Article submitted by Ryan McCauley & Brooke Zehr. Bene and John Zehr started Main Street Cafe & Bakery with Bryan and Leigha Dullard in 2014.

Please tell us a little about Main Street Cafe & your journey?  Once upon a time we were a small cafe in a quiet corner of Ankeny. A lot has changed in 9 years! We now have over 8,000 sq ft of restaurant space to serve our customers. In 2017 Brooke (Bene & John’s daughter) and son in law Ryan McCauley got involved to help grow the business and start a retirement plan for Bene and John. There have been multiple challenges along the way – the largest being Covid in 2020. We had to close our downtown location for 2.5 years because hardly anyone was working in the office. Ankeny was limited to take out only for some time. We have since expanded multiple times (a good problem to have but still a challenge!) We believe we have gotten to where we are now by trying to treat every customer great and doing everything we can to make each person we serve have a wonderful experience. You can go to a lot of places in Ankeny and get good food. The key to our success is delivering good food in an extremely fast time, and striving to have the best customer service in Ankeny.

Please tell us about your menu? Our menu changes 3-4 times per year. The menu was developed by John, Bene, Bryan and Leigha originally. However, our menu has changed significantly since our open in 2014. Our goal was to offer something for everyone, keeping in mind it needs to be fast, fresh, and quality. Some of our fan favorites are our soups and salads, the Turkey Bacon Avocado Melt is the most popular item we have, followed closely by the Baja Rice Bowl. Our mac n cheeses are popular, and by category especially when it is nice out, our salads and wraps sell a lot. You can’t forget about our baked items either! We sell a ton of cookies, bars, and slices of cakes – all made from scratch in house!

As a generational family owned business how does your family manage work/life balance between professional and family responsibilities? We have been fortunate that we have been able to have a great support group as well as some work life balance. The restaurant is difficult at times because we are open for so many hours from 6 am to 9 pm 7 days per week. We have a great team of managers that all care about our family, our customers, and our team. Our hourly staff are all great as well. We are a bit controlling so it is tough to completely let go of the operation even if only for a few days, but our team genuinely care and helps. There are definitely seasons to the restaurant where we get busier or have turnover and have periods of time where we are working an excessive amount compared to the norm. During those times, we are fortunate that our family (Brooke’s mom and dad and Ryan’s mom) are all able to help out and watch our kids. Brooke’s aunt and some of our friends are able to help as well.

What advice do you have in developing a business’s culture? This one is a difficult question because it really depends on your industry, what you are trying to accomplish, and what type of team you have. I don’t think there is a one size fits all approach. However, what seems to work for us is giving constant feedback and having high standards. We have a very good team. They are not perfect, neither are we as owners or managers. I ask my team to call me out if I could be doing something better, but it is a two way street. I am constantly talking and giving feedback to employees, not to try and tear them down, but so they can do a better job. We will give praise and constructive criticism. We believe if you do not know what you are doing well or doing wrong, then you assume you are doing things right which may not be the case. We do have some turnover because of this. However, if our employees can’t take feedback to do things better then they are probably better suited somewhere else. The employees that want the feedback and will take it to heart deserve to know, whether it be good or bad. And when we give it to them, we are only making them better. It may be tough conversations at first, but then it just becomes easy conversation and habit. It is very frustrating for us when you go somewhere and the customer service is sub-par – whether it be in hospitality or any industry. Every new employee orientation I do, I make it a point to let the employee know that my name might be the one signing the check, but look around our dining room right now – because every single person in here is the one paying you, not me. If we don’t take care of them, then there is no way to get paid. So take care of the customers first!

What do you love about the Ankeny & Metro area? Brooke and I are both from the Ankeny and Des Moines area originally. It has been fun to watch the area grow. We are proud of our local community and to be a part of it. Ankeny and Des Moines are both great places to work and live and raise families so that has always been important to us. We enjoy the sense of community, the local support, being able to get around town quickly, and the general Iowa nice that most people in the metro come with. There is more and more diversity in the metro which is always a great thing. We try to have something on our menu for everyone and enjoy serving people from all different types of backgrounds.

Any other wisdom or advice you’d like to share? We could probably write a book on this, but I would encourage people to never stop learning and growing. Be able to adapt. There isn’t only 1 answer to something. Talk to your coworkers and employees. Find out what makes them go. We have an incredible team and I think there are a lot of reasons for that, but I try to genuinely get to know our employees even if it is remotely high level. We care about them as people because they are the ones taking care of our customers and people that choose Main Street over any other great restaurant in this town. The world is constantly changing so it is important to continually reinvent or redevelop things that you are doing to stay relevant. No matter what industry you are in – take care of your customers! If you aren’t passionate about what you are doing in life you should look for something else.

2510 SW White Birch Dr #1,2, Ankeny, IA 50023