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Dr. Jeff DanielsonSerial entrepreneur Dr. Jeff Danielson is the CEO of Big Fish Enterprises, a coaching and training company that allows him to pay it forward by investing in the future of young chiropractic doctors. Outside of his chiropractic practice, Dr. Danielson is the Co-owner of Trellis Hospitality, a Twin Cities restaurant concept, including Tamarack Tap Room, Woolley’s Kitchen and Bar, Barley and Vine, and the Jordan Supper Club. Additionally, Dr. Danielson is an Owner of PS Steak and the Butcher and The Boar, two restaurants that fall under Jester Concepts.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • Dr. Jeff Danielson explains his life mission to pay it forward
  • The similarities between running a chiropractic office and a restaurant business
  • What is Trellis Hospitality?
  • Why should you visit the Tamarack Tap Room?
  • How Dr. Danielson implements a pay-it-forward culture in his restaurants
  • The importance of surrounding yourself with humble people
  • How did the pandemic affect the operations of his restaurants?

In this episode…

Many people go into leadership with the mindset of being “the boss.” But that is not what leadership is all about. So what exactly does it mean to be a leader?

According to entrepreneur and leader Dr. Jeff Danielson, leadership is having a servant’s heart. Through life lessons and experience, Dr. Danielson – a chiropractor by trade and by heart – firmly believes that the only way to lead people is to love people. It’s also through this motto that he’s dedicated to paying it forward. As a result, he feels he’s reaped the rewards of being a good steward. So, how has Dr. Danielson benefitted from having a servant’s heart?

To learn more, join host Chad Franzen of Rise25 as he chats with Dr. Jeff Danielson, the CEO of Big Fish Enterprises and Owner of Trellis Hospitality. The two discuss entrepreneurship, Trellis Hospitality, and paying it forward.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

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Episode Transcript

Intro  0:04  

Welcome to the Top Business Leaders Show powered by Rise25 Media. We feature top founders, executives and business leaders from all over the world.

Chad Franzen  0:20  

Chad Franzen here, co-host for this show where we feature top restauranteurs, investors and business leaders. This is part of our SpotOn series. SpotOn has the best-in-class payment platform for retail. And they have a flagship solution called SpotOn Restaurant, where they combined marketing, software, and payments all in one. They’ve served everyone from larger chains like Dairy Queen and Subway to small mom-and-pop restaurants. To learn more, go to This episode is brought to you by Rise25. We help b2b businesses to get ROI clients referrals and strategic partnerships through done for you podcast. If you have a b2b business and want to build great relationships with clients, referral partners, and thought leader in your space, there’s no better way to do it than through podcasts and content marketing. To learn more, go to or email us at Dr. Jeff Danielson is a passionate and creative serial entrepreneur of 19 LLCs. His life’s mission is to pay it forward for the hospitality industry into the future of chiropractic through his coaching and training company, Big Fish Enterprises. Dr. Jeff is a Co-owner of Trellis Hospitality, a group of restaurants in the Twin Cities, which includes Tamarack Tap Room, Woolley’s, Barley and Vine, and Jordan Supper Club. He was also invited to be an owner of Jester Concepts restaurants, which include PS Steak, and the Butcher and The Boar, which is set to reopen in its new location this fall. Hey, Dr. Jeff, thanks so much for joining me today. How are you?

Dr. Jeff Danielson  1:41  

Oh, I’m doing great. It’s great to be with you.

Chad Franzen  1:43  

Yeah, thanks so much for joining me, hey, tell me about your life’s mission to pay it forward.

Dr. Jeff Danielson  1:47  

Oh, my goodness, you know, I would be lying if I said I started my life. To pay it forward. I think I was just like every other selfish little kid, you know, that wanted to build a career and a life for myself. But as I became an entrepreneur, I’m a chiropractor at heart, became an entrepreneur and wanted to help people. I learned very quickly in leading people that the only way you can lead people is to love people. And it became clear to me that if I wanted to be successful in business, one of the things that I needed to do was to help others become successful in business. And I have carried that theme throughout the many businesses that I run and and have organized over the years. And it served me very well in chiropractic as a as a doctor. And it has served me very well. Interestingly enough, you would not think that there are many similarities between the chiropractic and healthcare world, and the restaurant and hospitality industry. But there are a lot of similarities. And I’ve been able to carry that theme into the hospitality industry. And I really love doing,

Chad Franzen  2:55  

how did you was there kind of a situation or a story that, that you really wish that you were in that you realized this was a philosophy that would benefit you and benefit everybody else that was associated with you?

