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Omaha Magazine

It’s In the Family

Nov 23, 2017 02:00PM ● By Blair Emsick

For Bob Bezousek, Omaha Steaks is a family affair. Bezousek can boast having worked for Omaha Steaks for an impressive 47 years. During that time, Bezousek’s two brothers, sister, and brother-in-law have all worked for Omaha Steaks, as well as a few nieces, nephews, and his son, B.J. Bezousek recalls, when he first started dating his now-wife, having to interrupt a date to stop by the plant. “Our children and grandchildren have all been born during my time here—it’s been a great ride,“ Bezousek says.

Bezousek began working part time at Omaha Steaks in 1969 as a utility worker. Today, he is the vice president of production and oversees three plants, two in Omaha and one in Snyder, Nebraska. He directs close to 500 employees who manufacture products that yield an amazing $450 million in annual sales.

Today the name Omaha Steaks is known around the country and the world, yet when Bezousek began working there, it was still a relatively small family-owned business. Bezousek remembers when Alan Simon, fourth-generation family owner and current chairman of the board, used to help him with his accounting homework after Bezousek would finish his shift at the plant. “He is an amazing mentor,“ Bezousek says.

Between the years of 1995 and 2005, the Bezouseks witnessed the company double in size. “We were experiencing double-digit growth during this time period, so it necessitated being more creative in our production methods. We were adding departments that we had never imagined needing before,“ Bezousek says. B.J., who began working for Omaha Steaks in 1994, contributes much of the company’s growth during this time to their web-based marketing, which began in 1995. Omaha Steaks had been selling products by mail order since the 1950s, however, going online helped to broaden their reach significantly and attract new customers.

B.J. didn't realize the full scope of the company's growth until he was asked to provide and cook steaks for George W. Bush and the people aboard Air Force One while he was working the Omaha Steaks booth at the College World Series in 2001. “It was at this time that I found out the Bush family loves Omaha Steaks products and really loved the beef jerky,“ B.J. says. “I will say this, though, it is a new kind of pressure having the Secret Service monitoring you while you prepare food on short notice for the president of the United States.“

What keeps someone working at the same place for almost 50 years? Supplying the nation with delicious steaks, apparently. “I have had life changing moments ever since I started here, such as meeting James Beard, Julia Child, and many other renowned chefs,“ Bezousek says. Other highlights over the past 50 years include the opportunity to meet thousands of wonderful people and working in a challenging yet rewarding environment. “Overall, I’m proud of the fact that my dad and brothers worked in the meat business and that my son and I have continued that tradition—it’s now a family affair,“ Bezousek says.


Omaha Steaks’ Sizzling Centennial

The Bezousek family has become a legacy in an Omaha business legacy.

Omaha Steaks cuts the meat, ages it, freezes and packages it, then sends it straight to customers’ front doors. This may sound like an odd business model, but is one that continues to yields almost $350 million in annual sales for Omaha Steaks. Mail order meals have become trendy recently, yet Omaha Steaks began their direct meal-to-consumer business in the 1950s.

Omaha Steaks opened in August 1917 as Table Supply Meat Co. after Latvian immigrant J.J. Simon bought an old table supply store to begin his butcher shop. It was named as such because it was more affordable to simply insert the word "Meat" into the building’s original sign than to have a new sign created. They began garnering nationwide attention in the 1940s when Union Pacific Railroad started serving the steaks on their passenger trains from Omaha to the West Coast. In the late 1980s Omaha Steaks products traveled around the world, served for meals on flights and cruise ships. Despite their success, until the 1990s Omaha Steaks remained a family-run business. Between 1995 and 2005 the company grew to four times its size. "We woke up one day and realized we had a really important national brand," says vice president Todd Simon, "That was when we started thinking big about the business."

Since then, Omaha Steaks has become a household name around the nation for its novelty, convenience, and deliciousness. "People come together around the dinner table to enjoy their friends and family," Simon says. "We are very proud of the 100 years in which we have been a part of that important ritual of bringing people together."

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This article published in the Fall 2017 edition of B2B.

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