The Duke on Sydenham first opened its doors in 2008 in Strathroy, with about 100 seats and a modest staff. But in their first three years, their reputation grew – along with their clientele – and they moved to their current home in Shops in Sydenham.
“We really put our blood, sweat, and tears into the relocation, and we’ve stayed consistently busy,” says Rick Pereira, owner of The Duke on Sydenham. After closing for about four months to renovate, they reopened in their new location, providing a private room for events, a patio, a bar side, and a dining room, with over 200 seats for their guests. “In this larger location, we’re so happy to be able to provide jobs for people in the community and that’s part of the joy of the business,” says Pereira.
The community support has been there throughout, growing each year, and while the restaurant might occasionally like to tweak its operations, tinker with the menu, and update the décor, its loyal following is not always on board. “We love our regulars and long-term customers, and they love us just the way we are, we just have to ease them into change sometimes,” says Pereira.
Much of their staff has remained long-term, too, and that helped them thrive through the pandemic to celebrate their 15-year anniversary this past September. Through the challenging past few years, the restaurant has relied on relationships with staff and customers to continue to prosper.
“The hardest part was that the rules kept changing and that made consistency tough to manage,” says Pereira about the pandemic. “It was tough to have to cut staff, too, but we brought them back as soon as we could, and most of them weathered the storm with us.”
Community was key, with their loyal customers supporting them through the days when it was takeout only, and then when the number of patrons was limited, and when distancing was important, coming back steadily as everything re-opened.
The strong relationships the restaurant has built got them through, providing that consistency during tricky and ever-changing times. “If you don’t enjoy meeting and talking and being around people, from your staff to your customers to your partners, you’re probably in the wrong place,” says Pereira about connecting with people in the foodservice industry.
Professional partnerships have played a part in the restaurant’s success, too, with 10-year partners like Flanagan Foodservice, delivering excellent service and peace of mind to restaurants across Canada. Pereira praises the family-owned food distributor, saying “Woody was our rep for most of that time, and I consider him a friend,” he says. “The company is easy to work with, and they work quickly to help and to address any issues as quickly as possible.”
Relationships matter, and as The Duke on Sydenham can attest to, building those relationships means a long and prosperous future in the foodservice industry.