Some people have the magic touch of hospitality. Dave Query, mastermind of the Big Red F restaurant group, is one of them. With ten restaurants currently open, five of them various locations of Jax Fish House, Query keeps busy and has an insatiable appetite for creating the next great thing, while maintaining the highest standards for his existing businesses and creating an environment in which his staff thrives. Eater asked Query about his beginnings in the service industry, how he created and expanded the now two decades old Jax, and more.
What was your first job in the service industry? Old story. First job was at Mustard's Last Stand in Boulder. Best Chicago dog anywhere outside of the 312.
How did your career in restaurants evolve since then? I started working in restaurants after Mustard's and was hooked. I loved the pace, loved the vibe, loved the ability to create, if only momentarily, real joy and delight within people I'd never met before.
When did you know restaurants were going to consume the rest of your career? Shit. Is that for real? Do you think that will happen? Not sure I wanna keep doing this if that's gonna happen. Couldn't imagine a bigger headache. Restaurants. As a career? No way.
How was Jax born? Jax was the desire to bring great fresh fish to Boulder. And then to Denver. We were the only place to get a good, trusted plate of oysters for a very long time in Boulder and Denver beginning in 1994.
Why did you choose that location? The Boulder Jax opened 5 months after we had just opened ZoLo. The space became available and we grabbed it. Long, narrow, shotgun style building. It was screaming "Jax, come take me!"
How did it evolve over the years? Jax Boulder has tried its hardest to serve outstanding food with rare and exceptionally service, for 20 years. The "evolution" came in us honoring all of our guests over the last two decades, not trailing down the "fad and hip" trappings. And now all of our long-standing guests are just like family. They have been with us for a long time. Thirty something young and footloose customers 20 years ago are now having their kids who are home from college drive them home from dinner.
What drove you to want to expand Jax out of state? We love creating, opening, and running Jax. We have reached a saturation along the Front Range and now it's time to spread out the stores for a while and cook for some different folks.
What is your favorite restaurant in Boulder? Amu next to Sushi Zanmai. They are working as hard as they always have for over 30 years, like something might happen tomorrow and so they need to be world famous today.
Explain the Big Red F name and the F sign one can see in your restaurants. Big Red F means absolutely nothing other than it was way more appropriate and not as offensive as some of the other choices we had.
Why do you think people work for you for such lengthy periods of time in an industry where high turnover is the norm? Because we try and treat our staff like we treat our customers.
How was it to open Jax in Kansas City? Huge, huge learning lesson. Great staff there. Tons of great restaurant folks in KC. Getting product is a little hard there, but Paul Packer from NE Seafood has stepped up big time and creating some great solutions for us.
What's next for you? What should we expect to see from the Big Red F this year? Working on some chicken joints born from the Post Brewing Company. Looking at a few towns in the Southeast for some more Jax locations. Busy year ahead. YAHTZEE!