Toasted Yolk owner shares Port Arthur positives with restaurant location, community support
Published 12:42 am Saturday, April 22, 2023
A restaurant located in Port Arthur has become one of the top performers in its franchise, and it all started with a microwave.
Brett Baumgartner, owner of Toasted Yolk, didn’t know he would one day be operating two of the fastest growing restaurant chains in the United States. He actually wasn’t sure what he would be doing with his life until he had a conversation with his mother, who he described as a “phenomenal” educator.
One day he built the courage to ask about her career path.
“‘I’ve watched you do this for 40 years. Why?’” he asked her. “And she told me, ‘I can’t believe they’re even paying me anything to do it. That’s how much I love it.’ And that’s why she was successful with it. She was so engaged and just about children.”
Baumgartner began contemplating a future where he, too, could share that passion.
“It really put it in my mind: what is it that I want to do? Because I couldn’t necessarily say, ‘this is how I feel about that.’ I did know I was not an office guy,” he said. “I was not the sit down and work the numbers guy. But I love people and I love talking to people, and so I decided to go into the management route.”
While working for Carrabba’s Italian Grill in Colorado, the restaurateur began climbing the corporate ladder, and was ultimately asked to manage the Beaumont establishment.
“I’m not going to lie, at that time I couldn’t even point to Beaumont on a map,” he said.
But he accepted the challenge. He had grown to love the principles and beliefs set by the owners of the company. When he arrived, the Southeast Texas location was ranked approximately 180 out of 300.
“As I get here, I see this amazing community,” he said. “Southern hospitality to me is a real thing. You truly know that, see that, embrace that. When I came down here to that Carraba’s in this little town they told me would never really amount to much, was No. 1 in the entire chain in sales and profits for the last seven years I was there.”
But towards the end of his 14 years at that restaurant, the corporation changed. The owners pulled back on almost all of the locations, and principles began to shift while Baumgartner’s did not.
“Instead of making things from scratch, it’s all coming in bags,” he said. “They bring microwaves into the building. If you’re a first-time guest, the first thing I tell you is this is a made-from-scratch kitchen. There are no microwaves in the building. And I had to change that, and it just didn’t feel right.”
His wife noticed he was unhappy. And on a family trip, they came across a Toasted Yolk. It was something Southeast Texas didn’t have, and the principles and beliefs it had been built on matched his own.
With his wife’s encouragement, he opened a location in Beaumont in 2020.
“We opened Beaumont, and broke every record they had,” Baumgartner said. “They say God never gives you more than you can handle. He definitely wanted to make sure we were true and tested. Three months after opening, COVID hits. And, again, I’m all in on this little thing. And we handled it beautifully. I didn’t lose staff. We pulled together as a family.”
And even amidst the pandemic, he began looking for other locations.
Why not Port Arthur?
Baumgartner said no one ever asked why he opened a restaurant in Beaumont, but everyone questions the decision to open one in Port Arthur.
“And my response to them is that it isn’t Beaumont,” he said. “The community is equal. If not, it’s stronger. It does have a horrible reputation. But what I like to do, instead of asking why would somebody open a business (in Port Arthur), is why wouldn’t you?”
He was told he wouldn’t be able to find decent staff. He was told the location was too hidden from the highway. And yet the location that opened in 2021 has “some of the best staff” and “amazing servers.”
Currently among the 40-plus Toasted Yolk restaurants, Beaumont is ranked No. 1. Port Arthur is No. 2, he said.
“I’m going to do everything I can to shed that positive light on Port Arthur, because it doesn’t get the credit it deserves,” Baumgartner said.
Port Arthur optometrist Barry Davis said he’s a frequent customer, and several times has been greeted by the owner personally.
“To me that’s the most important thing,” Davis said. “Not only is the service good, but the food is excellent.”
But for Baumgartner, it’s not just about feeding a community. It’s about belonging to one.
“I want this city to grow,” he said. “I want the community to grow. And I want all of us to do it together.”