Loyalty — it’s the key to a business’s survival in a down economy.
Two businesses that are celebrating 15-year and 16-year anniversaries this year recognize the importance of their customers’ continued patronage, the value of those customers spreading the word to bring new recruits, and the dedication of their employees.
Lisa Ramelow, owner of La Strada Italian restaurant, 4716 E. Second St., is hosting her Eighth Annual Customer Appreciation Dinner from 6 to 9 p.m. Monday, May 3, at the restaurant.
And Coffee Cup Café owner Cindy Atkinson is going to celebrate the restaurant’s 15th anniversary during the month of May with prizes and opportunity drawings throughout the month when customers order meals at the breakfast and lunch spot, 3734 E. Fourth St.
Ramelow, who has been known to say that La Strada might have been her father’s biggest mistake, but is the best thing that ever happened to her, took over operations more than 10 years ago without much restaurant experience.
Ramelow’s father and his business partner opened La Strada 16 years ago, but struggled to keep the business going after financial troubles.
Ramelow, a former engineer, learned the business by waiting on tables, working in the kitchen and doing the books. She still remains very hands-on in the day-to-day operations and often is seen at tables during dinner talking to customers.
On the menu for the buffet-style event this year is eggplant parmigiana, fettuccine au gratin, and penne al carne.
Approximately 70 longtime customers attended last year, and the night also includes a trivia contest to determine how well the customers know the servers and staff.
Ramelow said another contest that lightens up the evening is a prize for the customer who has tried the most items on the menu in the past year — and it’s more difficult than it seems, because most people tend to stick to their favorites.
“We have the party as a giant thank you to everyone who has supported us through good and bad,” Ramelow said. “It’s a night to come and enjoy free food, fun and frivolity.”
Atkinson and her late husband, Tom, opened Coffee Cup Café 15 years ago as a small restaurant specializing in menu items that could range from “healthy to hearty.”
“I was always the waitress that wanted her own restaurant,” Atkinson said. “I liked the hours and fast pace of a breakfast-lunch restaurant.”
Atkinson credits her success to her great customers and “awesome employees.”
When her husband died on Aug. 26, 2006, from brain cancer, Atkinson decided to push forward with the café. Tom was part owner of O’Malley’s on Main, 140 Main St. in Seal Beach, and Atkinson’s annual fundraiser for brain cancer research will be from 5 to 9 p.m. tonight, Thursday, at that restaurant.
Atkinson said more than $19,000 in prizes, gifts and giveaways have been donated by local businesses for customers to win. All the proceeds from food and drink sales that night will benefit University of California, Los Angeles’ Neuro-Oncology Department.
Starting Saturday, May 1, at Coffee Cup Café, anybody who purchases a meal will receive a slip of paper where they can write their name and enter the drawings.
Atkinson said 15 different categories with 15 prizes in each category will be awarded, totaling 225. Prizes will range from punchcards for five free meals to Coffee Cup T-shirts, caps and sweatshirts, the restaurant’s logoed coffee cup, and gift certificates. Drawings will occur randomly throughout the month.
For more information about Coffee Cup Café, call 433-3292. For information about La Strada, visit www.lastradaon2nd.com.