The restaurant world, in the simplest terms, is truly a tale of two houses.
The back of the house is the one that gets most of the attention: It refers to the kitchen and all those who work in it. Most of the focus is on the wizardry behind those swinging porthole doors—what chefs are coming up with to dazzle, comfort or nourish you. But the front of the house, the very public face of servers, bartenders, managers and others who tend to the guests’ needs, constitutes the other side of that coin. At some restaurants, such as Pazzo! on Fifth Avenue South, there is a hostess who has been with the team since it opened 25 years ago and guests know her by name. Likewise, people will plan a visit to Bar Tulia around which of their favorite bartenders is working that night.
But while there is a focus on the quality of service—arguably that it makes or breaks a night out—there is very little attention on how the people at the front of the house go about their jobs. The general manager is the glue that holds the restaurant together, as he or she motivates, informs and supports the entire team. They are ringleaders, quality-control officers and train conductors all rolled into one. GM’s are some of the most recognizable people on staff, but customers barely know the scope of what they do beyond saying “Hi.”
At any time, you might find one of them stocking the bar or training their staff or being the chief complaint department officer or throwing on a tuxedo to help serve if someone calls in sick. There’s almost nothing they don’t have a hand in. Here we shine light on three exceptional general managers who take the restaurant experience from ordinary to extraordinary.