Restaurant Rockstars Episode 358

Delivering Hospitality at the Highest Level ​

LISTEN HERE OR ON YOUR FAVORITE PODCAST PLAYER

Join the Restaurant Academy

Delivering true hospitality at the highest level takes strategy, detailed planning, an experienced/engaging team, and the ability to create trust and rapport.

Throw in celebrities and a most discerning clientele and the expectation grows.

In this episode of the Restaurant Rockstars Podcast we are focusing on high level hospitality and I’m speaking with Sofia Crokos.  Sofia is the founder of Sofia Crokos Events and Lifestyle, as well as the co-founder of Elaia Estiatorio, a restaurant she operates with her husband and partner.

Listen as Sofia shares:

  • Her humble beginnings, Greek traditions, and her passion for hospitality
  • How she got a toe into a very competitive industry and rose to the top
  • Passion, pride, 2,000 details and the relationships that lead to ultimate guest experiences.
  • Her philosophies on company culture, teamwork, respect, and recognition
  • The foundational elements to amazing events and dining experiences
  • How to keep cool when the unexpected happens and things go sideways.
  • The importance of knowing your critical numbers to maintain profits.

And a story or two about celebrity weddings and events!

This episode reminds us that “every detail and impression counts”, and that best practices lead to greatness.

Watch or listen, then go out there and Rock YOUR Restaurant!

Roger

Connect with our guest:

www.sofiacrokos.com

www.elaiaestiatorio.com

@elaia_hamptons

@sofiacrokosevents

Any young kids that are young teenagers or adults are listening to this, everyone should go into some type of hospitality some time in their life to understand what hospitality really means. And and I think it kind of forms us in a way where we not only become cognizant of the people around us and what we’re here to serve, whatever it is, whether it’s food, restaurant, or meal planning events, or the concierge at a hotel or what have you, I think people really need to really get a little taste of that in their life.

rockstars if you’re looking to uplevel your operation across the board, check out the restaurant Academy at restaurant rockstars.com. It includes everything to deliver true hospitality to your guests to instill leadership, teamwork and respect amongst your team to build what I call the Dream Team and teach them how to serve and sell as well as dialing your restaurants finances for maximum profit. Best of all, you can assign any of the material to your team that gives you the exit strategy because it’s teaching them how to run your business and run it as if they owned it. So check it out at restaurant rockstars.com

My guest today, Sophia Crocoas is an event planning Maven. It’s incredible. The attention to detail, and the level of hospitality that goes into serving clients at the highest level. There’s so much we can learn from Sofia’s approach as one of the leading event planners in the Hamptons and New York City. Besides that she is also the co owner of a Greek restaurant. Yes, Sophia is of Greek origin, and the heritage and the traditions and the amazing food. And of course, the hospitality is evident. There’s so many key nuggets in so key learnings that we can apply to our own restaurants today, so you’re not going to want to miss this episode. Thanks so much to our sponsors. This week on with the episode.

You’re tuned in to the restaurant rockstars podcast powerful ideas to rock your restaurant, here’s your host Roger Beaudoin.

Listen when I ran restaurants, I had my core values, the things most important how I ran my restaurants, monitoring daily operations, training my team for consistently great guest experiences food safety, quality assurance and preventative maintenance. All this took a system. Well, here’s what Xenia can do. Xenia gives you a modern app, really an operational base camp that scales standard operating procedures, trains your team controls, operations, and even manages food safety. Now, I really liked their sensors that continuously monitor temperature for fridges and freezers so you can proactively prevent inventory losses. Now, how valuable is that? Now whether managing a single or multiple locations the Xenia app helps you ensure consistency, compliance and accountability across your operation. You can see full detail in real time from anywhere in your Xenia dashboard with automated reports right to your inbox. Now again, this was vital in my restaurants. Now until September 7 Xenia is offering my listeners 20% off Xenia starts at just $69 per month per location. So get my special deal at www.Xenia.team/rockstars. Xenia is spelled Xenia

