Restaurant entrepreneur, car aficionado, lover of family and life
2:50 Jeff & Steve met at Sarasota Winefest. Later, along with a gang of exotic car nuts also attended Barrett-Jackson and Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance! 4:40 Monaco, f1 races... 5:40 Ferrari factory in Italy, got a VIP tour. 7:43 Steve Huse- of St. Elmo Steakhouse in Indianapolis. Is this a top 10 Steakhouse. 11:08 we have a bottle from 1902 Chateau Lafite Rothschild 11:27 Stephen sold 34 Arby's a year and a half ago. 14:45 "try to cover by owning real estate as much as we can. So if something didn't go well we get converted to a different use and become a landlord. And that's that philosophy turned out to be a saving grace" 15:04 In and Out Burger. 17:15...to look back now at some of my teachers have probably thought I was a real below average guy. And I think mostly I was so bored in fifth grade school, just bored to pieces that, my behavior was not as good. I wasn't a bad guy just tended to be sometimes outspoken..." 17:44 Jeff: "... sometimes I meet hundreds of people in a month. I mean, financial success is certainly not the only measure of success. And it's definitely not the only measure of success with you. But certainly I've run into a lot of people with the ability to buy what I was selling, which could be this new kind of car, whether it be Cadillac, or whether it be Landrover whether it be exotic car, or BMW, whatever. And I cannot tell you how many of them let me know how below average students..." 18:23 Stephen: "I've always said the A students become doctors, the B students become lawyers and the C students hire both of those professions." 18:30 Jeff: You heard it here first, folks. 19:03 Stephen started a pizza chain, (Noble Roman) notching it up to about 130 stores and took it public on NASDAQ, right after Arby's. Then had Mustard switch was another upscale casual restaurant. Then steak and shake. 19:27 Stephen was hired to come in as a turnaround guy. 20:16 Stephen ended up moving Steak n' Shake from NASDAQ, the New York Stock Exchange. 23:35 on hot chili oil, sesame oil. 24:57 Stephen: " I lived in a little condominium. It Had no furniture I had a TV I bought maybe a Costco or Sam's. A cardboard box-that was the table. Lila and I were dating and we sold the two cars, we leased two other ones so we get some capital buy furniture. We still have some of that furniture." 29:00 Stephen is hospitalized 100+ days for COVID...almost checked out... 33:48 It was a littler airport with no control tower and people on a weekend flying in and out of there using whatever runway they felt like. And I thought it was kind of dangerous still do I look back on that one thing? Why did I ever do that? 36:37 Jeff: (selling cars) "I lost money on every deal. I always made it up in the volume." (Thank you Dave Sterns for that one!) 36:39 Ferrari tries to take Stephen's whole restaurant for a week . 42:42 What's in Steve's garages? 47:16 Why Stephen doesn't like to buy the first year of a car: the best. 47:35 Stephen's definition of success:
Jeff Sterns connected through cars and I am just thrilled to introduce today's guest. It is my dear dear friend, Steve Hughes, Steve Hughes. And I've got to mention his wife, Laila, even though she won't be on the film, but you cannot talk to Steve without hearing about Laila. So now I said it. Steve is the not the founder, but he bought a very rundown Steakhouse in Indianapolis called St Elmos. Now, if you look, it's a top 10 Steakhouse in the United States. He took a pizza chain public, he owned God knows 3040. Arby's. He was president of steak and shake. You're like, what's this got to do with cars. Steve was a client of mine. Steve flew with us to Pebble Beach in Detroit Auto Show and Amelia Island and Barrett Jackson, and continue to go to all of these places without me, became a good friend of the family. My dad just loved him. So I really wanted to share him with you. He's got a half a dozen exotics in his garage right now. And you won't meet a more positive upbeat guy than Steve. Enjoy. Please leave some comments below and subscribe. So you know what's coming up. We have a bottle from 1902 A Chateau de Rothschild and it's you can't buy that bottle, you have to buy the whole restaurant to get that bottle. I also started a pizza chain, and actually looked at about 130 stores and took it public on NASDAQ and ran steak and shakes about 300 stores that time located all over the Midwestern bound through Texas. And that was a good company at that time we took it I ended up moving it from NASDAQ New York Stock Exchange and that was very, very profitable people forget price or something if it's great price value. I mean, they remember the value is the value that tastes is the size is that the service. I lived in a little condominium. I'd read it and it had no furniture on it. darner dead. on two occasions they called Live and said I was not going to make it. I thought it was kind of dangerous. Still Do I look back on that one time? Why did I ever do that? Because emitter occlusion is about as fadeless it can be. Well, I'm glad that you didn't share with the passengers. what you were thinking about when you just it was just like, Hey, we're here. So yeah, well, you couldn't see the puck around my douche. Jeff Sterns connected through cars, if they're big wigs. We'll have them on the show. And yes, we'll talk about cars and everything else. Here he is now. Jeff Sterns connected through cars with my good friend, dear old client, fellow car nut, gearhead, Steve Hughes. How you doing? Good morning, Steve, you and I met I think at Sarasota wine fest at Longboat Key when I probably had a car display of a few odd news, rolls Bentley something like that on the putting green to my fantasizing or Is that how you remember it? good memory, Jeff. I do remember so Delilah. It was a fun day. That was but I don't remember, I think I don't know. I think somebody introduced us. And I think what got us started is you had a jag that you were thinking of selling. So whatever it was, I can tell you that whatever I told you, I thought it was worth you told me it wasn't enough. That's right, actually 140 that's how we met through you asking me about selling or what's it worth or something in the Xk 140. And it wasn't enough. And the relationship didn't crumble there. No. Thank goodness, you better friend for a long time graph. 19 years rough. Like we've been to quite a few events together. We have you invited me to go to Pebble Beach for the first time. And that was an exciting time. I don't remember the year but I had never been there. And I've been back every year sets. Except for they cancelled it which was last year. So you've been to easily what 15 of them or something? At least. Wow. Unbelievable. And I think we've been and you can correct me if I'm wrong. I could be blending some events but you are very active in our gang of exotic car friends. Do we go to Barrett Jackson together? We have and Amelia Island. We have was it you that flew us to Amelia Island. It must have been was it pouring out and freezing out when we flew and we had to run in and buy rain coats or jackets. You know Jeff, you've got such a great memory. I don't I just remember the fun time. We've always had to go into any curve at any place in the world. I've been to Monaco, I've been all over f1 races, etc. But I try and forget the bad remember the good?
