Rodrigo Rodriguez

Rodrigo Rodriguez

Executive General Manager at Quality Meats, Quality Italian & Quality Bistro

The most important skills to possess for a leadership position in the hospitality industry, or any other industry for that matter, are integrity, communication, teamwork, delegation, motivation, and compassion.

I knew this profession was right for me during my third year of college, when I was an Economics undergraduate student in New York City. I was working as a captain at a restaurant in Manhattan that was owned by an economist from Harvard. Although I had always been involved in this industry as my dad was a chef, I never thought I wanted to pursue it as a career until then. I noticed that he was a brilliant numbers guy, something I could train myself to be, yet he was not the most hospitable person I’ve met, which I think is a trait you can’t always learn. I thought to myself that I could be both, I could continue my studies in Economics and Business and then mix that with what I was already good at. 

The best lesson I have learned throughout my career can probably be explained by a quote from Andy Stanley: “Leaders who don’t listen to others will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say.”
The first thing I look for when hiring aspiring professionals is attitude. Most skills are learnable; a good attitude is a bit harder to teach. Right after a good attitude, I look for passion. The hospitality industry is an industry that requires a lot of passion: you must love what you do to do it well, you can’t fake it. There are a couple of interviews that I still remember, they lasted for over an hour, and it turned from an interview to an inspiring session for me; that is, in my opinion, the epitome of a great candidate.
Keeping our team inspired, motivated, and educated is probably the most important part of my job. Although there are many layers to this, I think one of the most important ways to get this done on a daily basis is through pre-shift meetings. The structure of my pre-shift meetings revolves around the Three I’s: Inform, Instruct, and Inspire. This time is crucial to educate your staff with any menu changes, information about the day, special events/reservations, and projected level of business. During the instruct part, we would teach them soft skills like communication, initiative, and organization. We also let the sommelier have his time teaching them about wine and—from time to time—we may also bring in a brand manager of a specific alcohol or wine to talk about pairings and such. Finally, we close-up by getting the staff excited for the shift ahead, whether it is a pep talk, contest, or recognition to staff members.
The best way for me to continue to educate myself is to listen to my staff. In the hospitality industry, more so than other industries, you are surrounded by people of all different backgrounds and skillsets; ignoring perspectives and ideas that you may not be able to derive on your own because of basic geographical differences would be a huge loss to my learning and education. Every meeting I hold is set to have ample open discussion time so that everyone can say their thoughts and express their points of view; this to me, is how I can continue to educate myself to serve my guests, and staff, better.
Books that I have read, find relatable to my profession and that I have enjoyed include: "The Southwest Airlines Way" by Jody Gittell, "Setting the Table" by Danny Meyer, "Good to Great" by Jim Collins, "Start with Why" by Simon Sinek, "Drive" by Daniel Pink, "The Ultimate Sales Machine" by Chet Holmes, and "Animal Spirits" by George Akerlof and Robert Shiller.

Disclaimer: Individuals featured in the Inspirational Career Timelines section have been nominated by peers, colleagues and/or other members of the hospitality industry. It is to the best of our knowledge that each individual has demonstrated leadership and acted as a positive role model for others.

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