Tally Ho receives high honor

Published 9:45 pm Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Alabama Restaurant Association released the finalists for the 2012 Restaurateur of the Year Award, and the Tally Ho in Selma is on the list. Bob Kelley, owner and operator of the Tally Ho, was nominated as the Restaurateur of the Year and will find out the results at the 13th annual Stars of the Dinner Industry on Oct. 15 in Huntsville.

The event in October is a, “celebration of excellence by individuals within the foodservice and hospitality industries,” Lawrence Fidel, with the Alabama Hospitality Association said in a press release about Kelley. “This is the premier event restaurants and hotels throughout the state plan to attend each year.”

Kelley said it is an honor to be recognized and honored by his peers. If he were to win the award, he said it would be worth it just to bring people to Selma.

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“It would be a reaffirmation of what we are doing here is correct and the city could take pride in having a restaurant here in the community that is first,” Kelley, who became owner of the restaurant in 1980 when the former owner was planning to retire said.

Kelley was a hotel manager in Ohio at the time, but made the move to Selma and said he never looked back.

“My friends and family out west ask why I chose to stay in a small town and I say because people here just care about you,” he said.

And it seems that the community cares about his restaurant. Tally Ho has been a community staple, firmly entrenched in local history, so much so that Kelley said he receives calls from people who once hung out at Tally Ho while stationed at Craig Field Airport in the 1970s, who want to come back and visit. The restaurant also draws in many from abroad after being published in travel books.

“It is in travel journals and I have had people from Germany and Japan bring in their travel books and say ‘You are right here is this book!’” Kelley said, “But locally it is a place where people have tons of memories. Since I have been here, I have seen at least two or three generations come through. I remember, when kids that are now running businesses in our town, when they used to date at the Tally Ho when I first bought it.”

And the stories continue. Families who pass by the restaurant every year on their way from Texas to Florida and a couple who has come to Tally Ho for all 59 of their wedding anniversaries.

And everyone has a favorite dish. Tally Ho draws in crowds with their steak, freshly sent from Buckhead Beef in Atlanta and crab claws that Kelley said he has heard only 1,000 times that they are better than ones from the gulf.

“I guess just word of mouth is what has made us so successful over the years,” he said. “We basically have the philosophy that everyone who walks through that door, they could be family.”

And that philosophy that any customer could be, “an aunt or an uncle,” and the staff is not allowed to say, “Table for two?,” but instead, “How was your day? Welcome to Tally Ho.” It’s that philosophy that could put Kelley and his restaurant in the forefront for the award. An award that the president of the Alabama Restaurant Association said “Honors unsung heroes of an industry that prides itself on providing excellence in service on a daily basis.”