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Old 03-15-2009, 03:35 PM
 
21,917 posts, read 32,091,453 times
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I'm a late 40-something gay WM apparently having my mid-life crisis and considering a move to Iowa City from my very urban, very different existence on the East Coast. I'm a Retail Store Manager (have been for several years) and the prior 15 years a Waiter/Bartender and Restaurant Manager.

Everything I've heard about Iowa City is pretty much what I'm after...a somewhat cosmopolitan/laidback/relatively inexpensive college town. I've heard how it's colder, quieter (yippee) and relatively isolated in terms of proximity to major cities. I have two concerns that are unanswerable thus far through research.

First is whether or not I'll be able to find a job there. With the state of the current economy aside, what are the job prospects for someone looking for a
job as a waiter/bartender with years of fine dining experience?

Secondly, I'm entertaining the thought of opening a small business (food oriented) once established and wonder what is the current state of the gourmet food-to-go scene in town.

Thanks...I know it's a lot to process but would appreciate any firsthand feedback.
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Old 03-15-2009, 08:34 PM
 
Location: Coralville/Ames, IA
267 posts, read 1,122,786 times
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What you've heard about Iowa City seems pretty accurate and I think you would like it here. You'll have to come visit!

My search through the local newspaper classifieds was unsuccessful - the most "fine dining" thing on there was a manager at Olive Garden. But there are some nice fine dining establishments around. Unfortunately, I have no idea whether they are hiring or not. Something you might want to look into is this: ChefsTable Blog (http://chefstable.typepad.com/ - broken link) That is the website for a new French restaurant opening downtown called The Chef's Table. I am sure that he will need waiters, kitchen staff, etc. and it looks like it will probably be opening this summer? You can probably contact the owner through that blog if you are interested. Every time I go to restaurants in Iowa City, they seem pretty full, and we really haven't been hit very hard with the recession, so I'd guess that the restaurant industry here is doing well.

If I am understanding what a gourmet food-to-go place would be, (I'm thinking pre-prepared gourmet food that you take home and cook? Or are you basically talking about gourmet take-out?) I can't really think of anyone doing that off the top of my head. (I could be forgetting something, so hopefully someone else can back me up on this.) There is a small grocery store downtown that offers food to go that is more upscale than the average supermarket salad bar, but I don't think it could be considered gourmet by any means. I think you'd have your own niche.

I hope this helped (if even a little!)
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Old 03-16-2009, 05:58 AM
 
21,917 posts, read 32,091,453 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iowegian View Post
What you've heard about Iowa City seems pretty accurate and I think you would like it here. You'll have to come visit!

My search through the local newspaper classifieds was unsuccessful - the most "fine dining" thing on there was a manager at Olive Garden. But there are some nice fine dining establishments around. Unfortunately, I have no idea whether they are hiring or not. Something you might want to look into is this: ChefsTable Blog (http://chefstable.typepad.com/ - broken link) That is the website for a new French restaurant opening downtown called The Chef's Table. I am sure that he will need waiters, kitchen staff, etc. and it looks like it will probably be opening this summer? You can probably contact the owner through that blog if you are interested. Every time I go to restaurants in Iowa City, they seem pretty full, and we really haven't been hit very hard with the recession, so I'd guess that the restaurant industry here is doing well.

If I am understanding what a gourmet food-to-go place would be, (I'm thinking pre-prepared gourmet food that you take home and cook? Or are you basically talking about gourmet take-out?) I can't really think of anyone doing that off the top of my head. (I could be forgetting something, so hopefully someone else can back me up on this.) There is a small grocery store downtown that offers food to go that is more upscale than the average supermarket salad bar, but I don't think it could be considered gourmet by any means. I think you'd have your own niche.

I hope this helped (if even a little!)
Thanks for the reply! It's good to hear the recession hasn't hit there as hard as elsewhere, which I guess is in theory one of the many perks of a college town...recession-proof. In terms of my start-up, I'm talking about prepared gourmet food to take out, some locally produced food items, as well as a small number of gourmet items usually not available in the typical grocery store. In terms of work, I can work in any form of restaurant/bar...but would of course opt for a higher traffic establishment which usually equals better revenue. So I'm guessing a mid-scale place (nice brew pub, etc) would best fit that there...??
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Old 03-16-2009, 09:38 AM
 
Location: Coralville/Ames, IA
267 posts, read 1,122,786 times
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I can see that working out pretty well, but you'll definitely want to scope out what's here before making any decisions. I think there is a decent market for higher-end foods here considering the size of the town. (And people love locally-grown foods here, the local organic co-op is always packed.)

