On the field, one of the greatest rivalries in the National Football League is between the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets. Off the field, well, some fans might not understand how two teams that hate each other so much on Sunday afternoons could be as close as brothers on Monday afternoon. For former Miami Dolphins nose tackle Bob Baumhower, the friendship he shared with a few of the Jets led him to his life after football. Having the same agent as Joe Namath and Richard Todd led Baumhower to a 1979 business partnership between the three in a Bachelors III restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale. It was a Ft. Lauderdale hot spot, referred to by Baumhower as Planet Hollywood before Planet Hollywood existed. Everybody who was anybody hung out there.
"As far as I know, Joe Namath was the first professional athlete to get into the restaurant business in a big way. Since all three of us lived in Ft. Lauderdale, we thought it would be a good idea to go into business together. It was a lot of fun, and it was these relationships and experiences that ignited my passion for the hospitality business." Baumhower said.
Former Dolphin Steve Towle invited Baumhower to a restaurant in Florida that served Buffalo Wings. Baumhower had no idea what he was talking about and thought he was crazy. When the pair left the restaurant, Baumhower knew he had his first restaurant idea. In 1981, he opened his first restaurant on the campus of the University of Alabama. It was called Wings and Whiskers, and it was the very first restaurant in the state of Alabama to serve buffalo chicken wings. People were so hesitant to try a chicken wing. Bob had to give wings away for FREE just to get people to try them!
From that small starting point, Bob Baumhower's relentless passion fueled new goals every day and he went on to grow his empire throughout the state...and it's still growing. "We started with a very small restaurant," Baumhower said. "Now, we have 14 concepts with 4 different brands and in some cases operate in 30,000 square feet superstores. We serve everything. It's a challenge, but making our guests happy is what makes me happy." Bob Baumhower isn't exaggerating when he says "we serve everything."
With his input and direction all of his restaurants have wide-ranging, comprehensive menus built from the freshest, local ingredients he can find. From Southern cuisine with a twist to Caribbean island flavor to the finest local seafood and meats around, the menus are always growing and morphing to meet the latest culinary trends and tastes. It is a strong point of pride that all of these restaurants make so many key ingredients, sauces, rubs, desserts, breads and even cheeses in-house. It is just further testimony of Baumhower's and Aloha Hospitality's true dedication to delivering the finest food and dining experience around.
Food and Southern hospitality was always a way of life for Baumhower. It started at his kitchen table as a child with loving parents who knew that a good meal could gather the family and create an atmosphere of warmth and happiness. It was this feeling that stuck with Baumhower and that he takes pride in sharing to this day. There is "nothing like watching people enjoy what you do and sending them on a culinary adventure with a meal that you prepared."
And prepare he did. Baumhower was and is still as hands-on as any person could be when it comes to his restaurants. He is a student of the game. Baumhower has personally worked every position in a restaurant. From the cooking in the back to running food in the front, he's done it all. On any given day you might catch him in the back at one of his restaurants washing dishes or slinging drinks behind the bar. He does what it takes and thrives in providing the personal touches and fun experiences that make a great meal a memorable one.
Whole house staff service training is just another area that Bob pushes to excel. Every individual employed participates in an extensive training program. Every single position in each restaurant has its own mission statement. Every detail is covered, from the proper way a host is to greet a guest to the perfectly chilled temperature of the plates and bowls that salads are served on. One of Bob's mottos that is heard repeatedly during training and every day in each restaurant is "The food we serve is sacred, never compromise our standards."
His hands-on approach is what makes all the difference. Every dish served, the design of every restaurant, the chairs guests sit on, the uniforms the servers wear, every bit of it has Baumhower's touch on it. Up until a few years ago, there wasn't even a corporate chef. Bob Baumhower was and still is the "Head Fry Cook." From concept development to the last dessert served each night, he is decidedly involved. It is a dream come true to be able to follow a highly successful football career with great success in the hospitality industry while living out the passion of serving and feeding folks. You can hear him say on a regular basis, "I never thought this would happen!"
Bob Baumhower currently resides on the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay in Fairhope, AL (or L.A. - Lower Alabama - as he likes to call it). Baumhower is happily married to his wife Leslie and is the proud father of four children. He serves as CEO of Aloha Hospitality International, a restaurant management company that develops and runs the Baumhower's Victory Grille franchise; with 10 restaurants throughout the state of Alabama; as well as Dauphin's - a fine dining gem on the 34th floor of the RSA Trustmark Bank building in downtown Mobile, AL. Baumhower's empire is still growing and he continues to pursue perfection in the restaurant business with the same will and determination to win that he did in football.