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Episode 44: Arlene Spiegel Arlene Spiegel experienced the challenges of daily operations while spending her teen years working in the family restaurant. She mastered the basic principles of guest service and joined the health movement by opening her first restaurant, The Garden of Eating. Arlene was sought after for her opinion and business knowledge by industry magazines and many neighboring restaurants. She enjoyed assisting others with their operational issues and worked to implement improvements.
 
In this episode, we learn how Arlene decided to sell her restaurants to her partner and begin a full-time career in consulting. She tells us about her years working with Price Waterhouse and Cooper as their global restaurant expert. She shares her experiences from her days working with regional chains and national brands, and tells us how her admiration for the hard-working independent restaurant operator grew.
 
Arlene moved on to create Arlene Spiegel Consulting in order to focus her time and energy on independent start-ups and small growing restaurant companies. Decades later Arlene finds herself busy with a variety of restaurant, hotel and casino clients. "The recent pandemic simply exaggerated many issues restaurants were already having within their operation," says Arlene.  She continues "Improving customer convenience, streamlining daily operations and improving the staff experience were issues I helped many of my clients with."
 
Her "Come Back Strong" program was developed to assess issues, provide direction and help implement improvements quickly and successfully. We learn how this approach led some restaurant clients to move into retail and how hotel casino buffets morphed into popular food halls. Arlene tells us "I see consulting as the process of finding solutions and providing the tools required for successful implementation!"
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Episode 44: Arlene Spiegel Arlene Spiegel experienced the challenges of daily operations while spending her teen years working in the family restaurant. She mastered the basic principles of guest service and joined the health movement by opening her first restaurant, The Garden of Eating. Arlene was sought after for her opinion and business knowledge by industry magazines and many neighboring restaurants. She enjoyed assisting others with their operational issues and worked to implement improvements.
 
In this episode, we learn how Arlene decided to sell her restaurants to her partner and begin a full-time career in consulting. She tells us about her years working with Price Waterhouse and Cooper as their global restaurant expert. She shares her experiences from her days working with regional chains and national brands, and tells us how her admiration for the hard-working independent restaurant operator grew.
 
Arlene moved on to create Arlene Spiegel Consulting in order to focus her time and energy on independent start-ups and small growing restaurant companies. Decades later Arlene finds herself busy with a variety of restaurant, hotel and casino clients. "The recent pandemic simply exaggerated many issues restaurants were already having within their operation," says Arlene.  She continues "Improving customer convenience, streamlining daily operations and improving the staff experience were issues I helped many of my clients with."
 
Her "Come Back Strong" program was developed to assess issues, provide direction and help implement improvements quickly and successfully. We learn how this approach led some restaurant clients to move into retail and how hotel casino buffets morphed into popular food halls. Arlene tells us "I see consulting as the process of finding solutions and providing the tools required for successful implementation!"
Episode 43: Michael Passalacqua In 1939, Michael Passalacqua’s grandparents opened Angelo’s Italian Restaurant in Washington, PA. They grew the small neighborhood restaurant and bar with its limited pasta and chicken menu, into a popular dining destination.
 
In this episode, Michael shares the story of his transition from a police officer to joining his family’s business. He grew up around the culture and mission of Angelo’s, so he knew how to make “guests feel like a part of our Italian family,” he says. But he was not prepared to manage a restaurant and rolled up his proverbial sleeves and dived into educating himself for the job. Michael was one of the earliest members of RestaurantOwner.com, which he credits for helping him drive revenue, manage costs and train his staff more effectively. His discipline and effort have been rewarded with the continued and growing success of the concept. 
 
Michael also shares the story of the restaurant’s 2008 relocation, including the design and construction of a freestanding building, to adapt to changes in his market. He explains the business planning and financing process and his thinking behind the restaurant’s design changes and offerings, including a display Gelateria, to maintain appeal in a changing market.
 
