One of the Best Restaurants In Sarasota!
Clayton Thompson was kind enough to give me some of his time so I could find out more about this most interesting restaurateur. My experience eating at Clayton’s Siesta Grille had been so consistently delicious and the ambience and staff a total pleasure, that I wanted to know his secret: He told me what part of his formula for success is: Be a “presence” on the premises; meet and greet your customers and
welcome them; ask them how their dinner is; approach people in the street while you, the owner, pass out flyers and coupons for a free appetizer. You see, Clayton knows there’s no place for a big ego in this business. Eateries and their owners come and go every day, but since he mixes in humility, excellence and direct contact with his customers, Clayton still stands.
Another testament to Clayton and his management style is the fact that most of his staff has been there for 8 over years, since he opened the restaurant. Part of the fun experience is becoming friendly with the wait staff, because they are happy working there and they want you to be happy, too. It’s not a place for a sulky personality to thrive. And, Clayton hires high school kids to work for him as hosts, expeditors and food runners. He helps, mentors and trains them to be the best they can be and reinforces his admirably strong work ethic. He is a man who believes in giving back.
Clayton graduated from Florida State University and after working in the Real Estate appraisal business for many years, the business model changed due to government regulation, and it was becoming very difficult to make a living. Clayton became more than bored, and after 25 years moved on to something more meaningful and enjoyable. Clayton is a social animal, in his own words, and he originally opened the restaurant as a Mattison’s. He took the derelict building and created an amazingly comfortable, and pleasing atmosphere. Earlier it had housed a Cowboy Bar, Roosters gay bar, and Donovans Reef, where Chef Dimitri came on board. The menu, while driven by Chef Dimitri, is market-oriented, and that is what separates Clayton’s from many restaurants, the fact that they take a proactive stance on updating the menu constantly. The very cheerful and original artwork that covers the walls invites interest, as well. Everything, combined with a delectable menu makes Clayton the perfect dining atmosphere.
There are people who don’t realize that Clayton’s can cater any size function, wedding, or party with the same gourmet delights available at the restaurant. He doesn’t cut any corners because he won’t accept mediocrity. That’s another reason Clayton’s is thriving. For some of us, presentation means so much, and when you receive your food at Clayton’s, whether it be an appetizer, main course, or even dessert, you can’t help but admire the presentation.
He and his wife , Diane, have been together 32 years and married 25 and have three children. . None of the kids wanted to work for a dad that was driven to micro manage the many details of the restaurant business. Clayton ll and Shelby help out when they are back from FSU and UF, with their oldest daughter Logan, is working in the restaurant as a bartender, server, substitute manager and catering staff member. His manager, Amy, has also been with Clayton for over 8 years, has a disciplined lifestyle including boxing, football, competitive athletics, and fun. In fact, you’ll find a very happy staff at Clayton’s, and that makes the experience all the sweeter.
You might not know some of the finer character traits Clayton has because he’ll never tell you. There have been people who may have had way too much to drink who Clayton drove home; the unemployed who he has encouraged to step out in faith and follow their dreams, and how he has taught classes on how to start a small business, to adult education students.I know from personal experience that running a restaurant can really unravel a marriage, but Clayton and Diane are still going strong. Their’s is the restaurant we take our friends to, our visitors from out of state, and it’s the place my significant other and I celebrate Valentine’s Day and other holidays. We know, without exception, that we will have great service, superb fare, and with any luck, Clayton will come and sit down for a few minutes and treat us like family. You can’t beat it!
This artilce was reprinted from September 2013 on The Sarasota Post.