the last 40 years, actively supporting local high schools and colleges, medical research centers and foundations, Special Olympics and other nonprofit organizations.

“We are happy to help our neighbors,” Heil said. “We see the people of this community in every facet of our lives — in our restaurants, at games, at stores, banks, church, schools and walking in our neighborhoods. We are not successful without our customers.”

How to reach: Barleycorn’s, (859) 442-3400 or