Dr. Jeff Danielson  3:08  

Yeah, well, it kind of what happened is this. There was there were a few people that I was familiar with friends of mine that were restaurant tours. And they had a concept that they wanted to create, and it’s now found in the restaurant, Tamarack Tap room in Woodbury, Minnesota. And, and they wanted to bring other individuals on board for owning the restaurant that had different skill sets. The skill set that they saw in me was my ability to work with people and to organize people and to love people. And the paid for concept. They were intrigued by that. And they were like, You need to be on our board. And so, so I was like, great. This sounds like, like an adventure. And as a lot of your listeners probably know, don’t get into the restaurant industry unless you’re willing to lose your money. And so I knew that I have a certain amount of money that I was willing to lose in order to learn something. And that was really my goal was I wanted to learn something about something new. I’ve been a chiropractor for almost 20 years before I owned my first restaurant. And so I want to learn something new came on with this team and found that I, I could apply a lot of my people skills in the hospitality industry. And in fact, the key piece that that we do in our in our clinics is we help young people advance in the industry by paying it forward to them, to teach them to mentor them, to love them to get them excited about building a career in the restaurant industry. And we now have people that have moved all the way from like a bussing position, all the way up to actually owning being a part owner in a rescue. Right. And there’s a lot of steps in between there, believe me, you know, but it’s been really cool to see people have the light bulb go on above their head when they realize that they can be an entrepreneur, that they can run a business that they can build a life for themselves through a restaurant concept. And that really what it’s been all about, too, is creating concepts that are experiences. And that’s what we do with our restaurants.

Chad Franzen  5:29  

You talked about there being a lot of similarities between running a Cairo chiropractic clinic and a restaurant. What are some of those?

Dr. Jeff Danielson  5:39  

Well, the thing that the thread that goes between everything is, is people.

Chad Franzen  5:44  

Sure. So I go to a chiropractor, and I can tell her, you have to be a great people person, you have to enjoy talking to people and really serving people, does that carry over? How does that carry over when you’re the owner of a restaurant?

Dr. Jeff Danielson  5:57  

Well, it’s not so much the owner, because I’m not in the restaurants, you know, running food out and exporting and doing all those things. But if you are, let’s just say as as a server, as a restaurant server, you’re very similar to a chiropractor. Because you are there to give people a great experience, you are there to deliver a service, whether it’s an adjustment, and better health, or it’s an experience, that they can enjoy their family or their friends, and have dinner with them. And that requires education. So Chad, if I had your neck in my hands, and you had never been adjusted before, boy, I better I better explain to you what an adjustment is, and what it’s going to feel like and what it’s going to do for you and how it’s going to benefit you. There’s a lot of education behind them. And when your server standing there at a table, and people are looking through the menus, you are an educator, you’re a teacher, and you may have somebody sitting there like my son who just wants the greasiest. Uh, you know, cheesiest burger possible, you know, the greatest, like, oozing experience where the burgers dripping down his arm, that’s my son, okay. But on the other side of the table, you may have somebody that needs to be gluten free, needs to maybe has a peanut allergy needs to know, it might and that. Also, at the same table, you might have somebody that wants a wine and they want a wine that’s going to pair well with their pork chop, you know, so you better be able to educate all three of those people to deliver the experience that they’re expecting. And that’s what’s cool about people and the service industry is that we are teachers, we are there to serve them in that way.

Chad Franzen  7:53  

So tell me a little bit about Trellis Hospitality and how you got involved.

Dr. Jeff Danielson  7:56  

Well, a Trellis. Yeah, so it all kind of started with this first restaurant, Tamra tap room. And as we became successful with that concept, to have the other. So that group started as 13 owners, it’s now down to 10. But it started with 13 owners, two of the other owners are very accomplished entrepreneur entrepreneurs in the restaurant industry. And they tapped me on the shoulder said, hey, you know, we’ve got some ideas that we want to roll out to other restaurants. And so the three of us then formed a restaurant management company called Trellis Hospitality, that group, then we help restaurant tours, manage the restaurants, we bring in accounting intelligence, we bring in marketing, intelligence, and operations, intelligence. And so when we can bring in those three things into a restaurant, where maybe somebody’s really just passionate about food and and wants to be successful, but doesn’t necessarily know the intimate details of those three pieces, the accounting, the operations, and, and also the, the food issue, and the people issue, when we can come in and the marketing, when we can come in and address all of those things, then we can really help our restaurant tour become successful because as you know, so many restaurants fail, you know, so many so many. And honestly, that’s why I got into it. I’m also a coach in the chiropractic industry, I coach chiropractors around the country. And I do that because I don’t want chiropractors to fail. And the same thing is true of restaurants. I don’t want restaurants to fail either. And there’s ways that we can prevent that.

