For The Madera Tribune
Kelly Molina, co-owner of Perko’s Restaurant in Madera, shows off a plaque she was awarded for reaching certain restaurant-operation goals. She and her husband, Mike, have owned the restaurant for 11 years; she has worked there a total of 26 years.
Long-time Perko’s Cafe owner Kelly Molina was honored for her hard work and dedication to her restaurant with a pair of awards at a recent company meeting.
Molina and Perko’s received a sales grown award for sales over goals every month this year.
“And probably for the past couple of years,” Molina said.
She was also named a Heritage Hero, one owner from each of the restaurant chains Heritage owns.
“They picked one from each brand — Cool Hand Luke’s, Perko’s and Huckleberry’s,” Molina said. “ They picked me from all the Perko’s for all around — the restaurant, the business, the staff, food and everything. It was a really cool acknowledgment before. I’ve never had that before. It was a really big honor. I was shocked. I had no idea.”
Molina said that the sales growth award is a testament to her employees and the good service they provide.
“You can overcome almost anything with good service,” she said. “Our food is really, really good. I feel it’s been better the past couple of years. The new owners came in and made a few changes for us and do things a certain way. Just by being compliant with that, I feel like everything has been so much better. They know their stuff. Just changing some products and getting some consistency, our hamburgers are better, our chile verde products have everybody coming back, just stuff like that. It really has helped and I’ve seen a huge difference.”
Molina started working at Perko’s as a shy 15-year-old hostess in 1992. She was forced to become a waitress by the owner and has been doing it ever since.
“I did not want to,” she said. “I cried. I was scared to death. I became a waitress and never looked back. I worked here for 11 years before I owned it. I met (husband) Mike here. He was a dishwasher and I was a waitress.”
Both Mike and Kelly are the owners of Perko’s. Mike handles the behind-the-scenes work while Kelly runs the front of the house, including continuing to wait on tables.
“He’s in the back of the house dealing with the bills and this and that,” Kelly said. “A lot of people only see me in here. My husband does a lot. He does the stuff to make this building go. He does the bills and the scheduling and other stuff. I don’t want to take all the credit.”
They have owned Perko’s for almost 16 years. Kelly credits her customers for Perko’s success. Not just her customers, but regular customers that are still eating at Perko’s since she began waitressing.
“I still have people coming here when I first started working here,” Kelly said. “Some come everyday. I love it and that’s why I keep waitressing. I don’t have to, but I love it. I love being out here with the people. I still work just as hard as I started here. I think it reflects on the crew. If they see the boss working hard, they feel better, too. They have to or they don’t last here too long. That reflects on the business. People are going to get their food faster and see a friendlier person. It’s a trickle-down effect.”
Kelly said that her employees are the reason for the awards. She tries to set the working example and some employees have been with her for 15-20 years.
“I’m not that kind of boss to tell people to do this or that,” she said. “If I’m working hard, I expect them to work hard. That’s how it should be, anyway. I give respect and expect respect. It does make me proud. If we’re keeping our sales, if not more every single year, it means they are doing their job. Starting with little things and moving up keeps us going.”
Molina received plaques for her awards at a convention of Heritage owners earlier in October. She said she gets bragging rights for the Heritage award and the sales growth award encourages her and her employees to work even harder to get the award again.
“The sales gives us motivation to keep going to beat our sales from the year before, which in turn makes the business better, which makes the restaurant better and the customers love it better,” she said. “It makes everything run better.
“ I love it here. I really do. This was my first job and I’ve been here for 26 years.”