Westridge Grill marks anniversary
BY WILLIAM F. WEST
Friday, February 1, 2019
A local restaurant and pub has been in business more than 22 years now, with the longtime owner always working to make sure patrons continue to come and go with smiles on their faces.
Westridge Grill opened in the Westridge Shopping Center along Sunset Avenue and has remained in the same location ever since.
"We are the ‘Cheers’ of Rocky Mount, if you will," owner Michael Wise said, referring to the popular 1982-93 television show about a fictional Boston bar.
"We know a lot of our customers by name," Wise said, including what beverages they like to drink and what foods they like to eat.
Westridge Grill's menu includes freshly made hand-patty burgers, homemade fried green tomatoes, homemade chicken salad, hand-breaded chicken tenders, fresh salads and wraps.
Westridge Grill also is the scene of live music every Thursday inside during the wintertime and on the patio in the summer.
The walls of the business also are extensively lined with local and regional sports memorabilia.
Wise said the latter was the idea of him and Westridge Grill's founders and then-owners, the late Richard Jenkins and Jim Gardner.
Wise said after a few years as manager of the business, he became the owner after approaching Gardner, who was ready to retire.
Wise said he believes the reason for Westridge Grill's success is because many of his employees have been working for the business for anywhere from 15 to nearly 20 years. Westridge Grill has 30 employees, four of whom are full-time.
Westridge Grill's location in a commercial center home to the Harris Teeter supermarket, many specialty businesses, a post office and a convenience store certainly helps business.
"This location, in my opinion, is the best spot to be in in Rocky Mount," Wise said.
Wise estimates approximately 80 percent of Westridge Grill's business is comprised of repeat patrons from within a five-mile radius of the location.
He said Westridge Grill also attracts customers who are traveling on Interstate 95 and staying in hotels in Rocky Mount.
Wise said he is quite aware of the importance of making a good impression on travelers, particularly given the presence of websites such as TripAdvisor and Yelp.
"And we're in the top 10 and have remained in the top 10 since those sites have been established," he said.
Westridge Grill ranks seventh highest of 126 eateries or restaurants in Rocky Mount on the TripAdvisor site.
Wise said much has changed at Westridge Grill through the years, mainly as a result of expansion.
"We got into serving craft beers about seven to eight years ago," he said. "We've expanded our drafts. We started out with four. We now have 16.
"We started out with six tables on the patio, (with) approximately 20 seats. And now, we have over a hundred outside," he said.
Westridge Grill can seat 93 people inside.
Wise, 45, is a Rocky Mount native and a 1992 graduate of Northern Nash High School. He brought a background in the food service business when he first entered Westridge Grill.
When he was a high school student, he started working at a Hardee's Restaurant on Wesleyan Boulevard. Eventually, he began working at the Hardee's on Sunset Avenue and began managing shifts.
He left to go work for what was then Woody's, a barbecue restaurant, on Winstead Avenue, where he was manager until going to work as the manager at Westridge Grill.
He said the experience at Westridge Grill has at times been similar to a roller coaster ride.
"We've had our ups and we've had our downs and made some mistakes along the way – and learned from 'em. And hopefully, we can continue to support Rocky Mount," he said. "I can't complain. We've done real well."
Westridge Grill is open from 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, but the closing time is flexible. The business can be reached at 937-7299.