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Shawano Country Chamber names Primal Eats Business of the Year

The restaurant, store, food truck and to-go business is located at 14109 County Road VV in Gillett

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February 6, 2024

GILLETT — The founders of Primal Eats come from a long line of Wisconsin hunters, fishermen, gardeners and gatherers.

For three generations, the focus of the Follett family has been on providing prime, quality food — both for their family and their customers.

That dedication to continued excellence was recently recognized by the Shawano Country Chamber of Commerce by naming Primal Eats Business of the Year at the organization’s annual awards banquet.

Primal Eats — a restaurant, store, food truck and to-go business located at 14109 County Road VV in Gillett — was started by Scott and Sally Follett as a spin-off of Apple Creek Whitetails Ranch, a whitetail deer hunting ranch.

Rooted foundation
In 1983, Scott said he and his brother set up an appetizer business in their father’s food distribution business in Appleton.

“We grew it from about four employees to 3,800 employees — (making it) the largest appetizer supplier in the world,” he said. “We then sold it to McCain Foods Global Corporation in 2000.”

This is when, Scott said, his understanding of the food business began.

“We got creative,” he said.

Scott said he and his siblings divided up the responsibilities between sales, marketing, research and development, operations and management information systems.

“We are used to working as a family,” he said.

Scott said his wife Sally homeschooled their children (Issac, Ethan, Emma and Simon) until college.

Scott said when their kids graduated from college, they wanted to start a business.

Knowing their father’s experience in and knowledge of the food industry, Scott said he helped them create Primal Eats — giving them a timeframe to make it happen.

“We have a ranch in Texas, and I said, ‘your mother and I are going to Texas and you have 60 days,'” he said. “The kidswanted to begin (right away).”

Almost hitting the 60-day deadline, Scott said it took 65 days to get Primal Eats up and running.

“They purchased the finest smokehouse one could buy for smoking brisket — it’s all computerized,” he said. “The balance sheet is a repeatable consistency, which is what I wanted to invest in.”

Scott said Issac serves as Primal Eats’ general manager; Ethan is the accountant, Emma is in charge of national accounts and is the hospitality manager; and Simon is the pizza and steak manager.

Laid-back atmosphere, process
The customer experience, Scott said, is one of the driving forces to the success of Primal Eats.

“We set up a business so all of our talents would be in the kitchen,” he said. “Everything we make is homemade. We also have a three-person research and development lab (team) that focuses on products for the restaurant. We’re now serving about 150 other restaurants throughout Wisconsin. We are state- and federally-approved and can ship our products anywhere in the United States.”

Primal Eats, Scott said, has no waitstaff or people serving customers at each table.

Rather, patrons place their order at the window, get their buzzer and then head to a table, visit with other customers or wander to the bar until their food is ready.

Scott said customers put their dirty dishes away, as well.

“We found customers love the freedom to mingle with people from the lakes, they listen to a band, they go to the bar and don’t feel rushed for service to turn tables,” he said. “It’s quite beautiful.”

Follett said the Primal Eats menu and catering services feature BBQ — including pulled pork, smoked brisket and barbeque smoked chicken.

Other popular options, he said, include venison deer camp chili; bacon and jalapeno mac and cheese; seafood options, such as charbroiled salmon, cod and fried coconut shrimp; and a Follett family favorite, the prime rib Philly sandwich.

Scott said the whole family is amazed by Primal Eats’ success.

“We’re in the middle of nowhere,” he said. “When the kids wanted to develop this, Sally and I coached them (saying), ‘whatever you do, you have to be the best. If you do this, people will come.'”

Scott said much of the business’s notoriety is because of the Primal Eats employees and the hospitality they continually bring.

Scott Follett, center, said the whole family is amazed by Primal Eats’ success. Submitted Photo

“The first year, we trained our staff on hospitality toward customers,” he said. “The second year, we trained them on hospitality toward each other. I teach that there’s no backbiting. We strive for excellence. It is the most beautiful teamwork we’ve ever seen. When that takes place, the quality that gets delivered is second to none.”

Strategic growth
Isaac said he chose to use exclusively Wisconsin beers from the top breweries at the restaurant.

Scott said they were also intentional with the hours of Primal Eats — which are from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday — as well, which helps support a work-life balance for their employees.

“This allows time for their families,” he said. “Our employees are treated like family. It’s important for their own health (they have those days off) so they can recharge their own batteries and take care of their families.”

Since opening, the Folletts have added two dining hall facilities at Primal Eats that house 75 and 150 people, respectively, for special events.

The business has also partnered with British Petroleum (BP) to offer Primal-To-Go products at the gas station at 417 S Warrington Avenue in Cecil.

“We have the up north crowd stopping there for an easy carry-out option,” he said.

Throughout the business’s growth and potential for a continued positive trajectory, Scott said he has consulted with other restaurateurs in the region — which have cautioned him to not spread the team too thin.

“The temptation is trying not to say ‘yes’ too often and (be sure to) think of the people who are making the business excellent,” he said. “(It’s a conscious effort not to) grow too fast.”

In addition to food offerings, Scott said Primal Eats also offers music year-round on Friday nights — with two sessions on Saturday, one for the afternoon crowd and another set for evening diners.

During warmer temperatures, Scott said Primal Eats’ outdoor dining space attracts almost 3,000 people on any given Saturday.

Like with many other aspects of the business, Scott said, the restaurant’s name, Primal Eats, derived from the back-to-basics theme — a reflection of the food, lodging and rustic nature of the Northwoods of Wisconsin.

“Primal Eats does things differently,” he said. “Anything we make would be done internally. We try to keep (this theme) ingrained into our basics.”

Primal Eats’ business model, Scott said, is different from many other restaurants.

“People who come to us love Primal Eats-” he said. “It has become a destination (that) people (are willing to) drive two-plus hours to get to our restaurant.”

For more information on Primal Eats, visit or check the business’s Facebook page.

Supporting the community
Scott said Primal Eats supports the local community in a variety of ways — one of which is through soft serve ice cream sales where donations are split between Shawano’s SAM25Homeless Shelter and the Safe Haven Women’s Abuse Shelter.

Scott said Primal Eats’ recognition from the Shawano Country Chamber was unexpected.

“We were shocked,” he said. “We signed up for the chamber last year, and we’re not even in Shawano County — we are actually in Oconto County. They wanted to award a regional company that is voted upon in their community.”

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