Stephen Teibel is the third generation of his family to own and manage the successful Schererville restaurant that first opened at the corner of U.S. 30 and U.S. 41 in 1929.
It had seating for 12 back then.
“Teibel’s has endured through many years and generations of the Teibel family,” says Cal Bellamy, partner with Krieg DeVault. “But isn’t it noteworthy that Steve and the rest of the family have maintained quality, affordability and uniquely signature dishes while also evolving in various and sometimes unnoticed modest steps? They have continued to succeed in a particularly difficult business as the world around them has changed. Success has largely been dependent on Steve’s personal, hands-on leadership.”
Bellamy adds that Stephen Teibel is also highly committed to the community, whether with Meals on Wheels, the Hammond YMCA or helping various local volunteers provide high quality, affordable meals to those in need.
“As one who has partnered with him in various non-profit activities, I know of this first hand,” Bellamy says. “Steve is my unsung hero. He works quietly there giving quality food over all these years and at the same time helping out in many different ways. He believes in his product and he believes in sharing. I think those are two very admirable characteristics.”
Stephen Teibel explains, with the grueling hours involved in running a restaurant, “You better love it every day you come in.”
“It’s in your blood,” he says. “There are things that make your blood boil here and then there are times that it is very gratifying.”
He enjoys working 30 days in the kitchen followed by 30 days in the dining room.
“When you work in the dining room, you talk to the customers to find out what they want,” Teibel says. “You can make people happy by doing little things. And when you are in the kitchen you turn around and say ‘I know what my customers want and take care of them.’” In the restaurant business, each day is different, different customers with different needs.
“When you have a business that is 80 some years old, as is your building, you have to keep improving everything,” Teibel says. “Working a lot of hours is the downfall part of the business.”
Surgery last year and recovery in the hospital have caused him to re-think his priorities. “You shouldn’t have to work that many hours,” Teibel says. “It took its toll on me. I don’t want that to happen to my son.”
Among his mentors, Teibel includes his father, Harold, his uncle Bob, golf pro Herb Meinert and insurance salesman William Smith. He said all four taught him by example and helped and inspired him, including on the golf course.
According to Stephen Teibel, “Golf can teach you a lot about patience.”
He says he wouldn’t be here today if wasn’t for the support of his wife of 37 years, Debra, who took care of their four children while he worked long hours and was a great caregiver when he was sick.
His community activities include supporting the Shrine of Christ’s Passion, serving on the board of Meals on Wheels when the organization built a new facility and working with the American Heart Association on its first Taste of Northwest Indiana fundraiser.
Stephen Teibel’s son and restaurant co-owner Paul explains the key to his father’s success has been similar to that of his grandfather. “They are just very hard workers,” Paul Teibel says. “Even up until he slowed down his schedule last year, he is always very hands on and always there to help whether it is here at the restaurant or some charity event.”
Paul Teibel says both his grandfather and father have worked crazy hours, anywhere from, 60 in a light week to 80.
“To fit time in there not only to take care of the business but to be able to help people like he did and like he still does is a big thing,” Paul Teibel says. “To be able to just help the town of Schererville when they have the corn roast or they have the kid’s night out in the park, all the types of events, to be able to work things in like he did is pretty amazing.”
Paul Teibel explains his father has an ability to think about something, process it fast and make a decision on the spot.
“A lot of times I think that can get people in trouble, but his track record with those decisions is proven,” Paul Teibel says. “His ability to make good decisions on the fly and just keep going really maximizes the amount of time he has to not only work on other things at the restaurant but other things outside the restaurant as well.”
His father has taught him valuable life lessons, Paul Teibel says.
“There is one life lesson that definitely jumps out right away,” Paul Teibel says. “He always says you are only as good as your last meal served. He is always focused on the one at hand. If you mess that one up that person is not coming back.”
With so many restaurant choices in Northwest Indiana Paul Teibel thinks keeping that in mind is extremely important.
“His focus is always on the customer for whom we are putting the lunch out or the bridal shower or the catering job,” Paul Teibel says. “He has worked hard to keep the name that my grandfather and great-grandfather made.”
Paul Teibel's father and grandfather have taught him everything he needs to know about running the restaurant.
“The way it is run now is as close as you can get to the way they ran it. You don’t mess with success.” Paul Teibel says his father has stressed the importance of high quality, fresh food and good service.
“If we do those two things right you are taking care of the customer. We keep everything as fresh as you can possibly have it while also focusing on the service whether it is my dad talking to people about a banquet on the phone or just everybody in the entire building. Really focusing on those two things is the main key to our success. That is what he taught me.”
Paul Teibel says he and his father have fun on the job.
“It’s hard work but we have fun every day,” Paul says. “He jokes with the customers and staff.”
“Talking the tables, that is definitely part of the success of my dad too. When he was running the podium customers loved talking to my dad. He could stand at a table and talk to a customer for a half hour about their family and or a place the customer had been. He still walks into the dining room and will talk to the customers he knows, checking on first-timers.”
Paul Teibel says communication skills are definitely one of his father’s strong points.
“He not only asks customers if they are happy about their meals, he makes it personal,” he says. “That is an important lesson. If you lose touch with your customers and the guests that you are supposed to be taking care of, if you don’t know what they want, how are they supposed to be happy?”