Restaurants come and go. Food trends transform. You might say the only thing permanent in the restaurant industry is change.
Surviving more than 20 years is impressive. Few local restaurants can match Five Crowns’ record of 55+ years, but we do have several that have been around for many decades.
One of those is Cappy’s Café on Coast Highway, a longtime local landmark that’s been serving bountiful breakfasts and luscious lunches for 40 years.
Owners Sheryl and Tim Campbell officially commemorated Cappy’s 40th year of serving the community with a ribbon-cutting event in October attended by Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley, and a special anniversary menu featuring 40-cent items.
Sheryl and Tim know their restaurant is essentially a time machine for so many fans, who bring their kids and grandkids to Cappy’s to keep the dining legacy alive.
According to Tim, he and his wife purchased Cappy’s four years ago after spending time in Hawaii running a wholesale seafood distributor business as well as a seafood restaurant. Tim also has 30 years of experience in the commercial real estate industry.
Tim and Sheryl decided to move back to the mainland and settled in Corona del Mar. “At that time I really had the restaurant love,” said Tim. “I was more the CEO, which taught me a lot. I told my wife I really love this business and want to buy a restaurant, but I have a number of criteria.”
Among the criteria: close to where they lived, something preferably on Coast Highway, something that was profitable and not a turnaround restaurant.
“I wanted something that has a great reputation, and I wanted stability of the staff,” stated Tim. “I wanted to know that the back of house and front of house staff has been there for a long period of time. I also wanted a long-term lease, and I wanted a lot of parking. I knew that if there is no parking, people will leave.”
He talked with brokers who showed him some restaurant options but nothing Tim found suitable until one broker said he had a potential spot not on the market but would talk to the owner and see if he was interested in selling.
That owner was David Dukes. The restaurant was Cappy’s.
“He said he was interested but wanted to meet me to make sure I had experience in what I was doing, and had the vision he had as far as taking Cappy’s to the next level,” recalled Tim. “I met with him, struck a deal, and closed in four months. It was the best thing we ever did.”
Once Tim and Sheryl owned the restaurant they had it repainted, and they refreshed the menu, which Tim said was tired—not the food necessarily, but the menu itself needed updating. They took photos of the popular menu items and added them to the menu. They did swap out some slow selling dishes for new ones, but Tim knew there were many items that could never leave the menu.
According to Tim, they wanted to see how they could enhance the experience.
“It’s the things you don’t see,” said Tim. “On the weekends the restaurant was so loud we could not even talk. I knew we could bring in soundproofing and reduce the sound, and that’s exactly what we did. The uniforms are important. It’s a fresh look. I like nametags, and the staff is friendly. It’s the culture.”
Tim estimates that Cappy’s serves around 120,000 customers every year, many of whom are frequent longtime patrons who bring their daughters or grandson in to get a taste of the Cappy’s food, and ambiance.
“Our executive chef has been here 25 years, the busboy has been here 22 years, one server, Lindsay, has been here 12 years,” noted Tim. “A lot of people have been here a long time. Having that stability, the food is consistent.”
Cappy’s is open daily from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tim tried creating a weekend dinner menu but found that his customers preferred dining in the daytime, so evening service went away.
“At the end of the day, people know us for breakfast and lunch, not dinner,” said Tim. “Weekends we are full. Weekends are wild and crazy here.”
Tim also listens to his customers. One longtime diner told him that he loved cinnamon swirl French toast and has seen it at other restaurants.
“I added it to our menu, and now it’s out best seller,” said Tim.
That may be, but I loved my Veggie Skillet with scrambled eggs, avocado, broccoli, bell peppers, mushrooms and cheddar cheese served atop seasoned potatoes. It’s a wonderfully hearty dish that I’d make my go-to breakfast every time, except there are so many other wonderful dishes still to try.
For more information, visit https://www.cappyscafe.com.