Well, you know, um, so for the listening audience. I know Steve personally. So my guests are people that I know. And when Steve says oh, you know, I tried to forget the bad and remember the good you know, some people come Through with a little bit of cliche, but my entire time knowing Steve, that really seems to be how you operate. Well, I think my mind isn't large enough to remember the bad I just try and cram and flow the good. I've got the capacity for that limited disk space, you're deciding what goes in there. That's beautiful. So, if you don't mind, Steve, walk me through some of the events you've been to because I've not been to MMA. I actually I have been in Monaco, but not the race. So where have you been going to the Ferrari factory in Italy, and got a VIP tour through my friend or official we used to be in charge of rushing for General Motors. You got to see an insider's view. And that was really, really fun. So Steve, for for the listener, or the watcher, whether they're listening on audio or watching this on YouTube, that's not been demoed. Dana, can you describe a little bit your Ferrari VIP tour? You know, one thing that surprised me is I expected to walk into a shop where they were so hammering metal. And once we added inside, it was symphonic music, he was playing in a on the PA system with good speakers. So the quality was like having a symphony there. There was grass on the inside of the plant. There were skylights up above. And that thing was mechanized to the point that there were not that many humans making the fray as substantially complete by robotic machines. And around when this was a couple years ago, there would have been This is 2021 coming up. And so what have been about 2019? Well, you know, Steve, it's interesting that you mentioned that it's all or mainly robotic build at the Ferrari plant because there was a time when it was really a hand built car. And I remember when I was dealing heavily in them early 2000s. And of course, the cars would be that era back. They'd come in with overspray on headlights overspray on Vin plates. Brand new with no miles. So you knew it was a guy in a paint shop. And even though the paint was unbelievably beautiful on the car, yes. It was a guy painting a person painting. Not anymore. It's all robotic. So what else happened there anything memorable. The food, people's you know, they were the people in playing obviously, were quite intelligent. They use all these robotic devices, programmed them and check them and run with them. So they were funded our to the place was so mad when we clean up, eat off the floor. The average guy can go through the penguins of the plant. They have these buses and go to the grounds and fry factory but you don't get inside. So we were very blessed to be able to do that. Steve Hughes, founder of St. Elmo Steakhouse in Indianapolis. Is this a top 10 Steakhouse. Hang on Jeff back up. I'm not the founder. I bought in 1986. And it was founded by a guy that opened a tavern really called Joe's star. And it was Joe stars tavern. And they became st homeless because roughly during Prohibition where they couldn't sell booze where they could sell steaks, and they did sell booze, but it was all on the coffee cups. So to prove you were heavier after dinner coffee, when in fact you were drinking whiskey. And what did you do with St almost because I think the size and capacity and volume and notoriety changed after you took ownership?
Yes, did Jeff when I bought it to an ITV six it was already building and it just looked awfully low no and tell the floor that the more vinyl clad seats I mean, it looked like a mon Polly cafe and the to lace. But they did good business and their steaks were famous and their drinks were generous. And that attracted a real crowd that was in one building that was built in 1871. However, there were two buildings adjoining it, that were building in roughly that same time period that I ended up buying at auction. My wife Laila went down to the place for the auction was held and stood there all day long. With all these certified checks, I ended up paying a little less than a million dollars for the remaining two builders. But since then, we've had to put in about $6 million to literally rebuild them from the inside out and outside in. Structurally, they were not good. And obviously they weren't level even. And the floor is all three buildings even though you were one floor to floor three, they were about two to four feet difference in where the floors were building. So we had to integrate all this and st Omo, which took a period of several years of construction and about $6 million. And when I bought the restaurant it did about 300 sorry, about $3 million dollars. And now that does somewhat over $20 million. It's just a wonderful place. It seats 500 guests, and you don't feel like you're in a big room because it's the restaurants comprised a lot have smaller rooms so you feel like it's a much more quiet and intimate place then you will think base thinking it serves. You know, there's some nights we serve well over 1000 meals. And they come to drinks 2000 or 3000 drinks at night. And we have a wine cellar By the way, but right now we probably have eight or 9000 bottles in stock, but it's been as high as 16,000 bottles are in the form of one guys come to town we buy all in stock and all the good French wines and wines, Spanish wines, New Zealand wine, so Australian wines, Italian wines, you name it, we've got it for them. And they bought a lot of wine. Steve, speaking of wine, I know this is people we know through cars course. You're an unbelievably interesting guy and you got a great store in this wine cellar at St. Elmo is that when you're at capacity, or you have more more like 15 or 16,000 bottles. Do you and you mentioned French wines, New Zealand wines, etc. But do you do anything with like antique? Do you ever get like, you know, the bottle of something they had while they were signing the Declaration of Independence or something like that. But we have a bottle from 1902 A Chateau fruit Rothschild and it's you can't buy that bottle. You have to buy the whole restaurant to get that bottle. And I'm sure the wines not good anymore. For all these years, well over 100 years. It's always been stored correctly, at least when I've had it. But I can't tell you I was stored in the old days probably not very well. What's it worth? It's worth multiple millions of dollars. If you buy the restaurant, it's more symbolic than it is worth the money to drink the wine. I think it's probably vinegar by now. Got it. So we don't think that it's good wine in there. But if a bottle like that made it to an auction, it feasibly could be a multimillion dollar bottle. I had no idea, Jeff, I don't think once I can't make it to too many options, we'll start marching around anymore that long disappeared, we may have the only one what's an expensive bottle that a guest comes in and can actually order and or actually does order and drink or an expensive glass of Epsom bottles is a two to $3,000 we have other bottles settle less than 50. So we have that for everyone. And anyone that has the taste for what they want. We probably have it or something nearby. I say nearby, one that tastes similar that we can sell them or provide for dinner we have we have good wines whether glass and that's always been a positive thing. person who come in and say is driving home, have a glass of wine or shrimp cocktail this appetizer going home and join his family for dinner and not be driving while intoxicated. Just have a good sip of wine. So we put when we're generous pour on wine and drinks too. Don't use jiggers. To measure out anything we do it by sight. And our bartenders are fairly heavy handed. That's alright. People actually ever buy a two or $3,000 bottle. Absolutely habits not everyday. But it certainly happens every week. mind boggling to me, sometimes more than once a week. I mean, sometimes they're buying two or three buttons or by 10,000 bucks or more for some special occasion. So going back when you bought St. Olmos, this was 1986. And prior to that, what were you doing in the business?