Michael believes profitable restaurant owners are always learning, by choice and necessity. Operating the new, larger, busier restaurant presented new challenges. After the relocation, “it took a couple of years to really feel stable and well organized," he says, adding, however, “our commitment to constant improvement has helped Angelo's become a people forward, positive workplace where happy staff are supported by friendly management.”
Episode 42: Raz Halili & Joe Cervantez Raz Halili returned home from a trade show to learn that his father had purchased a closed beachfront restaurant in San Leon, Texas. The Halili family has operated a successful seafood wholesale company for years, but Raz knew running a restaurant would be a much different experience. The second-generation oyster man found himself in the restaurant business.
 
"I had no restaurant experience," says Raz, "but I knew that I needed strong people to help build the foundation of my concept." He turned to Joe Cervantez, armed with experience in the kitchen of fine-dining landmark creole seafood concept Brennan’s, to be executive chef for the new seafood & oyster house restaurant -- Pier 6 
 
Learn how in just two years Raz and Joe worked together to create a successful beachfront seafood dining experience, and since expanded into lodging with six beachfront rental bungalows to serve local residents and weekend, destination visitors. The surf and turf menu has a heavy New Orleans influence and is seasonally updated. The expansive premises accommodate outdoor balcony space along with beautifully appointed interior dining and bar areas, for both casual and special-occasion dining. Raz and Joe explain how they quickly developed a successful brand with a quality menu and high-performing team in spite of Covid labor and supply chain challenges.
Episode 41: Ryan Soroka Self-described "entre-brew-neur" Ryan Soroka is president and co-founder of the successful 8th Wonder Brewery, based in Houston’s vibrant "EaDo" neighborhood. Hospitality graduate school and a passion for beer took him on his journey from home brewing to running a food truck to launching a popular brewery and brew pub.
 
Upon graduation from university, Ryan began his career in corporate finance, but after acknowledging his true calling, he pursued and earned a master’s degree in hospitality management at the Conrad N. Hilton College of Global Hospitality Leadership at the University of Houston. "Graduate school built my confidence and solidified my passion for this industry," says Ryan. It is also where he met his future business partner Aaron Corsi. "There was a natural progression in my business planning from food truck to brick and mortar restaurant and brewpub to brewery," adds Ryan.
 
In its 10th year of business, 8th Wonder produces a wide variety of classic beers and ales, including seasonal offerings. More recently, 8th Wonder has successfully expanded into spirits distillery under the brand 8 times Vodka and Texas Whiskey, as well as a line of non-alcoholic offerings under the brand  Wonderwaters. 
 
In this episode, Ryan explains how he and his team manage a successful brewery operation — including production, taproom service, onsite events, product development, and community marketing.
Episode 40: Kirk Ruoff With 23 units of his breakfast, lunch, and brunch concept Turning Point operating in New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania, founding CEO Kirk Ruoff knows the challenges of starting and growing a successful multi-unit restaurant brand.
 
In this episode, Kirk shares how attention to daily operations attracts and retains staff. "The unit manager is the heart of our brand," says Kirk, adding, "All services are intended to support them." He explains how leveraging current technology to communicate with, schedule, and train staff can foster engagement and teamwork.
 
"When pick-up and delivery orders increased over 300%, our staff rallied, and some of the best suggestions regarding packaging, operations efficiency, reheating instructions and marketing came from them," says Kirk.
 
A flexible concept, Turning Point is able to move into both new and second-generation locations ranging from 3,500 to 5,000 square feet. Kirk’s strategy for growth going forward is franchising, with a franchisee-operated unit in the works in Pennsylvania, with similar expansion in Virginia and Florida to follow.
Episode 39: Bob Yacone Bob Yacone won first place in the nation for traditional pizza at the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada the same year he won first place at the National Buffalo Chicken Wing Festival in Buffalo, New York. 
 
