Bobby Stuckey says “hospitality is not what you do for somebody, it’s how you make them feel.” This has always resonated and stuck with me. Hospitality is having the ability to genuinely welcome a guest into your restaurant. Guests have chosen to spend their time in your restaurant, and that gives you a very special opportunity to create a great memory for them.
I was born into this industry. My mom was a pastry chef in Chicago, and I grew up at her apron strings. We eventually moved to Vermont, and my family opened a B&B that we managed and operated. There was a passion for the restaurant industry instilled in me from a very young age.
The years I spent working at Amada were some of the most formative of my career. It was the first restaurant that opened my eyes to how great a restaurant can really be. There was an amazing group of people under one roof at Amada, and I had the privilege of working alongside and being inspired by everybody.
Establish and develop trust. Whether that is helping guests to navigate a menu in a loud and boisterous restaurant, spending time on the line with a new cook and communicating what is needed, or establishing a rapport with a server so that when they ask for help, they know it will happen. There is no job too small for me when it comes to my staff. We are all here to collectively to make the restaurant a great place to both work and dine.
I keep my team motivated by leading by example. I’m the first one to raise my hand if chef is presenting something to broaden my exposure, the first to pick up the dustpan and broom, and the first to greet a table if the server has been double seated.
Ambition and drive. I am hiring someone who is looking to take my job. Those are the types of people I want to surround myself with — people who want to learn, and to really push themselves in this industry.
There is opportunity to learn everywhere, whether it’s a bar that serves beer and shots, or one serving the best cocktails in the world. You learn from your peers. Cultivate those experiences. The annual Welcome Conference is the most profound eight hours you can spend with the collective energy and drive that represents hospitality, what it means, and how to best present it both in a professional environment and in your day to day.
I find inspiration everywhere. My wife also works in restaurants and has been in high profile kitchens for the last 15 years. We touch base on the successes and failures of our nights and share experiences that may work for each other's teams. I look at all of my own dining experiences from a perspective of learning, and soaking in ways to make my own guests’ experiences better.