I've been in the restaurant business by accident all my life, Jeff all my adult life anyway, I started out I work for a corporation and traveled for the corporate escape through college graduation from Indiana University. I traveled every week, Monday through Friday, and I only saw my family on Saturday, Sunday, then back out again, that this just can't get going on we had one child and then to this wasn't fair for the family. So I ended up buying an Arby's in Bloomington, Indiana where I'd gone to Indiana University in 1901. When was that Jeff 1967 graduated 1965 from the School of Business and factory back then taught there a little bit later, just as a guest lecture but butter Arby's, put that up to 34 before I sold that, and I just sold it by the way, a year and a half ago. So that that was over 50 years of running a chain of Arby's In the meantime, I had other restaurants too, that I had started semi sold, we had two or three failures, wrong location, wrong concept. And sometimes you just have to, if the if it's not gonna go it's better to close it and pay off your bankers and pay your employees for an extra month or whatever we did at that time, probably at least a month and get out of that business and liquidated or move into a different use a one one restaurant we had we made into a bank, and they were my tenant for gosh 30 years. So we've done we've tried to cover by owning real estate as much as we can. So if something didn't go well we get converted to a different use and become a landlord. And that's that philosophy turned out to be a saving grace several times we traveled Probably I want to say, Pebble Beach because I think that we went to In and Out Burger. We did. Yep. With my father, my late father. Dad was a great guy. That's why you turned out so well, Jeff, thank you. And I'm happy to give him the credit. My dad was a great guy, no doubt. And I do remember you taking the whichever In and Out Burger out to the trunk of your car. And you got out a little ruler. And you took pictures of it, you remember that? I do. And I also had little school that I waited to, I wanted the cooked weight of it. It was amazing to me how screwed it I just love their hamburger. But I remember that you were telling my dad about your Arby's business and that it was as much of a real estate play as it was about profitability, the business? Well, blue profitability does count, you got to make your payments, got to pay your employees got to pay your taxes, etc. So and earn a living. You want to employ your money, so it does make you money. You know, the restaurant business is not an easy business, you're open seven days a week and about 1516 hours a day. And, and, you know, we had a lot of people to start with us that have gone on to great success. And they owe that to the training. They got hurt company. And doctors, lawyers, other restaurant tours, etc. What I did when we were able to buy restaurant locations and build our own building, I would put that in like a family limited partnership. And I put that in my three children's name. Each shell got 33% I got 1%. But I had the only voting stock and 1% and that way I was able to control the money. And make sure one for only good things not bad when you're young. Sometimes you make bad decisions. But luckily none of my kids ever did. I never had to bail them out of any problem at all. They all turned out to be great kids. But I wanted that control. I think that's really important to be a control guy anyway. Steve, I didn't want to tell you that that was my only beef with he is your friend is just what a control freak. You're no I never experienced that. I never expect your uncontrollable your uncontrollable anyway, as every teacher told my father many times a year. Yeah, I'm sure well, you turned out fine. Well, as long as you think so to look back now at some of my teachers probably thought I was a real below average guy. And I think mostly I was so bored in fifth grade school just bored to pieces, that my behavior was no as good I wasn't a bad guy just tend to be sometimes outspoken and pull price and that type of thing. So I'd like to go back and illustrate to those nuns they hadn't saved on work that actually did turn out all right.
