By Susie McKinley
FRLA staff sat down with Rhett Fischer, a fourth generation restaurateur, of Rusty’s Seafood and Oyster Bar and spoke with him recently about his family’s business.
Mr. Fischer, please tell F R & L’s readers about the history of Rusty’s Seafood.
It began on October 31, 1948 when Bernard Fischer opened one of the first restaurants in Cocoa Beach.... Bernard’s Surf. Bernard was a member of the Fischer family, which owned and operated a fleet in Port Canaveral when it was nothing more than a small fishing village. From the very beginning to their continued success more than 60 years later, the Fischer family has not only served their community, but has hosted astronauts, movie stars and celebrity journalists.
When Bernard Fischer passed away in 1965 the family asked Rusty to take over the restaurant. Though he was in college at Florida State University, he knew the family needed him to work in the business, so he went home. By 1988, he had opened the first Rusty’s Seafood and Oyster Bar, which became an instant success and in 1992, they opened Rusty’s at the Port. Today, Rusty (my dad) and I continue the family tradition in Port Canaveral where it all began. The future of Port Canaveral is exciting and the Fischer Family looks forward to serving their community and the world for another 60 years!
Rusty’s has been a favorite of Space Coast residents and visitors alike for how many years?
We’ve been here since June 1992.
Please describe your menu concept and explain how they approach changing it to keep things fresh & new.
Our menu concept is southern seafood with a traditional flare, come as you are, enjoy a cold beverage and watch the bartenders shuck your oysters while you watch.
What is your most popular dish?
Blackened mahi sandwich with cheese, lump blue crab au gratin, encrusted mahi (crushed saltines, spiced up and baked on top of mahi).
Have you seen the tastes of your restaurant guests change over the years?
Not too much honestly, all they expect is consistency!
What is the most important thing you emphasize with staff about your customers?
Treat the customers like we treat you, the staff . . . Like family!
What do you think is critical to your employee training?
Food handling / safety, the importance of “i.d. ing” younger people and try and make every situation a win-win.
How do you eliminate/reduce employee turnover?
We pride ourselves on low turnover . . . We respect the employee, listen to them -- they all want to be heard, trust them, and it doesn’t hurt to loan them $$$ to pay their power bill - they love that!
“Dock and Dine” sure looks fun! Please describe to readers this concept.
It’s simple. See the open slip as you are passing by Rusty’s in your boat, make the turn, throw me the rope, tie the boat up to our waterfront deck, and come on and in and eat / drink … just not too much. No BUI’s please!
www.Rustysseafood.com is a great web page! Do you think it helps to “drive traffic” to Rusty’s? What portions of the web page are the most popular?
The most visited pages are the web cam, menu and pictures of Rusty’s!
What is your tip to staying in business for such a long time?
Taking care of the employees, bar none, is the most important tip. The small turnover we have is noticed by customers. Taking care of our employees results in them taking care of the customers and us as owners! And then, of course, consistency with food and service.