Visiting Bon Appétit today, it’s pretty easy to see why the restaurant is packed with guests every weekend enjoying the restaurant’s stunning waterfront views. But waterfront views alone won’t keep you in business for 40 years, so I sat down with both Peter Kreuziger and Karl Riedl to get the inside scoop on their entrepreneurial journey…

Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start…

Born in Austria, Peter Kreuziger recalls his parents taking him to Salzburg’s finest restaurants and as young as 5 years old, being fascinated by the operation, details and service of these impressive establishments. After completing his studies at the Benedictine Abbey at Melk, Peter knew his passion was for the hotel industry, which automatically meant he needed to understand the restaurant industry as well (at the time, most restaurants in Europe were connected to hotels). He began his 3 year Hotel and Restaurant apprenticeship at the 5 star Park Mirabell Hotel in Salzburg, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Benedictine Abbey in Melk

Photo via Wikipedia: Benedictine Abbey in Melk

Fun Fact: Peter met the cast and crew of the Sound of Music while they were filming in Austria. It was the crew members Peter met during their time at the hotel that prompted him to head to New York City after his apprenticeship. So long, farewell, Auf wiedersehen, Good-bye Austria.

For co-founder Karl Riedl, inspiration to become a chef struck at the age of 12, after attending a school career day. Just as Peter had done in Austria, upon completion of his schooling, he began a 3 year apprenticeship in Berlin. With his apprenticeship complete, he focused on obtaining positions in the best restaurants in Germany to continue to learn as much as possible while building his resume. By the time Karl was 19, he already had plenty of years of experience, however, for European restaurants it wasn’t enough. Karl’s ambition would not allow him to wait another 20 years to be promoted to executive chef, so he set his sights elsewhere.

Fun Fact: At the young age of 13 ½, Karl was able to secure an apprenticeship through a family-friend! He worked 60 hours, 7 days a week while he was still in school but he didn’t complain. He was grateful someone took him in to teach him the trade.

America, Land of Opportunity…

By the mid-1960s both Peter and Karl had left Europe. Peter headed for New York City and found a position in the city’s popular German Restaurant, Luchows, where as a server, he developed a loyal following. Advised by some of his regular patrons, he applied and was accepted to Cornell University’s Hospitality school. After graduation, he received 26 jobs offers from all over North America and Asia! Peter decided to stay in America and took a position with Hotel Corp of America, which ran and operated a number of luxury hotels in the United States and Caribbean.

Fun Fact: Luchows, was founded by August Guido Luchow in 1882. For a century, Luchow’s was New York’s go-to German restaurant. Located in the East Village of Manhattan, the original building was demolished in the 1990’s. Today the site is home to NYU’s University Hall.

In 1965, Karl reached out to a job recruiter who helped him line up a position with the same company Peter worked for, Hotel Corp of America. Peter was responsible for handling the immigration papers for Karl and another German Cook, and the two started working together in New Orleans at the Le Pavillon.

Le Pavillon Hotel in New Orleans

Photo via Le Pavillon Hotel in New Orleans

Fun Fact: Le Pavillon, built in 1907, was originally known as New Denechaud Hotel. After several owners, the hotel was renamed to Le Pavillon as a tribute to New Orleans’ french roots. Today, the hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is said to even be home to a ghost or two.

After hitting it off as co-workers, Peter was offered the opportunity to be the Senior Vice President at Innisbrook Golf Resort (just 8 miles North of Dunedin), a few years later Innisbrook need an executive chef and Peter knew just who to call, Karl.

The Making of Bon Appétit Restaurant…

By the mid-1970s, Peter and Karl knew it was time to leave Innisbrook. They decided to take their destiny into their own hands by stepping into the roles of entrepreneurs and opening their own restaurant.

Bon Appetit Old Sign

Having never been to Dunedin before, Peter and Karl took a drive to what is now known as Bon Appétit Restaurant. Let’s just say it was not love at first sight, the restaurant needed a lot of work. “Everything needed to be cleaned. Money was tight, so cosmetically we painted and replaced the carpet”, remembers Karl. The pair knew then that the waterfront location was a plus, but seeing as Main Street diverts left before heading down to the Marina and Restaurant, there was some cause for concern. How would they attract customers?

Fun Fact: Back in 1976, Downtown Dunedin was nothing like what it is today. Hard to image now, but there were empty storefronts and no other restaurants until countryside! And 580 was just a two lane road.

Since the business partners had both built their careers working in 5 star kitchens and resorts, they were ready to make Bon Appétit the best restaurant in their market area. Over the first couple of years, local business really buzzed and Bon Appétit quickly achieved this goal, earning the 4 Star Mobil Rating as Florida’s Best Restaurant on the West Coast for 10 consecutive years in a row (Meaning…”An Outstanding establishment in a distinctive setting with expanded amenities and exceptional service to create a luxury experience”. Today, the Mobil Travel Rating is known as the Forbes Travel Guide).

As Bon Appétit continued to grow, giving back to the community became a priority as well. From providing holiday meals to Meals on Wheels to countless other contributions over the years, giving back became part of the culture, “The Community is our guests, they support us, so it’s only fair we are active and give back,” shares Peter.

Not just surviving but thriving through the years…

With years of experience, Peter and Karl both possessed the skills needed to run a successful restaurant, but it takes more than skill to keep the momentum going for 4 decades! If you asked both of them what they say the number one reason their business has been successful for 40 years, it is “Because we love what we do!”

Peter_Karl_beginning

Peter Kreuziger (Left) and Karl Riedl (Right)

That’s not all they have to say…

“We’re professionals. We know what we’re doing. And after 40 years, we’re still aware of what’s going on in the business. We spend time making sure things are in place for success.” Says Karl, “You know, the deal to come to America included a one-way ticket, failure was not an option, and it was never in my vocabulary.”

“It is still fun, we still enjoy coming to work. We always put our best foot forward. We pay attention to the details; being sensitive to the temperature, the noise level, ambiance and lighting. To this day, we are constantly changing and adjusting. We try to stay flexible because the most important thing is to make sure people are having a good time and are taken care of,” adds Peter.

With passionate owners, an unbeatable waterfront location all within walking distance to the main hub of downtown Dunedin, there’s no question the future is bright for Dunedin’s longest running restaurant. Peter and Karl are proof that with hard work and dedication, success is within reach and that the American Dream is still very much alive.

Exterior Restaurant Shot