Nick Raftis is the third owner of Inn Season Cafe, the small but mighty vegetarian and vegan restaurant located on the outskirts of downtown Royal Oak. But for Raftis, Inn Season Cafe is as much an institution as it is a business.
Raftis grew up in the 1960s and ’70s, a time when vegetarian options were scarce, when, as Raftis tells it, your average restaurant left vegetarians little choice but to order a hamburger without the meat. Things are different these days, though, and dining options for vegetarians are much more varied and available.
In the face of rising competition, Inn Season has managed to not only stay open but thrive.
“You have to change according to the times,” Raftis says. “Our food quality has gone way up. As the compromised integrity of the food products in our normal food channels have become corrupted, we’ve moved to those where we know where it’s grown, how it’s grown.”
Focusing on local and organic food products is just one way Inn Season Cafe has been able to stay successful. Raftis has another philosophy for running a business and that’s to make necessary long-term decisions.
Raftis himself has an interesting backstory. He was born in Detroit and grew up through the cultural shifts of the late 1960s. As a teenager, he spent time hanging out at the Hare Krishna temple in Detroit. A vegetarian by the age of 16, Raftis would travel around India when he was 18 years old.
Though it may have been established in 1981, the restaurant doesn’t feel out of date. Raftis points out that only the ceiling and molding – and maybe a mirror – remain from the dining room’s past.
The person that makes the food, however, has been leading the Inn Season Cafe kitchen for over two decades. Raftis, of course, credits much of the restaurant’s success to Chef Thomas Lasher and recently sold him a stake in the business.
“The good food, when you eat it, you feel energized. Like, hey man, let’s go do something. Let’s get up and walk around,” says Raftis. “And that’s the way people feel when they eat here.”
35 years and counting.