How do you turn an out-of-the way diner into a destination spot? According to Yvette Ysidro, who owns Stearman Field Bar & Grill with her husband, it’s a willingness to work hard, collaborate and try new things.
Oh, and it doesn’t hurt being located next to a runway where customers can watch small planes land and take off.
“On a nice day, when we open up the doors, we can seat about 250 people,” Ysidro said.
The restaurant is one of four finalists for the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce’s 2018 Small Business Award for Tier II businesses – those that employ 26 to 100 people.
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Ysidro and her husband, Monte, took over the place five years ago in July. It had been opened a few years earlier by Dwayne and Julie Clemens, who own Stearman Field airport. Ysidro said the Clemens started by offering breakfast, expanded into lunch and dinner and finally added a bar.
“They approached us because they were private pilots and they wanted to grow the airport,” Ysidsro said. “They wanted someone who knew business and someone they could have a great partnership with. It truly is a partnership with them — it works both ways.”
The Ysidros had plenty of business experience — they are partners in the Specs and Eyewear Junkie eyeglass stores — but none in restaurants. “It’s something I continue to learn and grow with,” said Ysidro, who runs the restaurant.
They’ve made several improvements to the restaurant, including closing off the kitchen from public view, enlarging the food prep area, installing a new walk-in cooler and freezer and adding an outside bar with 20 beers on tap.
“Keeping your employees engaged in customer service” is the key to any business’ success, Ysidro said. To do that, she often rewards employees who display extra effort with a cash bonus, gift certificate for a massage or similar reward.
She also listens to them. Her kitchen manager suggested a hot links pizza that’s become a big hit. Her daughter did the same with macaroni and cheese-stuffed quesadillas.
Stearman hosts a number of community events annually, including an Easter egg hunt, fly-in and car show, five-mile run and “pumpkin drop” from airplanes who try to hit a target from the air every October. In December, there’s a breakfast with Santa and a reindeer. The restaurant features live music about a once a month and is a popular spot for private parties.
Some of the restaurants best customers are people who live in homes or converted hangars astride the airport. Many more drive from Wichita and the surrounding area. Pilots flying across country stop there, along with plenty of local aviators. Local aircraft companies bring their international clients out for lunch.
Even military pilots sometimes land helicopters there for lunch.
“Usually someone in the restaurant will purchase a meal for them,” Ysidro said. “They’ll take families out and let them get pictures. It’s fun.”
STEARMAN FIELD BAR & GRILL
Address: 14789 SW 30th, Benton
Owners: Yvette and Monte Ysidro