Rock stars there are many elements to consider when growing your restaurant. are you connecting with diners enough and with the right message? Could your kitchen be putting out more orders than your dining areas have room for? Well, it can be overwhelming especially when the reason you got into this business is for the food and the people. That’s why restaurants get pop menu. Popmenu is the marketing tech platform designed to make growing your restaurant easy, so you don’t have to grow it alone. With pop menu you can capture more guests and their preferences through your restaurants website that’s designed to easily collect contact information and data so you can see what your guests love and why they dine with you. Connect and build authentic relationships with guests by using modern technology that personalizes marketing. Make all your systems work better together, improve margins and conquer the chaos of your restaurants digital presents popmenu as a special offer for my listeners. For a limited time get $100 off your first month plus lock in one unchanging monthly rate at popmenu.com/rockstars go now to get $100 off your first month at popmenu.com/rockstars

Sophia, how are you today? So glad you’re here.

I’m doing fantastic. It’s a beautiful day in New York City. So thank you for having me.

Wow, what a vibrant city. Have you lived there for a long long time?

I born and raised in Brooklyn. And right now my primary home is in Sag Harbor out in the Hamptons. But I do come I’m in, you know, I actually traveled back and forth because of work, you know, stuff that, you know, needs my attention needs me to be present here in New York City. And so here I am.

Now you have Greek heritage, is that correct?

I am Greek full on, yes, my parents born and raised there. So I’m first generation here. But seriously, My soul is so great, because it was important for my parents when they were raising us that our first language would be Greek. And, and so I’m so thankful that they stuck to that.

Well, you know, there’s so much about the culture that I can appreciate, I have had the opportunity to visit Greece twice in my life. The first time I was in graduate school, I lived in Milan, Italy for the summer. And I absolutely had to get to Athens and the cyclic islands. And so what an eye opener that was just the spectacular beauty and the sunsets. But the culture is so much about the friendliness of the people, and the food and the traditions, and the local ingredients. And even the wines, like everything about Greek culture is all part of this lifestyle. And it’s about Celebration of Life celebration of people and friends and family. And the food is such a huge aspect. So we’ll talk about that. I’m sure there’s plenty of influences there with your restaurant. But let’s talk about where it all began for you take us back as far when you suddenly discovered the word hospitality or vocation called hospitality. And look at where it’s led you. So we want to know, where did it start and tell us everything that’s happened in between.

My goodness, I know, we only have an hour, but I can talk for hours about this. So I was I’m very fortunate in so many ways, because I am from a family that a loves to cook B loves together C loves to, you know, fight but in a good way, meaning like, because we’re very passionate, you know. And so cooking for me was sort of like one of my first intros to hospitality. And so, you know, for my grandmother when she was making her laugh to Boudicca, which I know is a mouthful to say, but it is