Chad Franzen  9:39  

So you mentioned Tamarack Tap Room Can you tell me about it? Maybe what a customer can expect when going there?

Dr. Jeff Danielson  9:44  

Oh yeah, the Tamarack Tap Room is, is just cool. It’s what I like to tell people is if if, if you like beer, you are going to love Tamarack Tap Room. We’ve got 72 beers on tap. And it is it is a craft experience. It’s kind of a funny story that I have about the restaurant is that when we started it, we were not, we were not going to have a regular beer like Budweiser, Miller or Coors on our list, it was going to be all craft beer. And that’s how we started. And we had so many people ask us well, do you just have a Coors Light, because you know, even if you have a group of six people, there’s always going to be one in the crowd, and of six that is going to want their Coors Light or the Miller Light. And so we’re like, Todd got it. And so we have two taps out of 72. And we have to, you know, regular regular beers, whether it be Budweiser or Coors Light, because there are people that that’s what they want. And the funny story here is that in our bathroom, in the in the men’s bathroom, we have two urinals, and those urinals are case. You can actually go in the bathroom and pee into a keg. When when we first opened, they were Budweiser kegs, nothing against Budweiser, okay? I’m just saying it’s not craft beer, right? So they were Budweiser kegs. And then when we started carrying Budweiser and our list of tabs, we had to take the caves out and put in just blank kegs. Because we didn’t want. We didn’t want to offend Budweiser by peeing on peanuts or the Budweiser cakes. What’s awesome, and if you can get people to do this is awesome. The guys will go in there. And if they’ve never peed into a keg before, they will actually take a picture on their phone. And they’ll bring it back to their table, and they’ll show their buddies at the table. Look what I just peed into. So it’s it’s creating an experience that’s fun. It’s it’s slightly upscale, meaning our chef is fantastic. Our chef is super creative. I mean, we’ve had a bone marrow on on the on the menu. We have amazing a flatbreads and different things. So it’s it’s not just a greasy spoon. It’s not that but it’s all about craft burgers, craft beer and bourbon. And that’s the experience that you get.

Chad Franzen  12:16  

Do you mind if we run through the rest of the restaurants associated with Trellis? Can you tell me about Woolley’s?

Dr. Jeff Danielson  12:21  

Sure, yeah, well is Wolleys Kitchen and Bar is a completely remodeled restaurant inside of the Embassy Suites in Bloomington right by the airport. It’s been a very successful restaurant there for years and years, we do weddings and a lot of corporate events there at the Embassy Suites. And we’ve got a great little restaurant and bar inside up inside of the hotel. So it’s a completely different animal for those that are listening. It’s a it’s a, it’s a whole different deal. We get busy, busy, busy when there’s a snowstorm because we have all kinds of people that have to stay overnight because their flights got canceled. And we’re we’re about six blocks from the Minneapolis Airport. And so you know, a plus we have tons of business meetings and weddings and things like that plus room service. And so it’s not it’s not the same as our other standalone restaurants. But the things that are the same service people you know, opportunity for young people to advance opportunity to mentor young people and just loving on customers and being there and educating for customers. There our menu is a little bit of a little bit classier now because it’s a hotel restaurant. So it’s a little classier level of service, you know, and whatnot. So it’s it’s a lot of fun, but that’s that’s kind of the experience there. 

Chad Franzen  13:46  

What about Barley and Vine? 

