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Inside Job

Carolyn Jung | November 27, 2017 | Food & Drink Story Eat and Drink National

Husband and wife Daniel and Camille Chijate took out a small business loan, scraped together other loans from family members, cashed in their vacation days and rolled over their 401Ks—essentially their entire retirement savings—to make a dream come true: buying Hobee’s, the beloved local restaurant chain where they not only have worked for nearly 30 years, but where they met and fell in love. In fact, the folksy joint, famous for its slabs of blueberry coee cake and steaming mugs of cinnamon orange tea, is such an integral part of their lives that, when they got married, a third of their wedding guests were either Hobee’s employees or customers.

So this summer, when the Taber family decided to sell Hobee’s, which they established 43 years ago, they couldn’t imagine passing the restaurants to anyone better than the Chijates. “They have clearly earned this,” says Ed Fike, Hobee’s former CEO who is married to Peter Taber, whose father founded the first Hobee’s in Mountain View in 1974. “Knowing their depth of experience, we knew Hobee’s would be in the right hands.”

The Chijates now oversee the locations in Mountain View, San Jose, Sunnyvale, Palo Alto and Belmont. The Cupertino one is a franchise that’s independently operated. “If you are going to spend so many hours at a place, it should be a place you love,” says Camille. “This checked every box.” Now Hobee’s president, she and her husband, the kitchen manager for the Palo Alto outpost, first met at the old San Jose Town & Country Village location, when she was a waitress and he was a cook.

The couple plans to update the interior of the north San Jose locale and to buy new staff uniforms, which haven’t changed in decades. They’ve added rotating grain bowls to the menu, such as the popular Silicon Valley Super Bowl, a heap of roasted sweet potatoes, spinach, goat cheese, Brussels sprouts slaw and sun-dried tomato pesto. They will go greener by sourcing local and organic ingredients whenever possible, and by making drink straws optional. A new computer system will be installed. But there won’t be any automated ordering kiosks anytime soon—because at Hobee’s, it’s the human touch that has always counted.

“You can get scrambled eggs anywhere, but people come here for who we are,” says Camille. “The Tabers just wanted to start a neighborhood place with honest food. We don’t know any other way to do it. We just try to be fresh and real.”

Originally published in the November/December issue of Silicon Valley

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