How To Earn 6 Figures In Restaurant Management
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By Erika Prafder for Hcareers.com
Want a big tip?
Some of the restaurant world’s highest paid have earned their titles using innovative wit, social media-savvy, rock-star charisma, and passion-driven hunger to succeed.
If you’re prepared to live, breathe and eat the industry, plus adopt an entrepreneurial spirit, the opportunities and dough are yours for the taking.
Read on for three inside scoops on how to land such coveted roles.
Executive Chef Thomas Connell
Fontainebleau Miami Beach
As a child, Thomas Connell’s culinary passion was inspired by his grandfather. “I watched him make soups, salads, and braises for my grandmother -- and was captivated. I never had another desire professionally,” says the Los Angeles native.
Today, Connell oversees roughly 350 signature restaurant employees and a conference/catering business raking in $40 million annually. Patrolling all kitchens daily, he tastes products, conducts random line checks, and attends service in all dining spots.
“I’m making sure plates are rolling, discussing reservation counts, expected VIPs, earlier shift challenges and functions tied to global initiatives, such as an upcoming Breast Cancer Awareness event,” says Connell.
With distinguished credentials from institutions including the Culinary Institute of America, Connell says, “The main objective for aspiring top chefs is to inspire those around you. With their support, you can do anything in an operation.”
Other high-income generators (F&B Directors, Restaurant Managers, Chef de Cuisines) have typically served at least five years in leadership capacity in a professional kitchen. Along with strong technical cooking skills, “Attitude is number one,” says Connell. “I want level-headed, professional, courteous, and refined people.”
If you fit that bill, “A lot of jobs are incentivized. You can get beyond six figures. It takes heartfelt desire, says Connell. “I’ve been [working for] 30 years in kitchens. It’s a tough job. When you have to work nights, weekends and holidays, you’ll only do it when driven passionately.”
Bites of advice:
• Rouse those around you to share your passion.
• Success is in the details of your daily check list. Everything speaks when the buck stops with you.
• A polished, poised and considerate attitude is the key to staying power and rising leadership rank.
Kim Lapine, Vice President of Marketing
Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group
A love of food, wine and people lured this marketing pro to work within this space. She bartended at Houlihans to cover Boston University’s hospitality school tuition, and later assumed operations and marketing roles with notable restaurant groups, before joining Smith & Wollensky in 2010.
“I strongly encourage operations experience. If you can’t communicate to the boots on the ground, you won’t be great at marketing. They’re your brand ambassadors,” says Lapine.
Business foresight prompted her to study Web and graphic design, better preparing her for her current job.
“The hardest thing to do in marketing is prove that spending millions in a particular arena reaches anyone. With digital media, there are so many analytics available throughout a campaign. Everything you do is measurable. You can build an ROI model to share with financial folks and marketers, monitor progress, and base decisions on real data,” says Lapine.
Today, the company utilizes online media platforms to communicate its commitment to quality.
“Our key bartenders and brand partners post on their social media accounts. We share stories and video about our USDA prime beef vendors, wineries, and food purveyors that engage guests,” says Lapine. “We also monitor an online dashboard that pulls customer reviews from Open Table about our brand, from which we often make decisions.”
With nine nationwide locations (the original NYC location is owned and operated by another restaurant group), over 1,000 employees, and sales topping $18 million at some restaurants annually, to nab a top earning spot, “There’s no one set path,” says Lapine. “The president of our company began as butcher’s assistant. I’ve seen dishwashers become Sous Chefs. For those with passion and a willingness to learn, the sky’s the limit.”
Lapine herself aspires to become Chief Marketing Officer.
“At the senior level, you’re able to partake in an equity sharing program,” she says. “You’re more of an invested partner and involved in strategic decisions.”
Bites of advice:
• Gain operations expertise to connect with workers who uphold your brand from the ground up.
• Increase yours and your organization’s social media savvy to boost customer loyalty and the bottom line.
• Absorb all you can and maintain razor sharp focus. Success is bound to follow such commitment.
James Lin, Senior Vice President
Restaurants & Bars, Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants
With huge growth expectations over the next three years (2,000 new posts) and the company's restaurants sales alone tracking towards $250 million for 2014, Kimpton’s concept development group plays a pivotal organizational role.
These idea generators work with a real estate development team to analyze a location’s competition and determine which restaurant concepts will likely succeed.
For example, “We recently re-launched a space in San Francisco, now named, Dirty Habit,” says Lin. “The new bar-centric concept includes an outdoor patio, which proved to be a game-changer for that neighborhood. It’s one of our best performing restaurants to date this year.”
When conceptualizing Pacci Italian Kitchen + Bar, at The Brice, Kimpton’s recently-opened Savannah, Georgia boutique-hotel property, “We recruited a popular local chef/restaurateur as a consultant to help us connect with the local community. It’s played out well. We’ve gained great press in that marketplace,” says Lin.
And on the F&B side, “Top management are earning at least six-figures, with profit incentives tied to performance,” says Lin. “We’re competing against independent restaurants and want to foster an entrepreneurial environment to make people feel more vested in the business.”
Bites of advice:
• Creativity is a hot commodity. Use it to your advantage and to evolve your company's brand.
• Take advantage of local PR opportunities to craft great word of mouth for your business.
• Assume an entrepreneurial mindset. The money is there for those fixated on a business’ potential.
A view from the top in the restaurant world takes innovation, drive and impassioned concentration. Lead chefs and bartenders with rock star appeal can reap monetary and intrinsic rewards for their culinary and motivational prowess. For innovative and Internet-savvy minds, hot professional niches, including social media marketing and new concept development, are worth exploring. If you can handle biting off more than you can chew and hungry to succeed, you can command a six-figure paycheck, while living your passion.
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