Being a small business owner is a tough job! That’s why we feature a different small business in our Small Business Spotlight every month!
This month we are excited to feature Castaways Restaurant in Lancaster, an iconic eatery high on the hill “above the fairgrounds” as the advertisements used to say. Established over seventy years ago at this very location, Castaways is a Lancaster staple.
While some necessary changes have been made through the years, the meat and potatoes of the restaurant remains the same – the food! Fresh steaks, chops, and burgers sourced from Bay Food Market accompany a wide variety of seafood, sandwiches, salads, and stone-baked pizzas on the menu. Their legendary Prime Rib Wednesdays, held bi-weekly, have been satisfying crowds who come in to “eat at the butcher’s house” for decades.
For as long as anyone can remember, the Kraft family has been connected to the historic restaurant. The connection, first through the Bay farm and then through Bay Food Market, eventually led to Bay Food Market owner David Kraft buying the restaurant in 1997 when original owner Fred Eaton decided to sell.
For many years the restaurant stuck with what worked in more than just the kitchen. Traditional marketing tactics were used to promote the restaurant and word of mouth was heavily relied upon. However, in recent years as David’s daughter Micole Ruff has taken on more responsibility with the family business, she’s made the marketing side one of her top priorities. Step #1 was to make social media a serious part of their strategy.
With an eye for photography, Micole posts to social media nearly every day, whether it be photos on Instagram or updates and shout outs on Facebook. On Sundays and Mondays, when the restaurant is closed, she even makes an effort to shout out other local businesses and establishments.
Like everyone else, the business had to evolve last year because of the challenges that came with the pandemic. “We just did what they told us we needed to do,” Micole said, referring to operating a restaurant amidst a global pandemic. “We really didn’t have a choice. But we were lucky that we already had a good amount of carry-out business before this all happened.” The already-established base of their carryout business, she says, is a large reason why their temporary but mandatory shift to carry-out only service was successful.
Then they experimented with bringing in musicians to play on the patio for the guests dining outdoors on summer and autumn Prime Rib Wednesdays. That went from experiment to official part of the schedule each week almost immediately. Now, musicians are lining up to play once the weather breaks this year. The calendar is already booked through May.
One of the most publicized efforts over the past year was the opening of their kitchen to Jamie Mast, owner of The Original Jimmy’s Jawbreaker concession trailer, another legendary staple of the local dining community. Several times throughout 2021, Jamie was able to come in and cook alongside the Castaways crew in the kitchen. On these special nights, the Original Jimmy’s Jawbreaker burgers and homemade cannolis were offered alongside the full Castaway’s menu. Doing something a little bit different offered a lift to the business. “Jamie and her businesses have been long time customers so it was a natural fit to partner with her for something like this. It was great for all of us!”
With seventy years of experience preparing delicious food, Castaways has a loyal fan base beating a path to the off-the-beaten path restaurant above the city. They invite newcomers to follow their lead and discover what all the fuss is about when people gush about their delectable fresh cut meats, homemade dressings and stone baked pizzas.
Visit Castaways at 1500 North High Street in Lancaster. You can also find them on Facebook or Instagram and view their full menu on their website. Dine in or carry out your dinner Tuesdays through Saturdays and don’t forget to pre-order your Wednesday prime rib feast a day ahead of time!