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The local restaurant's general manager began as a host and worked her way up the ranks

HOLLY SCHOLZ/CENTRAL OREGONIAN
 - Dillon's Grill General Manager Erin Keaffaber, left, and owner Jim Roths want their guests to have a good time when they come in for a meal.

Dillon's Grill General Manager Erin Keaffaber knows how to have fun.

So much fun, in fact, that restaurant owner Jim Roths has added "fun" to their business philosophy.

"I've been in this business a long time. My focus has been QSCVC — quality, service, cleanliness, value and consistency," Roths says. "If we're not having fun as a restaurant, and if our staff is not having fun, customers aren't going to have fun."

Roths says Keaffaber is a great example of someone moving up the ranks and doing a great job, all the while having fun.

"The game changer in all of this is really people — finding people to be partnered with that understand the philosophy, that understand guests, and can actually live that out," Roths says.

And Keaffaber fits the bill.

She grew up in Indiana, where she had worked in restaurants since she was 16. She followed her brother out West to Oregon.

When Keaffaber came on board in 2009, shortly after Roths and his wife bought Dillon's Grill, she was 20 years old and couldn't even tend bar because she was underage.

She landed a job as a host at the three-year-old restaurant that serves lunch and dinner daily.

"I went from host to serving and then once I turned 21, I learned to bartend, and shortly after that got front-of-the house management. A couple years after that, worked into general management," Keaffaber says, adding that she moved up the ranks by applying herself and working hard.

"When it came to a point of needing to appoint someone to manage here, this was a person that got QSCVC," Roths says of Keaffaber.

"Jim put a lot of faith in me," she laughs. "That was a risk for him."

As general manager, she is in charge of a staff of 25, scheduling, hiring, taking care of staff issues, scheduling events with other businesses, fundraisers, overseeing the managers, making sure the restaurant is getting cleaned weekly, and overseeing a lot of the aspects of the business.

"Erin is my eyes and ears on the ground," Roths said, adding that she carries out the QSCVC + fun philosophy. "She's the overseer and becomes my eyes in looking at those things because those are things you have to look at daily, shiftly."

He has enjoyed being Keaffaber's mentor over the years, and she says she's fortunate to have such a mentor.

Roths says she has the drive, enthusiasm and skillset for her position and has learned on the job with real-life examples — and she has fun doing it.

"I've got years of experience," Roths said. "How exciting is it to have somebody that you can pour that into and who receives it and goes, 'Thank you. Thank you.'"

And Keaffaber says she's gotten quite a good education at "the University of Dillon's."

She loves Prineville.

"It's a hidden treasure," she says. "We're involved in a lot of fundraisers, and seeing how the community reacts to that, I feel you don't get that in a lot of places, and it's huge."

One such fundraiser was for the Kiwanis Splash Park this summer. Dillon's Grill and Club Pioneer, which Roths also owns, donated $9,240 to the project. They hosted special events at the restaurants and spread awareness.

"We're always looking for what we can do to support the community because being a business in the community, I think there's a responsibility to reach back," Roths says. "For Dillon's, we want to do stuff that really focuses on kids. Kids are important to us. Kids and firefighters are the two things that are in our heart."

They look for opportunities to support organizations that involve the schools, dance clubs, sports teams and theater.

And Keaffaber has spearheaded all of those fundraisers.

Ever eager to grow, she's still learning on the job.

"There's so many different aspects to keep learning with the business. I've got to learn a lot about dealing with the customers and the staff. Now, I'm getting more interested in seeing books and numbers — the behind the scenes stuff — because that provides an extra drive when you're seeing numbers," she says. "That's what I look forward to in the future — still growing. Never be stagnant."

Roths is pleased with his energetic understudy and points out that running a restaurant is really about people.

"That's what makes the business — people coming in, people working," Keaffaber says.

"And we hope they're having fun," Roths adds.

Dillon's Grill

Address: 142 NE Fifth St., Prineville

Phone: 541-447-3203

Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday

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