Cape Cod Hospitality

March 15, 2013

Bill and Linda Zammer’s legacy—four restaurants, an inn, and a labor of love

The Flying Bridge Restaurant in Falmouth is one of the Cape Cod Restaurants owned by alumni Bill and Linda Zammer. Photo by Rick Friedman.

William (Bill) Zammer is a bit of a renaissance man. From surgery department administrator and labor relations consultant to newspaper publisher and chief executive of an internationally recognized food service company—he’s done it all. And he accomplished all these things before answering his true calling as an entrepreneur in the Cape Cod restaurant and hospitality business.

For the past 24 years, Bill and his wife Linda, whom he met at Northeastern University, have been co-owners of Cape Cod Restaurants, a family of four restaurants and an inn located on Cape Cod, which they have grown into a $20 million-a-year business with 450 employees.

Bill admits that his first attempt at restaurant ownership at age 23 was not quite as successful, ending in bankruptcy and the need to find a job to pay the bills. That’s when he landed a position as the food service director at New England Medical Center.

Eventually, Bill realized that he needed to go back to school in order to advance his career. This decision had a major impact not only on his career path, but also on his personal life. It was in a creative writing class at Northeastern that he met Linda. In addition to meeting his life and business partner at Northeastern, Bill acquired the skills and knowledge that he says have been instrumental to his success.

“In my mind, what I learned at school—whether it was organizational behavior or a law course—is that education is so important to succeeding in business,” says Bill. “Those who do not have an education lack the fundamentals for running a business, so they fail.”

After testing the waters as a consultant for a nationally known labor relations firm, followed by a two-year tenure as president and publisher of Tribune Publishing Company, Bill moved on to Seilers/Sodexho, where he served as president and CEO of the wholly owned subsidiary of Sodexho S.A. of France.

But Bill always had the urge to own a business again. So in 1988, he and Linda took the leap and became restaurant entrepreneurs, leasing the Popponesset Inn, located in Mashpee near their summer home on the Cape.

“At the Popponesset Inn, we put up a tent on the beach and it became a wedding venue,” recalls Bill. “We built the trend that has made the Cape a wedding destination.”

Bill and Linda Zammer own and operate the Flying Bridge Restaurant (featured here), the Coonamessett Inn, and the Red Horse Inn in Falmouth, as well as Tugboats Restaurant in Hyannis and Clancy’s in Dennisport. Photo by Rick Friedman.

“The harder I work, the luckier I get—that’s my favorite saying,” says Bill. “I think in any business you need to be prepared to sacrifice and you have to ask, ‘Is it worth it?’ With our first restaurant, we worked for 10 years at building the business. We were working weekends when our friends were off and had to sacrifice friendships. It’s all encompassing—you’re eating and living it the whole time.” Building on their success, they soon added three other restaurants to the fold—the Ballymeade Country Club, the Picnic Box, and The Café. Growing a restaurant business in the seasonal economy of Cape Cod requires an incredible degree of dedication.

Married to the Job

Linda is an integral part of the business. She does all the interior decorating, keeps the books, and has a keen eye for quality. Having worked hard to build their business for more than 20 years, Bill says he and Linda are slowing down a bit these days.

“We are taking more time off to do a lot of stuff with our grandkids, grandnieces, and grandnephews,” he explains. “I’ll take my grandson to a baseball game or a concert, or we’ll take 20 people to the islands, skiing, or to Disney World. It’s one of the rewards of having worked so hard. But it’s also important to us that our grandchildren understand how and why we have what we have.”