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Interview with Debby Alexander – Peabodys Cafe

We are so excited to have a guest on this morning who has so many off the typical lists of “do this to be successful” and insights that have propelled into a 2+ decades of running an iconic restaurant …Debby Alexander of Peabody’s Cafe. Welcome to Reservations with Andrew and Jeff

Too hot but we are back with Debby and Reservations


Transcript of the Video Part I: Interview with Debby Alexander – Peabodys Cafe

Hey, welcome to Reservations. I’m Jeff Harrison, Andrew is behind the camera and today you can probably hear that already. Hold on a second. There’s a big west central food service. It literally just parked behind us. Maybe it’ll get a little out. There it goes. So, now we’ll quiet down. We’re extremely excited today because we have someone with us today that quite frankly she has run a restaurant in the Palm Springs area where we’ve seen people from Desi Arnaz to Elvis Presley to now that you know you name it, they come to Palm Springs for many, many reasons. She has figured out and she’s going to share with you this morning some tips and tricks that she’s done that really have changed this strategy. What she does, she has an iconic restaurant called Peabody’s. Her name is Debby Alexander. Debby comes on in, welcome.

Thank you. Yeah, it’s fun to be here. Hey Debby, before we get started, tell us a little bit about your restaurant and like how long have you been here? Why the heck a restaurant? Actually, initially it was supposed to be a coffee bar and then some unnamed chain coffee bar moved across the street like two months after I bought it. So then I said, all right, well just going to make it a restaurant. Oh, so you actually pivoted after you’d already decided and you open.

The Best Thing About Being A Small Business

Purchased everything that the previous owner knew the major chain was opening up. We didn’t know and then I was sitting in a Chamber of Commerce meeting and then they announced it and everybody clapped. I’m like, okay. Except you. Yeah. Let’s be flexible. What are we gonna do now? Oh, my gosh. Well, tell us a little bit about your restaurants called Peabody’s Cafe. Tell us a little bit about this because you’ve been in business since when?

I’ve had it since ’94. The business has been here since ’92. You know when you run a business especially a restaurant, we see them come in and out. It’s almost like they change as often as I changed my shoes, right. To have something that’s been around for 20 now going on 25 years. No, it should be 26 years. How the heck did you do that? Well, I think one is one of the best things about being a small business is you can be flexible. You can change, you know, you’re not trapped in like a motif or what you’re supposed to do.

We Stay Flexible

So there’s no incorporate who’ll say, hey this is how we do it. No, you can do whatever you want, make any decision you want. So we just stay flexible and we can change, you know, like you don’t have to fit into a certain shape. Right now we do the breakfast seven days a week. We’re known for the breakfast. We have a breakfast crowd. Then we kind of has moonlighted as karaoke bar Friday and Saturday night. So we have totally different age groups, kind of a different set of people too, for those two different groups, and totally different vibes. So you don’t offer karaoke over eggs?

I did it once for a radio station. It was the most awkward, awful experience. Like, no, you don’t really want to hear Neil Diamond at 8:00 AM, you know. I don’t have an answer. You’re right. Hey, now we live in a destination resort property and we see fluxes in traffic. How do you deal with that and what are some of the tricks that probably the average restaurant owner out there has no clue about? Well, we have a lot of repeat tourists. So in the high season, I would say that initially, you know, a seasoned starting is when Calgary gets their first no, and I say, you know, go get the case of peanut butter for the Canadians because that’s what they eat. And we started with Canadian tourists. Is that smooth or chunky? Oh, it’s smooth.

Influx Of People Coming In

So you don’t want to screw up if you’re out there and you’re thinking, hey, I need to put that on my menu. Smooth, smooth peanut butter. All right, so that’s your first influx of people coming in. The first massive influx is Calgary gets their first No. And so literally you started adding peanut butter to the menu when? We noticed that we don’t even have to have it in the summer because there are no Canadians in town. We basically just have a look. We start buying the cases of it once we hit a high season.

Okay, so now you have this influx of people coming in and they’re in here during what time to what time? So what’s nice about Palm Springs is we get like two bits of high season. We get October and November, which some of the other desert cities don’t get. And that’s very strong. Our snowbirds stay longer too. Then the real high season that the whole valley gets, it really is a February, March, April, and May. That’s huge. So what do you do? Because here you’re seven days a week, you know, we’ve been in here where there are still people sitting outside having breakfast. Where are you getting these people from?

So in this now the minute the season goes down and the room rates start to go down than everybody in L.A. starts checking price lines, or checking the hotel room rates and checking the weather and the minute you have anything overcast and L.A. and the room rates are like, you know, around 250 or under, then you start getting your influx of L.A. people and that’s a whole different market. A whole different set of people.

