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Joey’s Pancake House — A surprisingly simple recipe for success (Part two)

By Paul Viau | Apr 20, 2016
Photo by: Paul Viau THE PANCAKE HOUSE THAT JOEY BUILT — To honor Joey and celebrate 50 years in business, Brenda O'Keefe commissioned a book of heartfelt stories from Joey's customers and employees. "The Book of Joe" is available at the restaurant.

For 50 years Joey’s Pancake House has been one of the most successful restaurants (if not the single most successful) in Haywood County. How did Brenda and Joey O’Keefe do it all those years?

For starters, I’ll quote one of my favorite Beatles songs, “All you need is love.”

Yes, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Joey and Brenda O’Keefe loved one another.

You can see it in Brenda’s eyes as they well-up every time she talks about her beloved Joey, who passed away, sadly, in 2001.

And there is no doubt that Brenda and Joey worked well together — from the get-go, they were an incredible team. And their team brought together (in perfect harmony) the two most important positions in any food-related business — the cook and the cashier.

“Joey ruled the kitchen,” said Brenda O’Keefe proudly, and he set the bar very high — with the quality of the ingredients going into every breakfast item, the perfect way it was prepared and the way the plate looked before it left “His kitchen.”

And to this day, Joey’s still uses the finest and freshest foods, even when market prices soar. After all, the food from the kitchen is the soul of any restaurant; just as the customers (and how they are served) are the heart of that restaurant’s success.

Brenda has always overseen the customer service of Joey’s, and still considers herself, “The customers’ advocate.” I saw this first hand, when I sat down with Brenda to talk about Joey’s milestone of 50 seasons.

While we were reminiscing, Brenda noticed a single customer who had been waiting a bit too long, as far as she was concerned. She politely excused herself, greeted the gentleman, then personally apologized for the wait, making sure he was promptly served.

In the early years at Joey’s, Brenda had the dual-role of overseeing the many servers and (most importantly) sitting down behind the cash register as customers paid for their meals.

“The cashier is the last contact with the customer,” said Brenda. “This is your chance to find out if anything about their Joey’s experience was less than perfect.”

These days, with 47 employees — most of them on the floor serving customers — maintaining Joey’s high level of customer service is a challenge, but Brenda is firm in her approach, proud of her accomplishments and famous for her big heart.

“I have always set the standard for our employees,” said O’Keefe, “And I want them to make a decent living.” Moreover, “I want Joey’s to be a benefit to the people and the community.”

And what a benefit Joey’s has provided over the years. Countless young men and women have made Joey’s their very first job; the job that brought them back summer after summer, through high-school, college and graduate school; the job that got them through tough times throughout their careers; the job they needed after retirement to help make ends meet; the job that provided fellowship in their later years; and many times the job that gave them hope when no one else would hire them.

Joey’s Pancake House has always been a community affair, and the employees like part of the family.

Did you know? Every day before work, Joey’s employees sit down together and enjoy breakfast together — “as a family.” Brenda O’Keefe has been like a mother to all of them, taking the place of the children she and Joey never had.

To quote one of Joey’s early employees, “Brenda was firm but fair.”

Another employee said, “Being part of the Joey’s family is an honor I cherish.”

These and many other comments can be found in the paperback Brenda and friends compiled, called, “The Book of Joe.”

It is good and heartwarming read — filled with comments and stories from both employees and customers celebrating 50 years of experiences at Joey’s Pancake House — and now available (you guessed it) at Joey’s Pancake House.

Brenda O’Keefe wrote the heartfelt forward to “The Book of Joe” that pretty much says it all:

“The Book of Joe” is dedicated to Joey, a giant of a man.

Joey always put others first while still living the best life.

It is a celebration of 50 years of loving family, nurturing friends and loyal customers who have made it all possible.

I am forever grateful to you.

With love,

— Brenda

Brenda O’Keefe — It is for you and Joey that all of us in Haywood County are so grateful.

You have shown us that business thrives with loyalty and dedication, and gives back to everyone in the community when you add the loving ingredients of heart and soul.

This summer, give yourself a treat and visit Joey’s Pancake House at 4309 Soco Road in Maggie Valley. Joey’s is open daily (except Thursdays) from 7 a.m. to noon. For more information, call 828-926-0212 or visit www.joeyspancake.com.