Well, Steve, it's funny, you mentioned that over the years, being in the retail business, obviously, I've met hundreds and hundreds of people. I mean, sometimes I meet hundreds of people in a month. I mean, financial success is certainly not the only measure of success. And it's definitely not the only measure of success with you. But certainly I've run into a lot of people with the ability to buy what I was selling, which could be this new kind of car, whether it be Cadillac, or whether it be Landrover whether it be exotic car or BMW, whatever. And I cannot tell you how many of them let me know how below average student how surprised they were that they could do this. Now that's a good way to put it. I've heard it so many times. I could probably write a book about that, that I was such a terrible student. There's probably not one teacher that thinks that I wouldn't be living in a cardboard box. I've always said the age students become doctors to be students for GM lawyers in the sea students hire both of those professions. You've heard it here first, folks. Yeah, I think a lot of people say that. And that's just a general that's a generality that's not that's a great that's that's a great saying and that's encouraging to young people today. They don't need to throw in the towel just because schools a struggle or boring or whatever many entrepreneurs come out of struggling in school. So when were you with steak and shake because I mean my god 34 rb st elbow since Elmo since 86. When were you a steak and shake. We forgot no bromance I also started pizza chain, naturally it up to about 130 stores and took it public on NASDAQ right after Arby's and then I had mustard switch was another upscale casual restaurant a little bit. There was a lot successful actually in Bloomington and then steak and shake. I mean think Jeff that had to be in about maybe 89 9091 and I was hired to come in as a turnaround guy. You own. You own say nomos already. So that's already going on in your background. I bought say no mon ad to write an AV six. And it did go into the background and and in the meantime, I took that little piece of junk from about 3 million to 20 some million dollars in sales and tripled the size more than tripled the size. But same shake. Home Office was just about two blocks away and I was able to really do both. At night, I worked at to oversee the de novo as well as on the phone of a time in a random state and shakes about 300 stores that time located all over the Midwest and down through Texas. And that was a good company to time we took, I ended up moving from NASDAQ, New York Stock Exchange net was very, very profitable. And shortly after that move, retired from steak and shake and took my earnings which were substantial. The value I mean, that's when I say get rewarded stock. So you're really, you're in the same position as every other stockholder. And if you can make them rich, and then you can certainly enjoy it with them. And that's that was my job to do. And my wealth census at that point in time, it's been sold another guy to turn it over, and things have not gone well for poor steak and shake, the reason being that pay the bill to take it over. I think and this is Don't, don't sue me, because I'm assuming I know. But I think what they did was cheaper products substantially cut the labor down paid less to people. So you get a lower class of people working there. Pretty soon the customer realized they were not getting the value they had always had. So it has not succeeded well in many markets. So if you were advising them today, you'd say step up the food quality, and let's pay the staff and get a higher skill set in there. Yeah, if I bought the place I do, and certainly as to the hiring program, a training program safety and sanitation standards. And I pump up a product to people forget price or something if it's great price value. I mean, they remember the value is the value that taste is the size, is it the service, it's actually all of the above and even more location. And that wouldn't be too hard to change the state shakes during like the be brought back. And the meantime a lot of competition has come in smashburger and just a lot of different ones that sort of imitate steak and chase modus operandi. So it'll be a little tougher go this time there. There is a lot of competition out there. What was the name? Steve, I couldn't understand you when you took your 130 pizza places that you took public. Noble, Roman's noble Roman, okay, I was not aware of that. All these surprises in this relationship. You've been keeping a lot of things for me. That's how I bought their roles from you. And this one you took from zero to 130 Was
it your concept? It was I couldn't say It's all mine. I bought a failed Little Caesars and I just expanded their failed Little Caesars into something somewhat different. And certainly different name different, different marketing different, lots of things. And I did use some of their obviously it was an equip restaurant. And we had people know the new the recipe. So we made one similar, not the same, but similar and expanded from there. did very well. Beautiful now, I don't remember the reason I was in Sarasota. It may have been when I was going down to help out a friend of mine that I grew up with and I was investing a little in his used car operation in tamiami. I was coming down there a couple of nights a week. That may have been the reason but I ended up having dinner at your house. I remember Jeff and always glad to see if he would come down for dinner anytime a goodie tonight. That's this tell me how much notice. We will be here tonight. But you can come down tonight and I'll show you all the fixings are perfect. So that was of course the night that he introduced me to the sesame oil on the broccoli, hot sesame oil, hot chili oil, sesame oil, it was Asian that it was really good. I didn't like broccoli before either until you put enough oil on it that it kind of gave you some heat and some flavor. And now I use chili oil on lots of things. asparagus. Yep. And I always, I always attribute that to you when I buy some of that. But that same night, we're in your beautiful home, I want to say in Longboat. And of course, I knew you as an exotic car client and we traveled to all these exotic car venues or collector car venues. And you said you know Jeff, I'm very fortunate. I haven't always been a man of means. There was a time early in my relationship with Lyla, when we actually had to sell our cars and lease cars to get started. Am I remembering that right? That's quite correct. Jeff, I got a divorce. Unfortunately. We got married when I was 19. And to a really good lady and she we both went separate ways. She she went one way and I went the other in terms of the way we wanted to live and so we divorced and did it amicably and I gave her the type of gold miner that the splits with this partner when I got the gold the other guy got the shaft and I willingly took the shaft I guess but it kept my company together though I was able to keep it together and and earn that money back but I lived in a little condominium. I'd read it and It had no furniture, obviously. So I had a TV I bought maybe a Costco or Sam's in that in a cardboard box. That was the table. And so anyway, live and I were dating and we sold the two cars, we had at least two other ones. So we get some capital buy furniture. And that's that's a funny story. But it's true. We still have some furniture. I love that story. Because I find that in my 30 some odd years in the car business and meeting all kinds of people that and I tell the story of what they bought, etc. Once in a while, that maybe maybe the word is jealousy, or maybe the word maybe the thought is they get all the luck that some people think that it's always easy for everybody, all the time. And on another interview, or conversation I had with Charlie Woods be the other day who is the founder of Red Lobster, and he's the Charlie behind Charlie Steakhouse and a few other themes. He let me know that prior to Red Lobster that he'd actually in one restaurant went bankrupt, took on just to feed his kids a milk root, and got a bonus for signing up new people to the milk route, and was the top milkman and they offered him a management or supervisor job. And he came home and told his wife about it. And she says, really, you want to be back in the restaurant business? Is that where your heart is? And he went back in? Thank goodness, your stories remind me the same that. And again, money isn't everything financially did fine. But it wasn't always easy Street. I mean, when you were taking your paid for cars, and to cash them out, to go take on a lease payment to buy a little furniture at that moment. You didn't. I mean, I know you believed in yourself, but you didn't actually know it was gonna turn out as nicely as it did, did you?
