Eau Claire, Wisconsin, United States
I was born into a family with entrepreneurial spirit and our main focus was the restaurant industry. I came from a family of seven siblings and in our case; you started working as soon as you could see over the counter.
I currently manage and co-own three different, highly profitable establishments with a total of between 50-60 employees, depending upon the season. Our first restaurant, the Enchanted Inn, started back in 1951 at a northern Wisconsin estate that was once the summer home of the Police Commissioner of Chicago at that time. Over the years it has grown to be a financially successful restaurant and seasonal campground. Our second location was Draganetti’s, a dinner-only Italian restaurant and lounge with both indoor and outdoor seating, which is now in its 34th year of business and has received numerous accolades such as “Best Italian in the Chippewa Valley” for the last seven years running. Our most recent addition is Taverna Grill, which offers an upscale bar and grill with an Italian flare. Open for both lunch and dinner in 2009, it has grown to be one of the most popular dining spots in the area with both indoor and outdoor dining. All three locations also offer off-premise catering.
Here’s just a bit of what we can cover in our PivotPlanet session(s):
• How to understand and accurately predict the financial end of your business, what's important and realistic.
• How to hire the best employees, train them and help them to understand and also help you “tell your story” to your customers.
• How to implement and maintain good controls in both the front and the back of the house, so you can make and maintain a profit.
• How to offer great customer service and interact and listen to your audience.
• Insight into how important location is for your business, site selection and lease negotiation skills.
• How to think about the things that nobody thinks of, the unforeseen, and plan ahead.
I have twice been awarded the Outstanding Restaurateur of the Year (OROY) for the West Central region of Wisconsin. I have also served as President of the West Wisconsin Chapter of the WRA (Wisconsin Restaurant Association), and I was appointed to the State Board of Directors for the WI Restaurant Association in 2012.
Restaurants, especially in the beginning, are hard work. So having grown up in one, I decided that once it was time for me to go off on my own, I was going to go to college and use my head instead of my back.
After graduating with a degree in accounting from University of Wisconsin, I worked for a year in a public accounting firm. I soon realized that I had been wearing the magic slippers all along and that life in a cubicle wasn’t for me. What I really had at that point was a passion for restaurants along with realistic inside knowledge on how they work and also a great education in business. That's when I combined my new educational skills with my learned skills, and we opened Draganetti's.
I love the excitement of a start-up and taking simple ideas and concepts and then molding and nurturing them to maturity. There is nothing more rewarding than to be inside of your restaurant on a busy night and hear the happy buzz of the customers in the front of the house and the hustle and fast-paced temp of the kitchen crew in the back of the house. In our business it’s instant gratification and feedback. You know at the end of the night whether or not you did a good job before you even take a look at the numbers.
I enjoy every aspect of owning and operating my own businesses and as we’ve grown, we’ve been able to add other profit areas such as real estate ownership. I am also proud to say I am well versed in other areas such as marketing and public relations. I know how to negotiate the best deals on outside advertising when needed, but more importantly how to generate the buzz so you can get exposure for free. When the local media wants a story on the restaurant business or how a new law or regulation might affect our industry, I’m happy to say they usually call me.
Of course it's a challenge, but over time the challenges become different. In the beginning you struggle to stay alive and get things figured out, but soon you realize that whether you succeed or fail is up to you, which can be somewhat scary but also exhilarating and rewarding in the long run. As a business owner, I feel we have an obligation to our customers and to our employees, and staying true to that is key in making it all work.
I enjoy interacting with my customers, having a great relationship with my employees, whom I refer to as co-workers, and I constantly try to stay up to date on what's changing out there whether it is in social media, dining trends, customer's tastes, etc.
Most people want to share what they know and there is no substitute for real experience. Pay attention to the experts out there who really know what's going on -- who walk the walk and don’t just talk the talk. And remember, you can learn a lot more if you listen more than you speak.