Well, I can't seem to find much of anything in terms of jobs, here's Craigslist but there isn't too much there:
iowa city food/beverage/hospitality jobs classifieds - craigslist

I actually don't think that most of the restaurants downtown would advertise jobs on a job site, and you might have the best luck calling around. I just went to Google Maps for a list of restaurants (which I recommend, you'll get a pretty good idea of what is out there) and here are some of the restaurants that I think fit what you are asking for:
Sanctuary Restaurant & Pub (never been there, but I've heard about it and I think it would fit the definition of "mid-scale brew pub" very well)
The Mill (bar/concert venue, always seems busy)
Atlas World Grill (my favorite downtown IC restaurant, excellent food and wine selection, also busy)
Linn Street Café (usually looks pretty full for dinner, one of IC's more upscale restaurants, higher prices lead to higher tips? )
Blackstone (never been here either, but I've heard a lot about it, also somewhat more expensive)

The busiest places in this town are going to be the student-oriented bars like the Sports Column, so if you just want a bartending job, there are tons of bars to work at. (I'm not familiar with them though, I'm not 21...) Again, I think you'd just have to look them up on Google and call them. Or if you are planning on visiting, applying in person would be even better.
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Old 03-16-2009, 10:19 AM
 
Location: Chariton, Iowa
681 posts, read 2,807,698 times
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I definitely think you could make your restaurant idea work. I mean with New Pi and the number of small organic farms around--the supply chain is there. And being Iowa City, the demand is there.

The only thing I would caution you is to look around town carefully and make sure you find the right niche for your restaurant. Being a poor college student, I'm not really up on the fine dining scene--so I couldn't tell you if it's been done already. But I do know that IC has a lot of restaurants.

As for job prospects, I would say they're probably pretty good for that field. There are a lot of bars in town and Iowegian is right--most advertise with just a sign in the window and maybe an ad in the paper.

I would look at the restaurant/bars first (Atlas, Formosa, Sanctuary, Blackstone, etc.) long before I'd look at the real trashy student bars. It seems they hire bartenders and waiters based on a lot of things, but experience last. Plus, you'd no doubt make part-time student wages.

If you want my advice, if the restaurant idea doesn't work out, what the IC market really seems to be clamoring for is a second gay bar.
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Old 03-16-2009, 10:32 AM
 
Location: Ames, IA
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I was a student there, and while your description of Iowa City is spot on I would hardly call it a "quiet" if you're talking about downtown. It has one of the most active bar scenes for any college towns, and thousands of students are running around the downtown making noise, generally Friday and Saturday but also Thursdays sometimes.

The job prospects for a retail/bartender/waiter job are AMAZING, because there are a ton of bars, a large number of restauraunts scatered around, and around Coralville (a short drive) a plethora of retail establishments. Your best bet would be to come in the summer time when it's quieter, but most of the students have left their jobs, this is the time when the businesses are looking for someone to fill the lost students and they can be trained for when the fall semester hits and things get busy.

As for a fine dining take out, that's a good question. There are a large number of students from rich Illinois suburbs who may be open to it, and there are some wealthy alumnus in the area... Sororities and Fraternities may be interested as well.
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Old 03-17-2009, 04:46 AM
 
21,917 posts, read 32,091,453 times
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Thanks everyone for your responses. I've learned quite a bit from them. I plan to make a trip out there in the summer to scope everything out.
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Old 05-11-2009, 04:11 PM
 
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Hey Kyle. I'm a fellow east coaster -- from Connecticut -- who has lived in Iowa City for nearly 10 years and made a living as in the service industry while completing graduate degrees. I'm also rather enmeshed in the gay community here, although I'm female and not gay -- I just know who the cool people are! So, if you want more information, I'd be happy to correspond with you directly. I think I've got a really good idea of what Iowa City has to offer, especially in comparison with the east coast. (Where out east are you, exactly?)
Let me know if you want to touch base. I'll be here all summer.
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