Well, that was my aim. But you know, you can aim or you want to be don't always say your aim. And I just we had cash flow. We just didn't have you know, given away all the cash I had I had flow, but I didn't have any reserves. So that's why I had to do that. But we've you know, I've done over the years, lots of things like that, you know, remortgaged houses, or remortgage, I've got some farmland in Illinois, I've had to rearrange it a couple times. And now it's all paid for, but that just to survive, and we had bad economic times. I mean, this country has not been a smooth ride, any more than any country in the world, we've had times of recession, we've been near depression at times unemployment, which means people aren't buying spending their money in our restaurants. We've had COVID for the last year, and I had COVID badly. So I can understand how that's word up the the atmosphere of health in the country. So you just have to go with the punches. And one motto, I've always said to Jeff is that Asia is king. And we've always tried to have reserves, we haven't spent right up to the end of our limit. So we we also have diversification. We're in lots of different things besides just restaurants. So because of that we survived this last COVID thing where a lot of other half the restaurants in the US. I don't know this this to be a fact, but about that 40 to 50% have shut down and will not reopen again. I think over a long run it may be 30% of the survivors and 70% are gone and a lot of those ones that are gone are mom and pop operations and even franchises that were monpa operations, you know, Dad Mom bought of XYZ business and didn't have the cash back up because they leveraged to the hilt to buy it and now they're close, they just couldn't make payroll. And there's a lot of obligations and in our business where you've got rent or or mortgage payments, you've got to pay people that work for you. A restaurant can open without a staffer, you know, pretty complete staff, you had a coach dishwashers, bussers, waiters, waitresses, management, open the door, you have to have all these people in place, you can't just open it up with the lawn pa running the place, it's a lot more difficult and sophisticated than that. So it's a it's an easy business to lose a lot of money. And it's an easy business. I shouldn't say it's easy. It's a business. Also, if you do it right, you make a lot of money and right. So that's really sad, the ones closed and all the families that depend. And, of course, I know that you're not cavalier about COVID because you're 77 years old. You were in the hospital for over 100 days. under two days, it darner dead. on two occasions they called Live and said I was not gonna make it. And I was intubated and I got infections, I get kidney infections, lung infections, you name it, they the more bottles go into Minitor then you can imagine hanging from these little racks and boy it was I was totally out. They had me for the night out for about 42 days. And I'm glad they did I don't I could have stirred all the external things that happened to me that if I could Moving bad I have a friend, I'd probably just go nuts. So I was I was out, they use paralytics on me to keep me quiet. And luckily Lyla didn't let him pull the plug and they told lie Lie might well end up in a nursing home, unable to talk unable to feed myself that so it was pretty sad guy. And it's taken about four months now to come back five months, I got to the hospital in July. And here it is the end of December. And I'm just now walking pretty well. And I get drive about two months ago. And in worse, I get lucky I get eat. I didn't lose my sense of smell or taste as many people do. And I was hungry and put my 50 pounds I lost in the hospital back on again in about two months. And now I'm working out with a trainer and have been out for about a month and a half, two months, three days a week. And I bet a deep tissue massage related it comes to the house two days a week and it hurt me pretty well. But it helps had a lot of stiff joints and lots of pain in my neck and back. She's done a good job on it. While after now moving for are not moving much for a few months. The best thing she did she brought me a homemade apple pie last week that that was certainly part of the cure. Well, I'm glad that you were only in an induced coma for 45 days and you didn't lose your taste or smell because that would have really depressed you would have. I am a foodie. I know you're a foodie, for sure.
Anna Anna wine, kind of not. I'm not a connoisseur of new people. I'm not a wine snob. I normally just drink wine that would be 20 to 40 bucks a bottle and I make that bottle usually last three days or four days and but I enjoy my glass of wine at night. It's kind of a symbol that well the day's been good or had been tough, whatever. And I'm finished with it now time to turn things off mentally. So it's symbolic. I have a good cigar about once a month do and I'm all my doctors say oh, you should have never touched a cigarette. You know what most those guys have a cigar too. I've been out with them socially and we'll be boring or whatever, they'll light up a cigarette. So, you know, a little bit of anything is okay. Now I don't do narcotics or anything illegal. But I enjoy my wine. I enjoy a cigar maybe once every four or five weeks. And that's about it. I enjoy it. Mostly my family and my wife. They're the true joy been in my life. Ever since I've known you without fail. Your wife and kids come up. Laila, and your kids. I mean, you you continually mention them and you continually mention how blessed you are with them and compliment them and so I mean, that's, that's been there non stop. Now. If you don't mind, I'd like to go back to mo Dana. I'd like to go back to Yeah, okay. I know you're like, bless you. And I go back together. I think we get into some big trouble there. Oh, I think so. And restaurants and little wineries and all this stuff. We just hang around there and become totally bugs. Right. Well, I mean, I know you've got the frequent flyer miles so I may, even though I got a three and a half month old daughter at home, I'll tell my wife I'll be like, Look, you know, Steve, being a pilot though on my in my own airplane, I didn't rack up the miles. I have my own miles. I just sold my airplane. But I sure love flying a great part of my life. And I remember you flying us a couple of places. I even remember I know your latest plane that you just sold was the TBM. But I remember your Piper Meridian, which is what a single turboprop. So it was a Right, right. Really great. And I remember you dropped us off at the Clearwater executive airport. And you were really on the fence about doing it because didn't have enough runway for that plane. It was a littler airport. It was a no control tower and people on a weekend flying in and out of there using whatever runaway they felt like. And I thought it was kind of dangerous still do I look back on that one thing? Why did I ever do that? Because emitter occlusion is about as fadeless it can be. Well, I'm glad that you didn't share with the passengers. what you were thinking about when you just it was just like, Hey, we're here. So yeah, well, you couldn't see the program. I know I didn't know I didn't you didn't get out of the plane or you would have probably taken the seat with you. So when you went to mo Dana, you got a beautiful tour. And you saw a selection of some Schumacher racecars in race cars that Ferrari owners bought and I suppose leave there and then have the car car transported. Ferrari delivers it to where they can use it on some track day. Lots of money buys whatever you want. Those people had to be. I mean, it would make rituals seem small, but yeah, they they bring it back to the factory. They go over the thing with the mechanics they have it ready to go. They have their own tractor too. They have a small private track that they test their new cars on but that the these guys are On these older racecars, they can come in suit up and they can get their crew out of the factory and go run to their heart's content. That events around the world they fly these cars there. They have a pit crew for them in a race. And that's what I call a rich I mean, that is beyond rich someday, Steve, you may make it. It was a big deal to have one of my cars trucked in Annapolis from other houses and that's $700 there was no Bergen sheesh can anyone do it for 650 and then you'd mentioned the souvenir shop at the Ferrari factory and a model of your California like the California that you have same color and everything how much money just 7000 bucks on sale today for seven but size was at what scale? Oh, it's I don't know the skill number but it was about a foot long. Maybe 14 inches it was there wasn't a tiny one. But it wasn't huge either. Good pedaling around the living room. Was it like amazingly intricate like if you open the hood and turn the back wheels the cylinders would go up and down. I mean are in no though. They had an engine and a jet. But it wasn't. It wasn't that intricate. You couldn't see the pistons move. But it was a beautiful piece $7,000 model the in the Ferrari souvenir shop. Now maybe like maybe like in the car business. I should have said I'll pay you 300 for it and start negotiating but pretty sure that's the ratio of discount where you used to start me.
