The Keys to Success

By Stephen Hunt

In 1992, Pete’s Dueling Piano Bar was founded on iconic 6th Street in Austin with a simple premise: give customers a special experience, one where they feel a range of emotions and make lifetime memories. 
Over the past 31 years, Pete’s, which now has five locations (four in Texas, one in Illinois) has done exactly that: helped its clientele make memories through great music, impeccable service and a staff committed to ensuring that guests leave with smiles on their faces. 
In December 2022, Pete’s opened at The Star in Frisco, relocating to a larger space after its lease in nearby Addison expired. 
 “(It’s been) fantastic. We are pleased” about the new location, said Corey Urbach, a Pete’s owner since 1997, who now calls Frisco home. “It’s very touristy. …  We’re that place visitors come. We do well with folks in hotels, convention people. Frisco offers that. The chance to come to The Star for someone like me, who has grown this concept and done some cool things, it was a no-brainer.”
Pete’s could have renewed its lease in Addison and stayed there another decade, but being at The Star was always the preferred destination, even above other desirable spots in northern Dallas-Fort Worth such as Grandscape and Legacy West. 
“The Star just always felt right,” Urbach said. “The synergy with us and the other tenants is wonderful. The Star is sexy. For Dallas folks, for people all over the country … there’s added value stating my location’s in The Star. It just made sense.”
 The new space is earning rave reviews from staff like piano player Madeleine Stone, who has performed at Pete’s for five years. 
“I’m so glad we’re in The Star because it’s super cute. I’m really glad it wound up being that area with all those cocktail lounges, restaurants and the walkability where people can be out enjoying themselves,” Stone said. “Everything’s brand new, super open and spacious.” 

A Simple Formula

For slightly more than three decades, Pete’s has built a reputation as a unique nightspot where people can come with friends and family, with coworkers for a corporate outing, or for special events like bachelorette parties and birthdays to have great food, a beverage or two, hear good music and sing along with several hundred other patrons for a truly memorable evening. 
Regardless of whether it’s hearing hundreds of people singing perennial crowd-pleasing tunes like Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing, Queen’s We Will Rock You or lesser-known songs, the shared, visceral experience of people singing in unison — coupled with a great atmosphere where piano players and staff are also part of the show — is incomparable.  
 Pete’s piano players, bartenders, wait staff and management take great pride in ensuring that every guest has a memorable time during their visit. 
“We know our audience. We know who they are, who they aren’t,” Urbach said. “We’ve always kept up with music — what’s being played today, what’s not being played. We’ve understood the customers’ palette. We understand what they want as far as drinks, how to create emotions and how to create memories.”
The goal, he explained, “was playing hit songs, leave holes in the songs so (the crowd) can sing (along). It’s always about creating spectacles, emotions. We just know how to sell memories. That’s what we’re good at.” 
In the hospitality business, “If you can create the emotion, can get your customer to smile, make them wide-eyed, (then you’ve) sold them a memory, an experience they will talk about. That truly is hospitality. It’s really a simple formula. It’s loud and it’s contagious. It’s memorable. It’s different.”
However, Urbach knows the enthusiastic Pete’s employees — from the wait staff to the performers — play a crucial role in making the experience one of the most unique and memorable available in the hospitality arena.

 The Dream Job

It is a gig that Stone calls the greatest in the world. 

“We’re just there to have a good time. Part of that is us enjoying ourselves,” she said. “Your job is to show up and have a great time, spread that energy around. Pete’s does the best job of that. Their core values make that a really good time across the board.”
Stone started playing piano by ear at age 4 on a family heirloom, but never imagined it would lead to her “dream job”. 
 “I never wrote my own music. One day in high school, my dad (mentioned) a piano bar. I had no idea what a piano bar was,” she said. “I Googled piano bars when I was 17. I never thought I would (perform in one). Pete’s was the dream job when I found out what piano bars were. I’m super grateful to be on the team because Pete’s is the big leagues. I wouldn’t want to work for a different company.”

Urbach and other members of management have excelled in creating an organization where the staff is a family. Also, Pete’s hires the best and brightest for every position, valuing the highest level of professionalism and a tireless commitment to exceeding guest expectations above all else. 
Maybe it’s the simple fact that Stone, Urbach and every member of the organization claim they have the best jobs in the world and are living the dream associated with that — good vibes that can’t help but rub off on the piano bar’s guests. 
 “Addison was a great ride and that’s a great town, but what Frisco is today, this is special,” Urbach said. “I’m really proud of what Pete’s has become and that’s wonderful, but it’s really cool to be part of Frisco. … I just feel like we’re all riding this great ride.”
Stephen Hunt is a Frisco-based freelance writer.
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