Weather has almost nothing to do with it

You were telling us, we were talking a little earlier, that you said you do something kind of unique. I’ve never heard anybody do this to determine hey, when is it a time you’re going to see this influx of people? It’s not always because let’s face it, it was, it was 113 yesterday. It was 114 the day before. It’s going to be a little cooler this weekend. Is that really a determining factor is something totally different way.

Our weather has almost nothing to do with if we’re going to be busier. See? So it and the only time, like if it’s super humid, the La people won’t come out, but the biggest factor with LA people is their weather and so we actually checked the La weather and we check the local room rates and the La people will make that last minute decision based on hey, if it’s overcast and I got the kids are here for the weekend, it’s overcast and I could either go get an Airbnb for nothing, put the kids in the pool or get like three rooms, bring grandma, grandpa, the cousins, and everybody and do and do it on the cheap and it’s, you know, I have to do is take an afternoon Siesta. Yeah, the heat and they start just piling in.

Offseason And Tourism

You’re right. Like last night I was out near the pool. I was watering plants and whatnot and the sun had gone down. It was a very pleasant jump in the pool. You walk around and were like, this is really nice. You were saying something as kids because you’re not from here, are you?

I’m from the Boston area and totally offseason and tourism that I was explaining, I said, you know, if your kids are like 10, 11, 12, they don’t know, it’s 120 degrees by the pool. They’re just happy. Mom and dad brought him out and the younger people I was telling you, coming out of the party, they want the VIP room, you know, and it can only get that in the summer.

I said when I was a kid, we never went to Cape Cod and, and when it was nice we went to Cape Cod in the offseason and my image of Cape Cod on the ocean is in a Parka with mittens on, you know, taking her mittens off and touching the water or trying to play Frisbee with mittens on And I loved it, but I mean it was definitely an offseason rate and we were getting.

There Are Different Crowds

So you see a totally different crowd. You actually, I’m going to say prospect for those people differently. So you said you’re actually checking room rates? Yeah. So just like, I wouldn’t necessarily go to LA and pay for 50 for a hotel room to see my friends, they’re checking the room rate so when it drops it drops down to like certain, you know, you get the high-end hotels for a certain nice rate. That’s when they start really coming in. So we actually will Friday night to see if we’re going to be busy or not. We’ll start checking price line and stuff like that and see what the rates are.

So over the period of time, you said something about hey, you’re not this, this social media guru or butterfly, but in essence, you’re still using that technology, right? I mean you’re checking it online. I mean know. So basically I’m 50, I’ll admit it. Life begins at 50 Debby. Again, my younger crew, I just finally gave up Facebook and had my younger crew running it and I say, Hey if you can get me a date off of it too, I’ll give you an extra 50 bucks. But basically, she knows how to run it. We’ll put Debby’s phone number along with the bottom here in case

The other thing she just told me yesterday, she says, people will check in constantly when they’re he. I said I asked me. It had to ask her, what does that mean? Checking in like do you mean they check in to see what works.

Transcript Part II:

Jeff Harrison [00:01]: Okay, we’re back. You know, we’re just talking about the weather. I tell you that equipment doesn’t like it when we’re in the, in the sun. So now we’ve moved into the shade. So Debby, we were talking about different types of people coming here and you were saying in the, in the summer, it’s a totally different vibe. You’ve got the younger people coming from La. Tell us about that.

Debby Alexander [00:20] :Well, one of the things funding this in, in the high season, we get a lot of Canadians and ac in the country western and we got to let him, mid Westerners, and then in the, in the, like the offseason, almost all these younger people from la all probably went there to be a star, so they’re really good singers, but they were working in computers now or something else, but their talented seriously talented karaoke singers. And so in the summer you actually get some of the most talented people and the weight to these other people don’t even come out. They’ll 10:00 at night and all of a sudden at 10:00 at night you’re like, oh my God.

Jeff Harrison [00:50]: So you get a rush

Debby Alexander [00:52]: You get a rush and you get. Yeah, they don’t. Even the younger crowd doesn’t just, they were late partiers and they also sing so much more rnb and you actually get decent wrap cigarettes. Like people actually can sing rap rather than, you know, think they can rap.

Jeff Harrison [01:07]: So if there’s one thing you would like people to know, the people that maybe they’re going to come and visit, right? Or maybe other restaurant owners who go, Gosh, you know, what she sounds like she’s really got it going on. And she does. What’s one piece of advice you would share with someone?

