Pub co-owner stays a step ahead to please patrons

Steiner’s Pub co-owner Roger Sachs calls it the “time-multiplier effect,” that limbo period between being seated at a restaurant or bar and being served — or at least acknowledged.

Nobody gives much thought to waiting two or three minutes, but five minutes can feel like 10 and anything more than 20 minutes seems like eternity.

With nearly 30 years of experience in the food-and-beverage industry, Sachs keenly understands the importance of customer service. It’s absolutely essential, he said, to bring in repeat business.

“I worked as a busboy and I delivered pizza. I was a parking valet at the Sand and Sea Club for four years. I’ve always been very service-oriented,” Sachs said during a break between lunch and dinner at Steiner’s Pub on Buffalo Drive. “I thoroughly enjoy what I do because of the interaction. When I see people smile, I know I did something right.”

As operations and development director for all three Steiner’s, Sachs is responsible for meeting with vendors, verifying daily sales reports, working with contractors and consultants on design upgrades, coordinating liquor and gaming license applications, and maintaining a business relationship with gaming authorities.

He spends Monday and Friday at the original Steiner’s on Cheyenne Avenue, Tuesday and Thursday at the Buffalo Drive location and Wednesday at the Las Vegas Boulevard location.

Before joining Steiner’s in 1997, Sachs was general manager for Roadrunner Saloon. He’s a graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles with a bachelor’s degree in political science. It was during his college years that he began working as a bartender in Los Angeles.

Question: What makes you a good restaurateur?

Answer: In the restaurant business, you really have to be multifaceted in where your skill levels are. You need to have a high quotient level in math, handling customers and employees and making sure they’re happy and the business is running efficiently. Generally, you need a good head on your shoulders.

Question: What makes it so tough?

Answer: If you don’t handle pressure well, it can be overwhelming. People think the restaurant business is a walk in the park, but it’s far more than that for those of us in it for 25 years. You want the experience to be seamless from the guest side. They should enjoy themselves without knowing what it takes to make that happen.

Question: Who got you into this business?

Answer: Hank Gordon (president of Las Vegas-based Laurich Properties) is the equity partner. He called me in Atlanta and wanted someone he can trust to run the business for him. He knew me from L.A. and was friends with my mom. Fortunately, my experience level was high enough at that point, after bartending for 11 years, being a busboy for two years, a bar-back for two years.

He had me look at bars. We drove the street. Bars were spread out back then. There was PT’s, Charlie’s. It was a matter of concept, what would set the bar apart.

Question: How did you distinguish Steiner’s Pubs from all the others?

Answer: I like to say the thing that distinguishes Steiner’s is the fact that we not only are a top-end video poker bar, but one of the few that does food and beverage service very well. I think our food quality and service is better than 90 percent of the restaurants in town. We won Best of Las Vegas five out of 11 years just for bar food. We’re also the best sports bar, the best neighborhood bar. I think the ambience in here … when people walk in, they feel at home or it reminds them of a place back home for so many people from out of state. It just has a genuine feel and that’s a great selling point for us.

Question: Why does your sign say “A Nevada Style Pub?”

Answer: What makes it “A Nevada Style Pub” is all of the art and artifacts inside the building, including all of the framed turn-of-the-century newspapers and mining stock certificates from an individual collector we found in Death Valley, and then all of the various-sized framed turn-of-the-century photos to present photos from the Nevada Historical Society in Reno. It all leads to the genuine Nevada feel. Also, the menu incorporates towns, cities, streets, hotel names as titles to the actual menu items.

Question: What do you like about the restaurant business?

Answer: What I like is that while so many people, when you ask them, “How was your day,” it’s the same every day. There’s certain things I do regularly as part of my day like daily sales receipts, but there’s usually three to six different tangible things that will surprise me, some challenge that’ll come my way. It could be service on the floor. It could be human resources-related. You have to be able to know how to do so many things. There’s going to be many operational challenges and it’s exciting to handle those daily. I walk in and the Pepsi machine isn’t working, a dollar royal (flush) just hit, the hot-water heater’s out, I’ve got a call from the (Nevada) Tavern Owners Association.

Question: What do you dislike?

Answer: In general, sometimes the lack of service quality in this town. People aren’t passionate about what they do. You might not want to be a busboy or server your whole life, but you’re doing it right now, making money from it. The apathy that you come across from people who don’t like their job … that’s what I don’t like.

Question: What do you like to see from your servers?

Answer: You always want to be one step ahead of the guests’ needs, anticipating the guests’ needs and beating them to the punch. Say you notice a napkin fell on the ground. You set two napkins on the table and kick the other one away and pick it up. I stand back and look at a table to see what they need. A lot of servers have blinders on.

Question: How do you become a good manager?

Answer: There’s nothing I won’t do here. I’ll run the floor, I’ll plunge the toilets. You have to be willing to get your hands dirty in this operation. I’m not here to do your job, but if it’s slamming business, I’ve got your back. It gets back to that customer. Will there be a smile on their face?

Question: Why did you open the second and third Steiner’s locations?

Answer: Hank (Gordon) owns the shopping centers and instead of leasing to someone else, he’s thinking, “Why not make it my bar?” We ran a successful operation at Cheyenne (Avenue). We’re celebrating our 12th anniversary. After five years, we knew it was time. We had our feet underneath us, but going from No. 1 to No. 2 was a giant step. Before you’re in one place all the time, checking on the employees and making sure the quality is top-notch.

Question: How much is invested in the new locations?

Answer: Construction and build-out (were) approximately $1.5 million on each.

Question: What else might you have done for a career?

Answer: Everybody says I’d be great in politics. I should run for mayor. Don’t tell (Las Vegas Mayor) Oscar (Goodman). My genuinely upbeat attitude and ability to have a conversation with somebody … it has to do with my outgoing personality. People in politics put on a face, but mine tends to be more genuine than not.

Contact reporter Hubble Smith at or 702-383-0491.

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