AUSTIN (KXAN) – On Friday, Kerbey Lane is celebrating its 43rd year of serving up its unique take on diner-style comfort food. To celebrate, they’re offering Birthday pancakes —a buttermilk cinnamon swirl pancake topped with sprinkles, whipped cream and vanilla drizzle—throughout May.
The current Kerbey Lane CEO and president, Mason Ayer, will also be celebrating his 43rd birthday in 2023. He was born months after his parents – David Ayer and Patricia Atkinson – opened the doors to the first Kerbey Lane location in May 1980.
“The first couple months of my life, we didn’t have any money. There was enough money to have a restaurant but not a house,” Ayer said. “The original location on Kerbey Lane had a little apartment in the back – that is actually where we lived for the first couple of months of my life. So I quite literally grew up in the restaurant business,” he continued.
Ayer said his parents created Kerbey Lane because they felt Austin at the time lacked restaurants serving good quality, but economically priced, food.
“That was really the primary reason, but they also wanted to build a community where guests and team members could come together to have a place to hang out,” he continued.
So why has Kerbey Lane survived the rapidly changing Austin ecosystem for decades while others have not? Ayers thinks it’s the warm environment they’ve continued to provide over the years.
“There’s never been a time in the company’s history where we weren’t opening and welcoming to anybody and everybody,” he said. “That was probably the prime mover in what has allowed us to stick around for 43 years,” he said.
“Having iconic dishes, like queso and pancakes, that Austinites tend to love has helped out a lot as well,” Ayer added. Their queso is so iconic former Austin Mayor Steve Adler sent the recipe aboard a SpaceX rocket to the moon in 2019.
“To my knowledge, we are the only restaurant in the world that has a menu item on the surface of the moon,” Ayer said.
Ayer took over as president of the company in 2010. Since taking the position, he’s helped the business expand to 10 locations around Central Texas.
“As things have played out, we’ve kind of rode the wave as Austin has grown. We’ve solidified the brand and really made it something special,” he said.
As many children joining a family business do, Ayer felt some hesitancy when deciding to leave his legal profession for Kerbey Lane. But now, with more than 10 years as its CEO, he said it was one of the best decisions he has ever made.
“Everybody has a Kerbey Lane story,” Ayer said. “[Many] times those stories are from when they were in college at two, three o’clock in the morning, which aren’t always repeatable. But it’s seldom that I run into somebody, where they don’t have a story or a memory, or a special experience, at Kereby Lane. And that’s so much fun.”