That's probably where I started with with you. I never ended up there. I ended up more like at your price. That's because I lost money on everyone. Steve, I always made it up in the volume. That's right. That's that's the secret to any success, lose every deal and make it up into volume. My dad taught me that one. So of course you're from Indianapolis and you know, an amazing racing heritage city. Your restaurant, St. Elmo steakhouse, they're very, very popular during races. And tell me about Ferrari trying to take your whole restaurant for the week. They came in and on Formula One came to Indiana they came in and offered, I believe it was half a million dollars to take over the whole place for the week. And that included us serving them and drinking all that but we wouldn't do it. The reason being we had too many fans from around the world that brought their guests and wanted to eat at St. oma we had a ton of prior reservations from a year ahead or more. And so what we did is we cut a deal for, for it to have their headquarters in the lower level, which is our wine cellar in a beautiful place, by the way. So they had their drivers and they ended their real VIPs around the world come in and have lunch or dinner every day and their drivers through drivers were there. And of course they were world champions. So they got to be Michael Schumacher and all the crew. And we really enjoyed having them there. And they were there till the racing ended in Annapolis. Now Roger Penske, who bought the Indy 500 bracket, the Annapolis Motor Speedway, is going to try and bring back that Formula One at some point in time, but I think that would be great. These people came with lots of money and lots of love for the United States. And they ate and drank and partied hard, much harder than our people do. Even for the Super Bowl, I mean, they they really not a party, the private jets, the Mexico and Canada and all over the world. I mean, the big jets were at the airport. And since my airplane was out there, too. I mean, I was I was imaged among giants, but it's just fun to go out there and see these big birds. They were terrific. I gotta tell you, Steve on f1 I mean, depending on where I'm standing, I could have difficulty watching it if I'm just at a corner and my car comes around every few minutes. I was talking to Derek bell on another show. And he admitted to me that drivings great you know watching for example, llama or one of these races where you're just at your turn and waiting for your car and every four and a half minutes doesn't excite them but it sounds like it excites you because you've traveled to a lot of f1 races. You know what they've done with the technology though they had these great big giant screens all over and you can see the whole track on the giant screens you don't have to just wait for your guy to flash by anymore I'll still admit though watching the road races on TV is better you have incurred cameras, which they do flash up by the way on the giant jet TVs the tracks which have got a commentator commentators you're going to hear and you know, your your wine cellar is only a few feet away and for some good drink and sit back and just enjoy the race in a splendiferous way. You told me the restaurant does 20 million a year in sales a little over? A little over. So that's, you know if there was 50 weeks, but I know there's 52 weeks that would put you at about 400,000 a week anyway. I mean, really, they were just kind of hitting you your average sales. So did you look that they have offered You, too. Have you disappoint all of the race fans that come to town and count on going to the restaurant while they're in Indianapolis? At what number would you have been like forget them, they can go eat somewhere else. It would have been a matter of principle to me, we wouldn't have done that money. Just a count. You know, we have we do four to 500,000 bucks. And then we have we do more than a million dollars a week. You know, depends on the event in Annapolis, Indiana is located right in the center of the country. And we have NBA basketball, we have NFL paid many, by the ways a partner and a couple of our other restaurants.