But his life hasn't always been a series of impressive awards. In this episode, we learn how he went from a difficult life in Brooklyn, New York to a successful restaurant operator in the Southwest. "My adopted grandmother got me interested in food. She raised me and was wonderful in the kitchen," he says, adding, "I enjoyed it immediately."
 
Bob launched full-service Italian restaurant Forghedaboudit! in Deming, New Mexico, home to his wife Kim’s family. He explains how he successfully developed a large loyal guest following in a challenging secondary market and - in spite of the pandemic - launched a smaller-footprint counter-service and take-out version of the concept in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Bob plans to expand Forghedaboudit! via franchising, with the next location to be slated for opening in El Paso, Texas sometime next year.
Episode 38: David Jones Tune in to this episode to learn how to go from good to excellent. An engineer by training, David Jones applied his analytical and business expertise to restaurant management education. He is the founder of The Excellence Advisory, a premier hospitality leadership development group. His approach has helped many independent restaurant operators increase their effectiveness, improve staff retention, and turn their managers into better leaders.
 
David spent seven years on the Pal’s Business Excellence Institute, the Tennessee-based management development arm of Pal’s Sudden Service restaurant group, the only quick-service restaurant chain restaurant to earn a Malcolm Baldrige award. “The more we think like our customers, the more we realize the importance of quality and value,” says David, adding, “when we think like our staff we realize the importance of a quality work environment and being valued!”
 
In the wake of the pandemic, David believes operators have a “second chance to make a first impression on returning guests and staff.” The winners will be concepts that engage their staff and empower their management team.
Episode 37: David Tripoli David Tripoli has 40 years of experience in the restaurant industry as a manager, multiunit supervisor, concept developer, and operations executive. He most recently directed independent restaurant company Truluck’s Ocean's Finest Seafood & Crab with its expansion to 12 units in five states with annual revenue exceeding 80 million. "Successful expansion is found within your concepts bench strength," David tells us, "because it’s a people business after all."
 
In this episode, David shares his philosophy on management leadership development and his proven steps to follow from management selection, initial training and supervision, to ongoing development.
 
"Management is about managing situations, but leadership is motivational and creates the positive culture today's staff members look for and deserve," says David. "Restaurants perform so much better when staff is inspired and not simply overseen."
 
David’s successful experience with developing good managers into great leaders has helped many others grow and exceed their expectations. "Positive character development and personal growth is another result of successful leadership," says David. 
 
Considering today’s competitive labor market, it has never been more important to maintain a positive work environment where managers properly lead and staff excel and grow. This is a must-listen.
Episode 36: Alex Canter Alex Canter is CEO of Nextbite, which states as its goal "to ensure every kitchen with extra capacity is not only surviving, but thriving" with off-premises virtual brand sales. Alex is not just a young tech entrepreneur. He is a savvy and seasoned restaurateur, who at age 12 started working in his family's business - the landmark Canter's Deli, an iconic Los Angeles dining destination serving locals, tourists, and celebrities.
 
Alex successfully preserved the time-honored traditions of a fourth-generation family-owned restaurant while modernizing it with cutting-edge technology to streamline operations and online ordering. In the process. Alex discovered his passion for restaurant industry innovation. "If you aren't thinking about the next generation of your restaurant, there may not be one," he says.
 
In this episode we learn how Alex conceived and developed Nextbite to help independent operators maximize revenue with very little additional operating costs. "Fitting the right virtual brand into an independently owned restaurant operation helps raise revenue from currently underutilized kitchens," he explains.
 
Nextbite's successful virtual brands include George Lopez Tacos, Wichcraft, Crave Burger, Wild Wild Wings, Grilled Cheese Society, Lucky Dragon, and many more. Nextbite also provides menu execution and operations assistance, and an ordering platform that simplifies third-party delivery orders and transactions. Alex also explains the company's unique revenue-sharing program with partner restaurant operators.
 
Considering takeout and third-party delivery sales comprise as much as half the revenue for many independent operators, that alone is good reason to tune in and learn Alex's bold vision of the future of off-premises dining.
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