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slides: Mother’s Schroeder Shares 15 Lessons From 15 Years in Business

Tuesday, March 03, 2015


Lisa Schroeder

Chef Lisa Schroeder gave birth to Mother’s Bistro & Bar fifteen years ago.

So how does a restaurant like Mother’s not only survive, but thrive after fifteen years in a location where few businesses had managed to stay open let alone succeed?  And how did Mother’s grow from a 90-seat corner spot into a 130-seat dining and drinking destination that consistently draws a full house?

Chef Lisa will tell you it is hard work. A lot of hard work. And just as you would expect a mother to do in her kitchen, Schroeder has her eyes on everything and knows exactly what’s going on in her domain. “I do what’s needed at any given moment, whether it’s calling tickets, chopping vegetables, typing a menu, doing dishes, taking orders or answering the phone,” says Schroeder. 

See Slides Below: Mother’s Schroeder Shares 15 Lessons From 15 Years in Business

The motherly attitude Schroeder shows guests extends to her employees and the community at large. She’s an active supporter of local businesses, important causes and many non-profits. Schroeder has chaired the Portland Downtown Retail Council, the Our House Dinner series, was on the board of the Oregon Restaurant Association and has steered fundraising for Bradley Angle House, Raphael House, Basic Rights Oregon and Sparks of Hope. She offered health care to her employees from the day she opened and donates her knowledge and time to teach and inspire colleagues, peers and young entrepreneurs. Schroeder is a sought-after speaker at industry and public events big and small where she strives to inspire and ignite a pursuit of passion.
In the following slide show Chef Schroeder shares 15 lessons she has learned over her fifteen years as a working chef and business owner.


Related Slideshow: Mother’s Schroeder Shares 15 Lessons From 15 Years in Business

Chef Lisa Schroeder gave birth to Mother’s Bistro & Bar fifteen years ago. So how does a restaurant like Mother’s not only survive, but thrive after fifteen years in a location where few businesses had managed to stay open let alone succeed?  

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Find and follow your passion.

Life’s too short to not spend it doing what you love. As the Sufi poet Rumi says, “Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”  Find out what you’re passionate about. Make it what you do for a living. If you do, you’ll be successful. Things fall into place and life unfolds as it should. I’m living proof. I followed my passion and started cooking school at the age of 33 with $100 in my pocket over 20 years ago, opened my dream restaurant 8 years later and thankfully, haven’t looked back.

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Nobody’s dream can come before yours.

Many of us spend our lives helping others fulfill their dreams (our spouses, loved ones and children). You must have dreams of your own and pursue them otherwise you will be unfulfilled and unhappy, making those around you unhappy too.

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Own your sh*t.

No one’s perfect. We all make mistakes. Rather than kicking ourselves over and over again or trying to cover them up, you really have to own it. Apologize if appropriate, learn the lessons and move on. No Regrets! Even if it means something has to be discarded or a relationship has ended, it’s not a waste if a lesson is learned and it doesn’t happen again.

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You give, you get.

I always wanted Mother’s Bistro & Bar to be part of the community, and have always made my dining spaces available to causes in which I believe. While I do this without expecting anything in return, karma is a beautiful thing and somehow it all comes back around. 

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Be flexible and have an open mind.

At Mother’s Bistro, we’re always growing and willing to change, even after 15 years. An open mind and heart allows us to hear new ideas, changes we should make, menu items we should try. That openness has allowed us to not only sustain these last 15 years, but grow. A closed mind stunts growth and knowledge.

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The Chinese word for “crisis” is “opportunity.”

When in crisis and life hands you lemons, see it as an opportunity for growth and lemonade.  Instead of wallowing in misery and feeling sorry for ourselves, move on and take it as an opportunity to try something new. Things happen for a reason and it’s up to us to find out why, identify the lessons and move on from there.

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Close one door, another opens.

Sometimes you have to close a door to create space for another door to open. You don’t have to figure out every step of the new path; just start the process and things will unfold as they should. Keep the faith, and know that everything will work out; it’s part of the master plan!

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Strive for the best.

Don’t settle for anything less than the best.  Strive for quality in everything  you do and never settle for “good enough.”

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There are no shortcuts to success.

I had the idea for Mother’s in 1992 and then everything I did for the next eight years was focused on that dream. I went to the best cooking school and worked in the best restaurants so I’d have the necessary knowledge and experience  to ensure my dream could become a reality. When we first turned our sign from closed to open on our first day, 90 people walked in the door for lunch. But that was not an overnight success. That was eight years of blood, sweat and tears in the making. 

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Success doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

The restaurant business is brutal, and nothing comes easy.  Consistency and constant quality control is essential if a restaurant is to remain vital. At Mother’s we’re never complacent. I’m in my restaurant nearly every day it’s open, 12 hours a day, making sure our food tastes good, our service is top notch and all is going well. 

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Learn to say “No.”

For so many years my mantra was “I’m just a girl who can’t say no.” I’d say yes to every request, charity and event. So much so, that I was getting beyond stressed trying to fit 36 hours of work into a 24 hour day. I finally realized that sometimes one has to say “no” to others  so one can say “yes” to oneself. 

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Expand, don’t diversify.

After Mother’s was in business for 4 years, I began to yearn for the kind of Italian food I had growing up in Philadelphia. I decided to open up Mama Mia Trattoria a few doors away from Mother’s Bistro & Bar.  After 6 years of running between two restaurants and having almost no free or family time, I realized that life was too short to spend every waking minute working.  I put Mama Mia Trattoria on the market and sold it almost four years ago. In retrospect, the biggest lesson there was that I should have just focused on Mother’s and “polished the apple” rather than creating another entire restaurant. Just because Portland needed it, didn’t mean I had to do it. Ultimately, it would have been less stress on me, my staff and family.  But no regrets!!! There were lots of lessons learned by having two restaurants, and for me the greatest lesson is it’s better to expand one rather than make another. 

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Everybody isn’t good at everything.

Every individual has their own personal history, upbringing, abilities and intelligence. We all have certain talents and competencies. After many years of trial and error, we now know that rather than having someone do a job they’re not great at, we move them to other positions until we find one where they can excel. This makes for happier employees and a happier work environment for all.

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We can’t please all the people, all the time.  

Much as we try to please everybody, we’ve found that it’s simply not possible. Thankfully, we don’t get many complaints, but when we do, we do our best to “own” it, learn the lessons and address them so they don’t happen again. 

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It’s all about the love.

We put love in everything we do. From the minute a guest walks in our doors, we try to shower them with positivity and love to make their experience at Mother’s the best it can be. We want our guest to feel the love in everything we do. It’s why we’re here. 


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