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626: Will McNeil on Staff First/Customer Second

Restaurant Unstoppable with Eric Cacciatore

Release Date: 06/24/2019

651: Tanya Sanchez on Leading By Example show art 651: Tanya Sanchez on Leading By Example

Restaurant Unstoppable with Eric Cacciatore

Albuquerque native, Tanya Sanchez, developed a passion for food at a young age while cooking with her father. Her dreams of becoming a restaurant owner began to bubble up during her years as a college student working in both corporate and independent restaurant settings. Fast forward through 10 years in marketing, design, and as a small landscaping business owner, and it was time for Sanchez to take action on her dreams of being a restaurant owner. In 2015 the process leading into what would become Brixens started. It's been nearly a 5 years uphill battle for Sanchez, overcoming one hurdle...

650: Damien Watel on Partnerships and Humility show art 650: Damien Watel on Partnerships and Humility

Restaurant Unstoppable with Eric Cacciatore

French-born Damien Watel got his start in the restaurant industry at the age of 25 working for his uncle's two Dallas restaurants. In 1999 Chef Watel opened Bistro Vatel, which had an 18-year run and earned Watel recognition as one of the great chefs in the nation, before closing in 2017. Chef Watel's most recent project, Bistr09,  is the ninth restaurant project Chef Damien Watel has undertaken in the collaboration of his wife, Chef Lisa Astorga-Watel.  In addition, The Watels own and operate Bite in Southtown.   Show notes… Favorite success quote or mantra: "It's not about...

649:  Lisa Astorga-Watel on Taking Chances, Networking, and Presence.  show art 649: Lisa Astorga-Watel on Taking Chances, Networking, and Presence.

Restaurant Unstoppable with Eric Cacciatore

Chef/Owner Lisa Astorga-Watel grew up in Santiago, Chile, before moving to Houston, Texas where she attended The Culinary Art Institute. Astorga-Watel's ambition started early wit the opening of her own catering business to cover her expenses while in school. Following her formal training, she served as a private chef for celebrity, Tommy Lee Jones. It was during this time in her career she was able to travel the world developing her pallet and culinary repertoire. It was also during this time she met her future husband and business partner Chef Damien Watel. Together the couple owns Bite and...

648: Scott Roberts on Persistence and Hard Work show art 648: Scott Roberts on Persistence and Hard Work

Restaurant Unstoppable with Eric Cacciatore

The Salt Lick has a story that dates back to the 1830s when Scott Robert's ancestors came to TX with Steven F Austin and moved to Driftwood, TX in the 1870s. Over the next 100 years, BBQ techniques were developed by Roberts family that would eventually be used in the original Salt Licks, which was established in 1967, by Scott Roberts' parents, Thurman and Hisako Roberts. In 1985 the Business was passed from parents to son. In the proceeding 30 years, Scott has scaled the original footprint and has opened an additional 3 locations. Today The Salt Lick is continuously recognized as one of the...

647: Ben Poremba on Transforming Communities One Block at a Time show art 647: Ben Poremba on Transforming Communities One Block at a Time

Restaurant Unstoppable with Eric Cacciatore

Israeli native, Ben Poremba moved to St. Louis to earn a BA in philosophy from the University of Missouri. He also attended University of Gastronomic Studies in Parma, Italy. Today Poremba is  Chef/Owner of Bengelina Hospitality Group, the St. Louis-based, award-winning operator of Nixta and Bar Limón, Elaia, Olio, La Patisserie Chouquette, and The Benevolent King. Poremba is a three-time James Beard Award semifinalist in the category of Best Chef-Midwest, and he continues taking the St. Louis dining scene by storm. Show notes… Favorite success quote or mantra: “Food of love for...

646: Nick Bogacz on Guerilla Marketing Tactics  show art 646: Nick Bogacz on Guerilla Marketing Tactics

Restaurant Unstoppable with Eric Cacciatore

After 16 years of working in the pizza biz from delivery driver to store manager, Nick Bogacz built the confidence to open his own pizza place in 2012. Today, Bogacz is the President and Founder of Caliente Pizza & Drafthouse. An inspiring leader and team builder, he has grown his company to nearly 200 employees and 5 locations in 7 years. Show notes… Favorite success quote or mantra: "Make it happen." In this episode with Nick Bogacz we will discuss: Becoming a leader early in life Learning leadership from coaching sports Natural leadership inclination Doing everything in your job...