a dessert announced that

it’s a dessert, it’s a it’s a delicious milk custard vanilla dessert. That’s you know, that’s in Phila with the syrup and the whole nine yards. Okay, and, and so from that to my mom’s cooking, to even my dad’s cooking, and then we all were like in the kitchen somehow, somewhere, you know, where it was, whether it was siblings, or even visiting as an uncle’s homes, and then primarily going to Greece, from like the age of three, spending summers in my dad’s village and seeing my grandfather bring bring home, what truly, I believe is farm to table because of the beauty of every vegetable didn’t have the perfect shape, or the perfect color, right, they all had sort of odd shapes and the crispness, I remember, or the crispy the Christmas rather, of the cucumber and, and figs, and even like going to the almond and walnut trees and my mom would visit and we would just like literally, you know, raise our hand and just pick one of those babies and crack it open. So the purity of that the beauty of that and the simplicity of the base of olive oil being the base, basically. And then everything else around it, you know, that hit my palate, a very young age. And so as you know, years went by and helping mom in the kitchen, setting the table, wanting to have the great atmosphere. I mean, that was like, embedded in me like from again, like, probably my early childhood years until like my teens. And then my love for fashion came through. And even though my dad wanted wanted me to be in business, and I’m like, Yeah, that’s not for me. I’m not going into economics. And even though I did tamper with it, I was frustrated being in that first year of university and I’m like, I need I’m a creator. I’m an artist, you know, I’m like, I can’t express any of this stuff. number crunching and, you know, economics was giving me like hives, and so and so basically, I said, Okay, I’ve got a break out of this. And so I did so I went to FIT, study fashion, and fell in love with it. I mean, I was already collecting the Vogue magazines and the Women’s Wear Daily and on the W magazines and everything else out there and just like in awe of the whole fashion world. So I graduated from there I did a summer semester over in Europe. And then from there basically, it all kind of began I stayed in fashion for about seven years. And then came this sort of moment in my life where I wanted more. I felt like this wasn’t enough, you know, I was what I call a frustrated artist in a sense of like I couldn’t sketch for the life of me. So my specialty or you know The time when I was studying was marketing and, and in sales in the fashion arena. And so I had the opportunity to work for some great designers, but I just needed to express my, my art in some other form or shape. And so here I was, and like I said, seven or eight years after being in the fashion world where I then, you know, got introduced to the wedding industry. And I’m like, what, what’s going on in here? Like, is this really what I’m going to sort of start doing like planning weddings, and we’re other, you know, special events. And it’s not that it wasn’t talking to me, I was like, actually getting excited, because I’m saying, Well, I’ve kind of been doing that for quite some time now. Like, helping friends with wedding planning. You know, like I said, from, you know, young age, you know, being in a kitchen, setting the table doing, you know, making sure the lighting was great, making sure the music was perfect. So that was already in me. So the seed had already been planted. And so here I was in naming my company, which means in Greek, you know, to bloom, right. So, events was, was my first sort of company naming. And it made sense, because I said, I want to take that seed, who has ever seen that is, and make it blue make it happen. So that’s what you know, sort of occurred. And I met this wonderful woman woman at the time, who actually was a friend of another floral designer that I knew and said, let her talk to you about this business. And I said, Great. And she’s so I had this thirst for life and thirst for, you know, parties, and creating magic. And so she gave me my first gig. And eight months after of like this researching and, and what have you, I started into this, you know, wedding and event industry world. And, and I quickly learned a lot of things. And it took me to some interesting places with some great clients and, and then the story just keeps going. I don’t know if you want me to keep going. So I want to let you have also your moment of asking me questions. So

that’s a really great foundation. So it sounds like that one opportunity, then the light bulb went off, and you’re like, wow, I can do this. I’m creative. I have an eye for detail. I can work with, you know, discerning clientele, and I can put on the spectacular events. And I’m just going to leverage all those strengths and just grow this company and you just started to start it. And then well, then where did you first besides that first wedding? Where did the first clients come from? Did you have to go out and literally find these clients? Did you market for clients? Did reputation precedes you based on that first event? Tell us how how did the company grow and gain a following and notoriety?

So yes, so I was lucky to again, continue this relationship that I had with that woman who I got that introduction from that floral designer, who again, saw this thirst thought saw this, like hunger of like, I’m ready to take this on. And mind you, Roger, you know, when I started this, I was kind of the young ones out there on the east end, you know, because they, you know, we had the, at the time that Colin Cowie, Marcy Blum, Harry Katz’s, of the world, which had already started, you know, the, the road basically to event planning. And here I was, I am like, 28, 29 years old. I’m like, I’ve arrived and so and so I did. And Wendy, the woman who, again was sort of my fairy godmother, as I’ve said, many of times, in some interviews, gave me my first opportunity. And this client happened to be a bride and groom and they were from, they were from Bedford, I believe. And so the first event for me was tent attended event, I had no freaking idea what attended event, Matt, like what the the logistics and the build outs that had to happen. And so from there, you know, rolled up the sleeves. And, you know, here I am showing up with heels, you know, thinking like, Oh, I’m supposed to be this party, Glenn are supposed to look great, but it was grueling, you know, in a sense of like, the work that goes behind the scenes. Yeah. And how many hours you’re on your feet. So I learned very quickly, that high heels were not going to be part of the agenda. Unless, you know, it called for for maybe an hour in between. So, so yes, so I just jumped right in. And from there, whether it was windy, or if it was, you know, some other you know, vendors that I was starting to form relationships where they were starting to kind of feed the clients to me, they’re like, Oh, my God, you have to meet Sophia, you have to like check her out and what have you and so it really began from, you know, reputation, word of mouth, and, and again, just sort of I think manifesting part two because I said I’m gonna go into this industry, but I really want to, you know, really deal with luxury events. And and I was very selective and yet not because you’re starting out so you can’t just be like, Well, I don’t want to take you. I was taking whatever however with a mindset going