He was a quarterback in Annapolis Super Bowl winner. We have soccer. We have a few huge conventions in Annapolis. So we get a lot of people from all over the country coming to India, it's the middle part of the US easy to get to cheap airfare. It's reasonably priced for anybody who wants to come and have a great time tonight sitting agree I spent a little time there. Now when you didn't close the restaurant, Rory did have a room. You didn't keep one set up. And I understand that you had some interesting other characters there that were dining that week, burb? painos. Panda, different week, different week of just a separate event. And her official who used to be the director of racing for General Motors, Corvettes Cadillac racing program, is become a good friend of mine, his wife Sandy to over the last 15 years. And herb was kind enough to invite me to my own restaurant and said, I'm paying for it. He said you were coming. But anyway, Mr. Honda was there at dinner and herb Of course, he was just a great storyteller, but his racing careers in the old days and NASCAR just had a great time. Don pan owes who owns the racetrack, just southeast of Atlanta was there. He Don invented the transdermal patch and made a lot of money with that. And you know, Dan was a smoker too, which is interesting. He kept smoking. So even though he had the drains for more patch. And the other funny part about Dan's story is he couldn't get it passed in by the FDA in the United States. But we went to I think it was Ireland, right when pretty sure it was Ireland though. And you got to going in Europe and then finally DFA got around to FDA got around and passing it that for sale in the stage. By that time we had a three or four year jump on everybody else to eventually competed with him and with the transdermal patch. So what's in your garage now? Well, I've got two graduates wanted Indianapolis at my home there one here so right now and Sarasota. Got a 2015 Ferrari, California t which is a convertible hardtop. It's got a hardtop and folds into the back. It's a beautiful, medium blue with a cream interior a really stunning automobile. And I just bought from a friend of mine who this has been two years ago, they Pre Owned for a 360 whether it had 30,000 miles on it, I'm sorry, 3800 miles 9000 and stick shift red Ferrari tan interior red exterior. And I really love that car. It's got a mid engine with a glass hood on the back of it right behind the driver's door. When I first drove the thing I thought somebody was following me right behind me to close. And it was my whole engine, of course, I mean, I knew that but it just psychologically kind of screwed me up for a while. And I got used to it. I've got a BMW Z eight, Zed eight, and that was one like it was a James Bond car and especially about this car. It's one at 62 ever made bright red with a creamy interior, and stick shift and five liter V eight, and all of the all aluminum body, really a great car. And then I bought my wife we use Rolls Royce dealer driven for three years and then it became available at about half the price. It was new, so it became affordable. She's had that for about eight years and loves it. It's an it's an immaculate condition. We only drive it about 3000 miles a year opposite that service on time and breakers should last your lifetime. And let's see, I've got a my car I like to drive and she does too is the 2020 Bentley convertible, British racing green with the cream interior. And it's just a gorgeous car. Really beautiful drives. It just drives like you're floating on a cloud but it's still firm and fast. The Continental Yeah, to kind of cheat. GTC Got it? This is this is called the GTC now they don't go right. Well I call it right I'm sorry, I'm I was always GTC. I just call that body continental. Yeah, yep. Yep. I love that British racing green with a cream and it's just drop dead gorgeous. Yes. Is that everything in Indy?
I've got a here's my favorite car. I've got a 2015 Corvette convertible. Biggest engineering to get seven speed manual gearbox. It's Deep Silver gray with a red interior. And that is my favorite car. I love that currency convertible the top down on a spring or summer day. Fabulous. Bose stereo power seats. You name it has got it and it just goes like a bat out of Hades. See we have a 1998 Jaguar they're affordable the 50,000 miles on it. Again British racing green cream interior supercharge. I'll tell you that kind of a sad story. But before I went into the hospital with a surprise COVID visit, I'd ordered a Porsche Turbo and SUV and I added the head to be shipped in from Denver dealer they're added and then shipped to the local dealership Tom wood and they put in my garage, put a charger on it and ended in our I am in the hospital for months in Sarasota. And I did drive the thing for almost a year. So bad for Thanksgiving. I got to drive it and it was just, it's pretty fast to really enjoy driving. And it'll hold groceries to the, you know, luggage, whatever you want. Oh, I've got a Mercedes convertible there to an S 554 seater. Again, it's dark, metallic silver with a red interior. I seem to like that combination. I bought our Pre Owned to just on a whim one day, it was discounted about 70 grand for new and it had 2700 miles on it. So I bought it back that day. That's it. What do you think of the new vet? You know, I love the new vets are technologically fabulous, and they seem to be as Super good price value. You know, you compare those to Lamborghini or Ferrari or one of the supercars made today, you're looking at 25% of the cost for a car that's 95% of the equipment and speed level. I don't have one ordered I like to and whenever anybody makes the model, I'd like them to make it about two years before I buy one. I had an 84 Corvette they're caught on fire when I was brand new, and I learned from that lesson, then they are wearing issue and then ever to get it face to chip catches on fire from time to time and mostly smoke and no flames. But it was certainly inconvenient. When that would happen on the highway. there was ever a car that would make you not want to buy the first of a model, it would be the 84 vet is a great example. Even if it didn't catch fire the best. Yeah. So if you don't mind, I'll shift gears pick your brain a little bit. What Steve, what would you say is your definition of success, having enough money not to worry about money, and I grew up worrying about money I you know, they turn the electricity off for a house, they'd not deliver coal. In case you have people don't know what call is it's how we used to burn a furnace before we had natural gas and oil. So I just have to shovel the coil. But when you're on a call boil and it's Indianapolis, and it's 10. Below, it's gets a little cold in the house. So my early memories, too. We had one bathroom and 12 people living in the house. If he had to go he had to make an appointment to get an emergency that's too bad, he'd probably have to clean up a hole go outside. That's about it, Jeff. Well, I mean, that probably has something to do with your motivation in your life. You gotta be highly motivated and not to go back to bit living in those circumstances. And people still do I will say I'm in it. It is. Things are what they're after WWE to and it was just a rough economic time for everybody to restart the country's economy. And so people moved into families moved in together. My great grandfather, great grandmother, grandmother, grandfather, Father back for the war mother and Uncle aunt, and their kids and two dogs, one dog mine, one dog or theirs came to live with us and that one bathroom house and it was a little tough. Did you know it was tough at the time? No, just normal at the time. So at the moment you didn't you weren't like this is horrible. But looking back at that time, it is a learn more to get exposed to more and right had friends that had more money and they live a better life and had nicer clothes and dad drove a nicer car. Although my dad even though he didn't have much money from time to time, he always seemed to have a nice car there was just like me it was an inherited downfall for both of us to like cars. Yes, cars have always been part of my memories with my dad. You know, I don't know that since I was born that he struggled until maybe my early to mid teens. He had a tough patch when we when we moved to Florida that the car mattered. For sure. No doubt about it and a lot of memories. So if you had to think and if I'm catching you off guard then you don't have to answer but what do you think is the best advice that you've ever given someone?