645: Ben Berg on Assuming Nothing While Anticipating Everything show art 645: Ben Berg on Assuming Nothing While Anticipating Everything

Restaurant Unstoppable with Eric Cacciatore

Born in New York City, Ben Berg has been in the restaurant business for over 17 years working for upscale steakhouses in Las Vegas, Mexico City, and his hometown. Prior to his career in restaurants, Berg received a Master of Hospitality Management from Cornell University and a B.A. in Art History from Tulane University. Berg would go on to work for The Point, a luxury hotel company voted the #1 small hotel in the country at the time. In 2015 Berg opened B.B. Butchers and Restaurant in Houston, TX. 3 years after the original B.B. Butcher, the Berg Hospitality Group was formed and has scaled to...

644: Charles Clark and Grant Cooper on True Restaurant Etiquette show art 644: Charles Clark and Grant Cooper on True Restaurant Etiquette

Restaurant Unstoppable with Eric Cacciatore

Clark Cooper Concepts, lead by Chef Charles Clark and Grant Cooper, is the group behind Ibiza, Brasserie 19, Coppa Osteria, Punk’s Simple Southern Food, and The Dunlavy, was brought to life in 2001, when they decided to share their passion for food and the dining experience. The driven duo constantly strives to be at the forefront of the Houston restaurant industry with concepts that are chic, sophisticated, and provide customers with an experience of undeniable excellence and spirit. Show notes… Favorite success quote or mantra: Grant: "Everything is derived from passion." Charles: "Do...

643: Damian Mandola on Attention to Detail show art 643: Damian Mandola on Attention to Detail

Restaurant Unstoppable with Eric Cacciatore

Damian's 40+ years of experience started with "Damian's Fine Italian Food"- a restaurant he started as a college senior in 1975. Damian's experience took him from his first restaurant to becoming a fixture in the Houston restaurant scene, first with D'Amico's, then Damian's Cucina Italiana, then to the national scene with Carrabba's; a restaurant he founded with nephew Johnny Carrabba. Moving to the Austin area, the Mandola's have promoted Italian culture and cuisine in Texas by opening Mandola's Italian Kitchen and Trattoria Lisina, totaling 4 locations. Show notes… Favorite success quote...

More Episodes

Born and raised in Burlington, VT Will Mcneil is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. After graduation McNeil cooked at various locations before becoming a FOH manager for Hen of the wood in 2006. By 2011 McNeil was offered a partnership by Chef Eric Warnstedt. Fast forward to the current date and the team has scaled their operation to include Hen of the Wood - Burlington, Doc Ponds Eat & Drink in Stowe, and Prohibition Pig just down the street from their original HOTW in Waterbury, VT.

See Episode 625 to hear from Eric Warnstedt.

See Episode 613 with Horst Schulze to learn about the 24 Standards of Service.

Show notes…

Favorite success quote or mantra:

  • Empowering each of our managers to make the right decisions and run the business for us.

In this episode with Will McNeil we will discuss:

  • Building the perfect team to surround you
  • Staff first; customer right behind it
  • Will’s time at CIA
  • Will’s mentors at CIA
  • The most important steps of good service
  • The importance of first and last impressions at FOH
  • Transitioning from Sous Chef to FOH manager
  • Horst Schulte’s 24 Standards of Service
  • Smile while delivering discipline
  • A minimalist approach to aesthetics
  • Cutting down FOH costs
  • Importance of a post-service meeting
  • Partnerships
  • Learning as much as you can about restaurant tech and how it serves you
  • Respect for your partners
  • Partnerships as a marriage
  • What’s behind a name
  • Opening a second restaurant is always the hardest
  • Inward growth

Today's sponsor:

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Knowledge bombs

  1. Which "it factor" habit, trait, or characteristic you believe most contributes to your success?
    • Work ethic
  2. What is your biggest weakness?
    • To detail-oriented
  3. What's one question you ask or thing you look for during an interview?
    • Interests outside work/true passion
  4. What's a current challenge? How are you dealing with it?
    • Kitchen staffing
  5. Share one code of conduct or behavior you teach your team.
    • Treat everyone on staff as equals
  6. What is one uncommon standard of service you teach your staff?
    • Greet gusts within 2 minutes
  7. What's one book we must read to become a better person or restaurant owner?
  8. What's the one thing you feel restaurateurs don't know well enough or do often enough?
    • Care
  9. What's one piece of technology you've adopted within your four walls restaurant and how has it influence operations?
  10. If you got the news that you'd be leaving this world tomorrow and all memories of you, your work, and your restaurants would be lost with your departure with the exception of 3 pieces of wisdom you could leave behind for the good of humanity, what would they be?
    • Staff first
    • Customers have right-of-way in the restaurant
    • Empower managers

Contact info:


Hen of the Wood

Prohibition Pig

Doc Ponds Eat and Drink in Stowe

Thanks for listening!

Thanks so much for joining today! Have some feedback you’d like to share? Leave a note in the comment section below!

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Huge thanks to Will McNeil for joining me for another awesome episode. Until next time!


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