“Early in your career, you should expect to work longer hours and the less desirable shifts; if you can remain disciplined and develop leadership skills, you’ll eventually be able to achieve a better balance, but nights & weekends are always going to be a part of the restaurant industry. „
When we opened Fifty/50 in 2008, Rich Melman visited our restaurant for dinner. Keep in mind, it was just at the beginning of what became known as the Great Recession, and I wasn’t sure if we were going to make it. I felt defeated in a lot of ways. His advice was to focus on making one thing better every day and that over time, the restaurant would continue to grow if I did that. Not one day has gone by that I allow myself to go to sleep without improving at least one thing in the restaurant or one of my employees’ lives.
I think it’s a mistake to get into the restaurant industry if you do not love it. It’s a hard business, wrought with failure, and I carry the weight of every one of my employees’ livelihoods on my shoulders; I’m not sure that anyone should work for someone who doesn’t feel that way. I think that the Fifty/50 Group is striving towards a bigger purpose, something bigger than myself or my business partner, and that drives me.
I’m not sure that I have a healthy work/life balance. With that said, I spend ample time with my friends and family. When I was working, mostly at night, I’d invite them to the restaurant. As my organization has grown, I pick and choose when I work nights and weekends; I don’t just work to work. I do recognize that when I have a restaurant opening, I’m going to be working days, nights, and weekends for a while.
It’s always dependent on the position, but the common element that I look for in new hires is emotional maturity. I also love talking to people with an entrepreneurial spirit. Those are the kind of people that I want to join my organization. I can teach technical skills.
Organization and follow through are both skills that are essential for this industry. People who do not follow through are un-coachable to me.
Make no mistake; I want our restaurants to make money, but that is not what motivates me to keep pushing. I am driven by the knowledge that my contribution to the world is that I'm a kind and honorable boss, mentor, and partner to my people. That comes first to me.
On the selfish side, I’m not going to slow down until we have a Michelin Star, a James Beard Award, and a top 10 best bar in the world. I’m driven to see our places reach their potential and become great.
I’m excited to see how cannabis changes our industry over the next years.
The trends of technology taking profits from restaurants and putting a middleman or broker between restaurants and our customers worries me. The thought of companies like GrubHub, Open Table, and Amazon having more data about our customers than we do also terrifies me. I’d like to see federal regulations and anti-trust laws limit the power of these companies before they become the gatekeepers to butts in seats.
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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