Doug Rand is no stranger to running a restaurant. In fact, he has been in business in DeLand for approximately 40 years.
In 1981, Rand bought DeLand’s Mister Donut, and he ran the shop for 16 years. After the doughnut restaurant was bought out by Dunkin’ Donuts, he decided to open Doug & Lil’s Potato Patch.
Twenty-three years later, the restaurant has become a local favorite for breakfast and lunch.
Originally from Boston, Rand moved to Ormond Beach in 1976 with his parents. Growing up in the Northeast, Rand learned how to cook at a young age.
“I would watch Julia Child … on TV with my great-grandmother. And I used to cook eggs when I was 4 or 5 years old. I always had a knack for cooking,” he said.
Rand gravitated toward food, especially when he started his first job as a dishwasher in Connecticut.
“When I did a good job, they feed you good. So that’s a reward right there,” he said. “When you’re 16 years old, you’re saying, I like this, you know, so I went from there.”
As his love for cooking grew, he started working at his uncle’s restaurant, where he gained much of his cooking experience.
Fast-forward to 1998, and Rand decided to open up Doug & Lil’s Potato Patch with his wife, Lillian, and immerse himself in the local community.
Doug Rand decided against focusing on the evening meal. His American-style breakfast and lunch restaurant — where the food is cooked fresh — blossomed from there.
“I always liked the breakfast-lunch concept, because it is part of the community, and you get to talk to people and know the pulse of the community. And this really has been that.
I’ve gotten to meet a lot of nice people through this restaurant,” Rand said.
Throughout the years, the Rands have been able to watch their restaurant grow. Although Lil is retired now, she worked alongside Doug in the restaurant for years.
Lil’s final year on the job was a challenging one, amid the struggles that came with closing, then reopening, during the pandemic. Meeting that challenge, Lil could be found anywhere and everywhere, from behind the grill to in the front greeting customers.
“She’s done it all. But pretty much she stays at home now and is my moral support,” Doug Rand said.
In part, Lil inspired the restaurant’s name. (Having driven by the Potato Patch for years, I always was curious about the name, and had to inquire about the name’s origin.)
“My wife has always liked potatoes, and potatoes go with every meal. So whether we were breakfast, lunch or dinner, we could always use a potato theme,” he said. “We also have good hash browns here, we have good home fries here, baked potatoes we sell a lot of, but potato pancakes we also sell a lot of. And they’re very good.”
Combine the simple yet undeniably delicious potato theme with inspiration from Briarpatch Restaurant in Winter Park — where Doug and Lil were regulars for years — and Doug & Lil’s Potato Patch was born.
“We just figured potato patch was easy to say, and the rest is history,” Doug Rand said.
As a breakfast lover myself, I couldn’t leave without trying one of the sweeter breakfast dishes, and opted for the homemade French toast.
As my plate was placed in front of me, I couldn’t have been happier to see the slices of French bread topped with enough powdered sugar, cinnamon and syrup to satisfy even my sweet tooth. Just how I like it.
It was some of the best French toast I have ever had. I had no doubt that the dish was made fresh and from scratch, and had the perfect golden-brown crunch in every bite. Even better, the cost was only $7.
“We try to keep it fresh, hot and good, and golden-brown and delicious,” Rand told me.
What started out as a Plan B almost 25 years ago is now a DeLand favorite. Rand attributes the success to nothing less than hard work.
“Any small-business owner has to go in with an attitude that failure is not an option,” Doug Rand said. “There are definitely trials and tribulations to any business … but we just had to make sure that we worked hard enough and were good enough to our customers to make sure that it was a success. And after seeing the competition back 25 years ago, I knew I could do at least as good a job as them, and we’re still maintaining that high level of service and quality.”