Oh, boy, that's a tough one, Jeff. Number one I guess is to eventually get yourself in a position where you're worth for yourself and not for somebody else who's your boss. And not everybody's cut out to be their own boss I am because I'm pretty disciplined and woefully common sense. A lot of people need the distraction of an office, the structure of of it can be or they just can't do it. The the opposite of that I do a lot better when I have economic and social freedoms, to do what I want to do, I work a lot harder when I'm working for me. When I work for me, it's not just me, I'm working for bankers, I'm working for my family, I'm working for employees. I call my employees, they're my business family. And we those people there, they have mortgages, they have have car payments they have kids are in college. So you've got to take care of them just like you would your own family, you don't want them to do your hero don't want to make a decision that cause them to lose their job. And over the years, we haven't affected too many people we've tried to hire well we test them, we've we've kind of put them through the hoops of multiple interviews. And so as a result, we have very little turnover in our company. And I'm proud of that, that's real important to choose right. And then keep going. But don't outspend yourself, although I have certainly done that from time to time, because I think I can make more money the next week in the next week. And I usually have. And so I've always bought a good home. Maybe it was a bit above my means at the time, and it kind of grew into it. I never put myself in a position where I knew I couldn't cover the cash flow. I have a motto that cash is king. cash is king. And I mean that my business and home to hear we're out of money, you're screwed. And pay somebody you're just that edge is the beginning of your downfall. So cash is king. What are you grateful for? Everything in the world that I can see, touch, feel and enjoy. You know, first of all, I'm grateful for my wife and family, they're the best. And I'm grateful that I made enough money to really have a nice life. We don't live in opulence, we live in comfort. And that's a that's very important to be to be comfortable and not worried about the next day, having to pay somebody you know, it's one of the things I would say about you in my entire time interacting with you is when you said hey, I'm grateful for anything I can see touch feel my family. You continually comment and this is true. I mean, you continually comment on whatever you're noticing, smelling, tasting, who you interacted with your family on a positive aspect. I mean, that's what you are, that's what you do. I don't know if that's a habit you chose, like, hey, I want to be like that someday because somebody influenced you. Or that's just your carrier genetics, I don't know. But you've always been like that, in my experience with it. I think my family's been like that, too. And, you know, I always think of myself someday when you get old and your wife has passed and your kids live in other states miles away, and you have the most beautiful sunset had been their night you've ever seen. And you tell yourself that it's just gorgeous. I have no one to share it with. And to me sharing it with a family member, a friend a spouse is that's much more than half of what you see taste feel. Just as critical to my satisfaction is to share things with people. What about something that nobody knows about you or they'd be surprised to know about you? I won't tell you about my harem. But I can't tell you because I don't have one. But you know, the line when I communicate about everything. And so there are no surprises I do the same with my kids. I don't think they do it with me as much as I do with them. But I communicate about everything that's on my mind or my plans, whatever it is that they need to know because someday they're going to be handling, what were my plans and my dreams are going to be handling that and dividing it up or whatever. So I like to admit, communicate about everything that I do with somebody, you're making sure that they're set up making sure that they're not blindsided making sure they're thinking about it. Is it could there be anything left on Steven Hughes bucket list who's been all over the world we've been to all the races been to the manufacturers to the auctions, to the events, has all the cars eaten everything all died a couple times came back? What could be on your bucket list.
I mean back again if it ever happens, I don't have a bucket list anymore. I mean, I am as pleased as I can be with the way things have gone. I there have been so many people by the way when I get this COVID I almost died. I was just amazed how many people called road emailed Lyla and then later when I get was conscious myself that showed true love. Doctor even in front of medicine guy doctor, I had a mock he was here in Sarasota. I just remarked on one I've been off of her to this hospital food so he bought me dinner at a restaurant brought it in. They sat there and cut up my big chicken and my vegetables so I could handle them and just and brought four Rosasco Rooney brought me brought me a bottle of wine. If I had to stay overnight, I mean people like that, that do little things. That, you know, they're not belittling me. They're pretty big. Did I tell you a couple of years ago when a doctor gave me about six weeks to live? No, that long, huh? Tell me about it. I told him I couldn't pay the bill. So he gave me another six weeks. Good, good. Leave. I appreciate your generosity. I called some old friends out of the woodwork. I know I haven't done everything in the world to maintain relationships. I'm not checking in every week. And some wonderful people like you said, Hey, if you're doing a show, let's do one that warms my heart really makes me feel cared about and I appreciate you putting yourself out there and helping me with this project. I hope the audience enjoys it. But dude, Jeff, you're a guy I admire you but you've been to the fire yourself and you've done a while and you've made your life you've taken care of a young man, your son it's got some disabilities you've included him in everything you do, which I certainly admire you now you have a new baby two and a wife that's sweetheart so you pose the world to make your own happiness. Well, you know, I mean, of course it my age having a baby. Some people look at you funny, but someone put it perfectly for me and helped me put it all together for myself. And they said if you're not a father, what are you and that suits me fine. Yeah, that's my favorite thing. Steve, thank you. Love you. Okay, love you too. This has been Jeff Sterns connected through cars.
Steve Huse was born about about 8 miles from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway which might account for his love of fast vehicles of all types. Over the years, he has owned Corvettes, BMW’s, Ferrari, Mercedes, Porsches, Bentleys, Rolls-Royces plus a few odds and ends. Steve and his lovely spouse Lila, are both pilots of a TBM Prop Jet. Their homes are in Indy and Sarasota, FL.
At a young age he bought an Arby’s franchise and recently sold 34 Arby’s in 2 states. He was the primary founder of Noble Roman’s Pizza, a chain of restaurants that he assisted in taking public.
Steve was a “turn around” President of the famous Steak ‘N Shake chain in the late 1980’s.
His most notable achievement was his purchase of the iconic St. Elmo Steak House in 1986. St. Elmo is in the top 25 of the highest volume restaurants in the USA. Huse Culinary now operates 4 other very successful restaurants, all of which are multiple award winners.
He and Lila work hard, take risks and prosper so they can enjoy exotic cars!