Eric Morcus has spent nearly twenty years in corporate sales and marketing and in recent years “came home” to the family business to help run the Kaiser group of fine dining restaurants. He’s received the Palm Springs Desert Resorts Convention and Visitors Authority “Partners in Progress” and “Restaurateur of the Year” awards. He was President of the Palm Springs Restaurant Association and serves on the board of the Palm Springs Hospitality Association. He lives with his family in La Quinta.
Eric, we met through our mutual involvement with the Palm Springs Hospitality Association–and our mutual friendship with our buddy, Ray Lovato. I love your restaurants and am looking forward to learning more about you, your family and The Kaiser Group! I know restaurant group was originally started by your father. Is it true he started the first restaurant because he was bored with golf and craving a decent restaurant meal?
Eric Morcus: Yes, my father retired out here in the late 80s, after having many years of success in the resort business in Vail, Colorado. If memory serves me correctly, he opened one of the first restaurants here in the valley with an exhibition kitchen when he opened up the first Kaiser Grille in 1992. Previously, he developed resort hotels and owned grocery stores in Colorado. He had a home out here for many years and decided this would be the place to retire. He retired for just a short time before he was back in business!
That’s a great story! And Eric, you left a successful career in corporate sales and marketing, the “rat race” as you call it, to come home to Palm Springs to help with the family business. Can you tell us a little more about that decision?
It’s actually quite simple. At the time, I was at the top of my career. I was the number one sales manager in the company. I had made it to the top and was on cruise control. The timing was right and I had many options to choose from. My family has always come first and still does today. I decided to leave the hectic travel schedule and settle down to more of a “normal” routine where I could spend quality time at home during the week with my wife and two little ones. Also, they needed to get to know their grandparents. It was a win-win situation. I am very grateful for the experiences in my previous careers, as I use them as a foundation for what I do now.
A family business is certainly a different dynamic than a huge corporate undertaking. Our company is family owned and operated as well (PalmSprings.com is owned by brothers Michael and David Castello), so I know how different the cultures can be. How was that transition for you?
All the while I worked for corporate America, I spent traveling. I was gone literally every week, Monday through Friday. I was used to working hard during the week. My weekends were saved for the much needed R &R. However, once I began working evenings in the restaurant business, especially until the wee hours of the morning and weekends, it took some time to adjust not only to the hours, but to the staff and customer’s needs and wants as well. In the corporate world, I never felt I could call the CEO and say, “I have an idea that I think is worth pursuing.”
Eric, you’ve stated that “sales is basically just giving people what they want.” And your restaurant philosophy reflects that. What can people expect when they walk into a Kaiser Group restaurant?
Our philosophy is that we will not serve anything that we will not eat ourselves. There are no doubt a lot of fine restaurants in the valley, but we like to feel that our guests will get a memorable experience in all our restaurants. We have been offering hormone-free and antibiotic-free beef, poultry and meats for years, and make house-made dressings and sauces because we want to provide the freshest, best-tasting food that money can buy. We feel our guests appreciate this and want something that they cannot buy at the store and reheat!
You’re also very involved in the broader business community and serve on a number of boards and associations. I know it’s important to you to make a difference–to help other businesses by sharing ideas. What’s the most important thing you feel that a Palm Springs area business can do for its customers?
I feel a Palm Springs business should make each and every guest feel valued and important. Otherwise, why would a person wish to return to that place of business? We are in the hospitality/tourism business and that means to provide a level of service that exceeds expectations. I also believe that every business has a responsibility to get involved with the community and make a difference in the community. We owe it to this great community to give back with our time, money and resources.
You’re also involved with Palm Springs Restaurant Week. I understand nearly 100 Greater Palm Springs area restaurants are participating this year! Please tell us a little more about Restaurant Week and its importance to the Valley.
The goal of restaurant week is to help foster business to the valley in a traditionally slow period of time. This is done by providing value to the diners in the way of a valley wide event where diners can get three course dinners at incredible price points of either $26 or $38 per person. This represents a value of 20-30% off regular menu pricing. I know a lot of diners that go out most every night during this time because of the numerous choices they have and at an affordable value. We have partnered up with hotels and attractions in recent years to earn the tagline of “Eat, See and Stay.” We value the local businesses and hope that everyone gets a benefit from our efforts. The importance to the valley is providing one other event to this great community to attract consumer spending here.
Eric, do you have a favorite restaurant among the Kaiser Group, or is that like asking you to pick a favorite child?
That is exactly right! I have to admit, I love a good burger and beer at Grind! Although, when the mood hits, I love our bone-in Ribeye at the Chop House in Palm Springs. The good news is, I usually can find something for the mood I am in at one of our restaurants.
When you’re not busy transforming the dining experiences of Greater Palm Springs, what do you and your family enjoy doing in your spare time?
Of course spending quality time with my family is the number one priority. I love a good workout and love to run the Bump and Grind trail. We always enjoy traveling, especially in the summer!
Eric Morcus, what is it that you love most about Palm Springs?
What I love most about Palm Springs are the friendships and alliances I have made with fellow businesses, restaurateurs, hotelier and our guests that visit our restaurants. The beautiful setting and weather is a given, but the people have made me truly appreciate that Palm Springs is not just a place, but a feeling that you get when you know you are part of something really special and bigger than you.
Beautifully said, Eric. Thanks so much for sharing your story with us today. Looking forward to seeing you at a Kaiser group restaurant very soon!
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