How golf prepared John Moscrip for executive management

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Before taking a management position with his father’s Duke’s Chowder House chain, John Moscrip tried his hand at pro golf. Photo by Rachel Coward

Golf and business executives have been linked since, well, around the time the sport began.

John Moscrip is yet another executive with a strong connection to golf, but his connection is stronger than most others’. Moscrip pursued a professional golf career before joining the Duke’s Chowder House chain, of which he is now COO. His path not only allowed him to fulfill his ambitions, but also taught him the skills necessary to juggle the rigors of executive life with time for family and fun.

Moscrip, 40, is Duke’s daily decision maker who keeps things running smoothly at the company’s six locations in Seattle, Kent, Tukwila, and Tacoma. Menu changes, public relations, charity efforts, and financial decisions are all on Moscrip’s plate.

“I wake up every morning and go to bed every night excited about what we do,” says Moscrip. “I love my job.”

Most days, those mornings start early. Moscrip is up at dawn to get his kids, Hannah, 9, and Hudson, 7, ready for school. He’s on email by 7 a.m. and out the door to one of the restaurants shortly thereafter for meeting after meeting with managers, vendors, and fellow executives.

“There’s just no substitute for me spending time in the restaurants. Some days I’ll hit all the Dukes,” Moscrip says. “People think, ‘Oh it’s Duke’s; they’re just this dinosaur.’ But we’re very nimble. We can turn on a dime in a way some of these big companies with a huge corporate office can’t.”

Moscrip’s father, Duke, is the restaurant’s founder and CEO. Duke launched the first Chowder House in 1977 after leaving another Seattle seafood institution, Ray’s Boathouse. Duke, according to his son, is the keeper of the restaurant’s concept and big-picture direction. “It’s a great partnership,” John says. “Our talents are different.”

John Moscrip’s executive role in the family business might seem inevitable, but there was a long period when chowder and salmon took the backseat to his professional golf dreams.

Moscrip began golfing around the age of 7. His family had memberships at the Overlake Golf & Country Club in Medina, and Duke often would take young John with him to play. The boy proved to have a natural talent for the sport. When Moscrip was 11, he joined Overlake’s junior team and won the first few tournaments he entered. By the time he was 14, he was playing — and winning — at the national level. At home, he was the top player on the Bellevue High School team.

Moscrip’s high school golf career began the same time as his career in the restaurant business. When he was 15, he got a job bussing tables at Duke’s now-defunct Bellevue location without mentioning it to his father. “Apparently I didn’t think it was a point we needed to discuss,” Moscrip says. Two weeks after he’d started the job, Dad swung by the restaurant and was surprised to see his son on the job.

Moscrip continued working at Duke’s while he attended the University of Washington on a golf scholarship. But by the time he graduated, Moscrip was ready to leave restaurant life behind to pursue professional golf.

To do so, Moscrip cobbled together roughly $60,000 in sponsorship money each year for two years. Playing on the PGA Tour costs about $110,000 a year, and the lower-profile Web.com Tour will cost a golfer $75,000 annually, according to Forbes. Moscrip put in two years with the Dakotas Tour in the Midwest and spent one winter abroad on the PGA’s Latin American tour.

“I thought at one time I had the game to do it, but I realized pretty quickly it wasn’t going to be for me,” Moscrip says. “I didn’t have the burning desire to be the best golfer in the world, and that’s what it takes.” He also was turned off by the travel and the time alone in second-rate hotel rooms.

“You’d see guys that were 38 living in a Winnebago with their families still trying to make it,” Moscrip says. “That definitely wasn’t for me.”

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Moscrip (in yellow) and Tiger Woods (in red) at the 1991 Junior Americas Cup in San Diego. Photo courtesy John Moscrip

In 2002, Moscrip’s dad asked him if he’d be interested in collaborating on a new “quick-service concept” called Duke’s Chowder Bar. The idea was to have a companion restaurant doing fast food in a high-volume area. Moscrip spearheaded the project and launched the Chowder Bar in downtown Seattle in 2003. A year later, the general manager position at the South Lake Union location opened, and Moscrip decided to go all in on his Duke’s career. “(My dad) said if you want to continue with this progression in the business, you need to run a restaurant.”

From there, it was a quick rise through the ranks. In late 2009, Moscrip became partners with his father and became COO.

Life as executive of a popular restaurant chain is, of course, busy. Moscrip says he sometimes puts in 75-hour workweeks, though that work might include something like wine tasting in Napa Valley. But there also are weeks when he can spend plenty of time with his family and friends at the TPC at Snoqualmie Ridge golf course near his home in Snoqualmie.

Moscrip still plays about 30 rounds of golf a year, which he says — compared with the 300 he played during his competitive days — is just the right amount for him to have fun.

“A lot of people take the game so seriously,” he says. “I want to have a good time, listen to music, have a couple beers, and relax.”

Moscrip’s long-term goals include opening a Duke’s on the Eastside for the first time since its Bellevue location closed 13 years ago. “We really want to be back in downtown Bellevue,” he says. “If we find the right location, we are ready to go. We have the right people in place and a plan of attack to hit the ground running and open up in the next few years.”

In the meantime, you can find Moscrip working to improve one of the other six locations, happy as can be with where his life has led him.

“It’s nice that I had the opportunity to chase (pro golf) when I did,” Moscrip says. “I look back now, and I wouldn’t trade anything in the world for how my life has turned out.”

Where to golf

The Eastside has no shortage of golf courses. Below are a few spots where John Moscrip still plays for fun.

Inglewood Golf Club (Kenmore)
“This is one of the most fun and underrated courses in the area. You have to hit so many different types of shots, and it has such a huge variety of holes. Great group of members and staff.”

Willows Run (Redmond)
“Willows is a solid, affordable, and fun experience.”

Overlake Golf & Country Club (Medina)
“Proper credit to the course that taught me so much. This is where it all began. I walked from my house to the course every morning, where I would spend all day practicing, playing, learning.”

Aldarra Golf Club (Sammamish)
My dad is a member, and it’s just a fantastic layout. Plus it has great membership and is arguably the best overall golf course in Washington.”

TPC at Snoqualmie Ridge (Snoqualmie)
“We got married there nine years ago, but I’ve been playing it since it opened in late ’90s. I moved to Snoqualmie Ridge a few years ago and just became a member in September. It’s one of my favorite courses ever.”

Mount Si Golf Course (Snoqualmie)
“This course is old-school and low-key. No one can find me out there.”

Where to eat

Moscrip swears by the scallop polenta at Duke’s, but when he wants to eat near home, he heads to these spots around the area:

Bis on Main
Bellevue
“(Owner) Joe Vilardi is such a character, and the food is absolutely stellar. Plus, they have a killer wine list.”

Tavern Hall
Bellevue
“The guys behind this concept are great and the restaurant is such a great fit for Bellevue. They nailed it, and I love bar shuffleboard.”

Chace’s Pancake Corral
Bellevue
“Because you can’t take yourself too seriously, and we all need breakfast meetings.”

Woodman Lodge
Snoqualmie
“My daughter calls this ‘the animal-head place’ because of the impressive taxidermy. They’ve got great steaks and burgers.”

Burgermaster
Bellevue
“This is old-school Eastside. You’ve gotta get your fix from time to time. Their blackberry shakes are unreal.”