Jeff Harrison [01:21]: Oh, like a written other restaurant terror. I always say like, one of the things that the biggest mistake and the thing I usually tell a restaurant tourist, it’s this as a seasonal market, right? And it’s a finicky market for the locals. And I say just because you’re having a great high season, you need to put away, like to go into the red. Almost a third of that because it’s gonna all suck back in for the summer and it’s. And you’re going to need that back cushion. I see a lot of people start spending wildly with their money. Like I s, W I make fun of this one place. I used to go to a Japanese place and I would eat there. They’re special at night after work and I saw this couple who had a bar and they were spending like $200 on Sushi every night. And I’m like, that’s your summer money, honey. You guys shouldn’t be doing that. But you can’t tell them.

Jeff Harrison [02:05]: It’s kind of hard to. It’s kind of hard to get that when you’re just, when you’re flush. Right? And people are just coming in and they’re kind of stepping over everybody. So the biggest thing here is say, hey, just like a squirrel budget for that offseason because it’s not like it totally has gone, right? I mean you stay here. This is one of the reasons we do the show Debby, is we want to honor people like you that said, hey, you know, we’re going to, we’re not going to shut down for four months. We’re not going to hibernate. We’re going to make it happen. So that when locals like ourselves can come in, we can still enjoy palm springs in the nightlife or have breakfast in the morning. So we want to thank you for that. If somebody wants to come down, tell us where you’re located in palm springs

Debby Alexander [02:41]: We’re near the corner of Taco and Palm Canyon. So we’re right downtown where caddy quarter for where the big hotel, the rowing. It just got put up and we’re actually in the oldest section of palm springs. We’re in what’s called the la plaza, which is built in 1936.

Jeff Harrison [02:54]: Is it just down the street from where the follies, used to be?

Debby Alexander [02:59]: Actually, that used to be a huge part of our business. They used to be 25 percent of our business. We’ve had to make huge adjustments once the follies went down

Jeff Harrison [03:06]: Maybe I had to buy that and get it going again.

Debby Alexander [03:07]: Well, there’s always a rumor that, that I’m going to buy it, but there’s always room or somebody who’s going to do something with it. So we’d like to see that.

Jeff Harrison [03:14]: We went there several times. I love the follies, but hey, if you’re hungry or you love to sing, even if your rap isn’t as good as Debby says it should be to be here in the summer. Come on down. Give us, give us your address.

Debby Alexander [03:26]: One, three, four South Palm Canyon drive.

Jeff Harrison [03:28]: Debby, thank you so much for doing this. Really appreciate it. Make sure your support. Debby’s business pPeabody’scafe down here in palm springs and others during the summer and then, Oh, before I let you go, you said in the summer. You also get a little different clientele that’s not from the northwest. It’s not from La. Where are they coming?

Debby Alexander [03:46]: So as I was making fun of one of your associates is from Australia. I say the international tourists you get in the high season, are they very polished, very well dressed. People from like Paris or they’re from London and you can tell they’re city slickers and then I say in the offseason you’ll get a whole bunch of British people and you’ll. You’ll rave about London. They’re like, don’t go to London. They’re like from a half an hour, hour, you get the Australian people from the outback, not from Sydney, like you get the people who are probably coming here because they want to do something different, but they want those different rates and so you get a huge amount of tourists, but it’s a different crowd.

Jeff Harrison [04:22]: Now I noticed, I noticed you’ve got several TVs in here and you happen to have on the what.

Debby Alexander [04:29]: We’re big on the World Cup because we open early and the World Cup is early and people for some reason associate us with the World Cup probably because we do tend to get a more international crowd.

Jeff Harrison [04:39]: Well I notice or soccer balls on the floor in there.

Debby Alexander [04:40]: Well my crew is like, it’s so insanely ended. The World Cup. They didn’t understand every nuance. We actually have a board out here and we write down all the different like who’s doing well, who’s not? And some teams weren’t kicked out and I wrote RIP next to them and my crew said, don’t do that. Those people walk in there and it really hate you for that.

Jeff Harrison [05:02]: Well again, hey this gal is. She has such a wealth of knowledge and I can’t thank her enough for, for taking time out of her day to do this. I really appreciate it. Debby, continue success and I hope that while you’re watching this, you’ll come down to Debby by the way, when you come in, check in, but tell Debby what that means. Alright, come on in. We don’t want to hold you up and we’ve got, we’ve got more people flooding in. Thank you so much.

Debby Alexander [05:24]: You’re not going to be on camera just because he walked by.

Jeff Harrison [05:25]: We’ll see you again on reservations. I’m Jeff Harrison. Andrew McCauley behind the counter or behind the camera and we’ll catch you again tomorrow.

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