Beef’N’Barrel a Family Affair
Olean Asset has Thrived under Steady Hand of McAfee Family
Story by John Thomas
When you talk to Jim McAfee of the Beef’n’Barrel restaurant in Olean, you get a sense of a guy who loves what he’s doing. Mr. McAfee has owned the Beef’n’Barrel for some 47 years now. The restaurant was first opened in 1965 by the brothers Neil and Denny Goodemote. McAfee bought the establishment in 1971 and has been running it ever since. Initially, the restaurant seated only 71 people, but as McAfee explains, “as the real estate became available, I just kept expanding”. That led to the purchase of four adjacent buildings, and the restaurant pushed into the ground floor spaces. He bought the Sears building, and then a while later sold it, but kept the parking lot. “We needed that badly”, he says. His two sons Mike and PJ started working in the business while they were in high school. They began as busboys, but as time went by, both of them moved into helping their father manage the enterprise. The senior McAfee, now 74, still puts in a full day’s work. He starts his day at 5:30am, six days a week. It’s the same schedule he has kept for years. When I ask why, he replies, “There’s always things to do in a restaurant”.
Beef’n’Barrel makes no apologies for being a heaven for dedicated carnivores. “We’re going through close to three tons (of beef) per week,” McAfee says. The menu features several variations on beef, from hot roast beef dinners, to beef on wick, and French dip. There are grilled steaks and a rack of pork. For those who prefer food without hooves, they have chicken entrees, fish, salads, and French onion soup. Although tastes in food have evolved to lighter fare, Beef’n’Barrel’s emphasis on beef hasn’t hurt the business. The dining room now seats up to 325 and takes 110 employees to staff. They can keep up with the customer’s demands because the kitchen is as large as the dining room.
McAfee welcomes the downtown development in Olean, and the Walkable Olean project. “To me, that’s the best thing that has happened in years.” Beef’n’Barrel has been a part of the resurgence. They recently remolded the exterior of the building, adding new outdoor seating and vintage streetlights.
Even after 47 years of working in the family business, Jim McAfee has kept the same work schedule, arriving at the store before most of us are awake. It is that dedication that has made Beef’n’Barrel into the Olean stalwart it is. McAfee says, “I enjoy the customers and the employees. The whole thing.” Eventually, his two sons will take over the business, but until then the senior McAfee will be putting in regular hours. As our conversation ends, he admonishes me, “Retirement, it isn’t good for you.”