Dr. Jeff Danielson  13:47  

Barley and Vine is Tamarack Tap Room except a little bit fancier. It’s it’s more of a date night. So the the menus are a little bit nicer. We don’t have as many TVs. We’ve got a gorgeous patio. It is. It is a great place to meet for the lady for the ladies to meet to have a glass of wine together and a great cheese board. We were just featured in the Star Tribune, which is the main newspaper in the Twin Cities as the best place for a Cheeseboard in town, in the Twin Cities and so we got written up and that was that was kind of a neat thing because that’s that’s, that’s what we want is we want it again, it’s an experience now in the summer. It’s not just nice blinds on the patio. But it’s slushies. And I’m telling you right now if you’re listening to this and you’re an entrepreneur restaurant tour, if you don’t have a slushie and you can get the machines, the slushie machines that make these. The overhead on the margins are amazing on the slushies because there are wine slushies there, you know alcohol and wine slushies and they go down easy, they go down smooth and people keep drinking them. And in the price point is excellent. We get really good margins on those.

Chad Franzen  15:06  

Sounds great. The last one with Trellis that I that I know of is Jordan Supper Club?

Dr. Jeff Danielson  15:11  

Yeah, so Jordan Supper Club is that’s a smaller town. Jordan is a town outside of the Twin Cities about 25-30 minutes outside of the metro. You know, it’s a growing community, but it’s probably five or 6000 people. We’re off of Main interstate. But it’s very, very similar to the taproom. The Tamarack Tap Room, same same kind of environment, not as many taps there. But we have two restaurants kind of under one roof there. We have the Jordan Tap Room. And we have the Jordan Supper Club. The owner is Dick Ames and as and his wife, Lolly, and Dick passed away a few years ago. But Trellis runs the restaurant for the family. And the Ames family has been a very, very important family for the Jordan community, actually, for all of the Twin Cities. He was a huge benefactor had he was a very successful entrepreneur and the construction company in the construction area. In fact, he built the Denver Airport. So he laid the foundation for that entire airport, which was a huge thing. But so it is a community based experience there. It’s it’s fancier than most of the other restaurants in town that are just kind of diners, or greasy spoons. So it’s a little bit of an upgrade from that craft beer craft burgers, that kind of thing.

Chad Franzen  16:39  

Okay, hey, how do you before we talk about just the Jester restaurants? How do you implement that culture of paying for the Pay It Forward culture in your restaurants?

Dr. Jeff Danielson  16:49  

Well, that’s that’s a good point. Number one, it always starts with you, right? It starts with how do I how do I make sure that the people around me that are working with me know that I’m not just not here for myself, okay. And this is just life experience and life. Mentorship as well. If you want to get more out of life than serve people, love the people around you do something for other people. Number one, it makes you feel good. I mean, there’s nothing better than giving a great referral to a friend or helping somebody with something, and nothing feels better than that. And if you do that, guess what happens? what comes around goes around, people want to do something for you. And people want to help you and they, and so. And you can’t just think it, you can’t just have that in your heart, you actually have to say it. And you know, when when you have a buzzer that helps you if your server and you’ve got a buzzer that helped you and just saved you out of a jam. You pull that buzzer aside and say you know what, you saved my butt today. I you know, I’m so grateful. Thank you for doing that. I’m going to pay it forward to you. And then you do and that’s the other thing you not just say it, but then take action and pay it forward. Maybe you buy him lunch, you know you do something? Any any little acknowledgement is what fosters that culture. And when you can have that culture, man, it’s unstoppable. Yeah, but it starts from leadership down because leadership is about servanthood. Okay, and a lot of people get into leadership’s thinking that they’re going to be the boss. And that’s why they they want to be the leader because they want to be in charge. They’re a micromanager and they want to be the boss and they want to tell people what to do. Guess what, everybody? Newsflash, you are the servant. You are there to serve the people around you as a leader. One of my partners, his name is Bob 10. Sela and I mentioned his name because today, he underwent heart surgery, open heart surgery, they actually took his heart out of his body, took it into another operating room, replaced the valve and then brought it back into the original operating room and put it back into his body that happened to my partner today. Well, I mean that and this is a guy who, you know, he could buy me probably three times over the guy is very, very wealthy, but you would never know why. Because in these restaurants when he’s running around and helping the restaurants, he’s bussing tables. And he cracks jokes about being the oldest busser and nobody knows that he’s the owner. Wow. And it’s just the guy is so humble, and so talented, and so continent. And so my prayers have been out for him today. He’s going through a surgery and whatnot, but surrounding yourself with people like that, that are willing to humble themselves and be servants. That’s what’s that’s where the magic is that

Chad Franzen  19:44  

Yeah, sounds sounds great. So you’ve also become an owner with Jester Restaurants. Tell me about that.

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