why not shoot for the stars and do whatever it takes to get there. But I mean, that’s a story for a lot of restaurateurs, as well, they start out with a humble. If it’s successful, it’s like, okay, how can I grow this? How can I scale this? How can I go from one to two to 10? How can I franchisor not everyone has that mindset. Some people are really happy having their independent restaurant that’s successful. But there is a competitive aspect to it. There is a, you know, this isn’t enough for me, what’s the next thing? And let’s keep building and that definitely sounds like you for sure, and the details that are involved here. But let’s go back to the staffing because you had that first event that was a referral. And now suddenly, you needed help to pull this off? Did you just tap into friends and family and network and say you’re gonna do this? And you’re gonna do this? Or did you can subcontract out parts of it? Like, tell us about that? Because that’s, that’s a logistics thing and building a business? Absolutely. So

yes, family and friends had to come in handy initially, right? Because here I am. I’m young, I’m starting something that I started to really love even more and believed in. And so I wasn’t at that stage yet to start putting ads out, right? Because I said, Look, let me let me get the ball going. Let me feel this out. And then we will build from there. And so yes, friends and family came in very handy and lovingly to assist where needed. And of course, I knew, and I found out very quickly that there’s no way I can do any of these events solo, like, that’s crazy. So I Yeah, whoever was available, I took on, and I made it happen. And I wanted to make sure that everything was not like not everything. But you know, nothing would be missed, right? Everything would go flawlessly. And it wasn’t just you know, on the day of the event, it was also behind the scenes, right, because the minutiae of like, you know, handling all the little details, and the emails, and the phone calls, and so on and so on, was also very important. So, like anything in life, you know, it’s like, sometimes, you know, there be moments where, you know, you’d break in some respect, right? Where you would just almost be like burnout moment. And then it would be like, okay, but wait, I’m learning. And then. And, to me, Roger, it was about working smartly. And, and not wanting to take on every job because that, to me, didn’t speak to my soul. And I said somewhere in the middle, if not somewhere at the end, I would regret doing that. So, anyway, so I took on whatever I could take on, but yes, staffing was then starting to become a little bit more real, like, I started then taking the interns on, you know, so it was like a process, right, nothing happened overnight, where now you know, I have three to four, on on on staff, versus like just having myself and maybe half a person at a time. And then maybe like bringing on the interns or family or friends or whomever to kind of help on the weekend of the event.

But then you got some people that are probably really great that you notice something special in that you’ve got the right stuff, and you’re detail oriented, and you’ve got follow through and you’re meticulous and it’s like, I want you on my team. So did you bring those on? And and then they maybe you got referrals from those people who else has these attributes that will help us go where we want to go? Right? I’m just guessing that’s how it Yeah, come together.

Oh, yeah, of course, it was like a trial and error, right? Yeah, some somewhere. Right, some would work out for the moment, because they either were moving on to something else, or moving back home, because they were up in New York for hot second thumb just stayed on because they were the real deal for me, and I needed them and I needed to start leaning on them so and so I always, you know, looked at who’s creative, obviously, because we needed someone to be creative, but I also was looking more towards the analytical logistical side of that individual because I, you know, I’m the visionary here. And of course, I would always take on, you know, other people’s, you know, views on things too, because ego did not sort of fit in the equation. I’m a very, you know, kind of rooted individual. And I’m always open to hear and listen, because maybe I’m seeing something this way. But if someone says Sophia, how about this? I’m always open to it and if it if I beg to differ, because I didn’t think it was fit in whether it was budget wise or visual, you know, from a visionary, you know, purpose that I would say no. But I always welcome other people’s opinions, because I’m not going to be perfect on everything that I do.

Yeah, we’re always gonna have the element of human error. And nobody’s perfect despite best in fact, despite incredible planning, it’s like things can and will go sideways and ask you about that. And a little bit, we won’t go too deep right now on that. But you mentioned some other names that were established people that were in this business, did you have a goal to perhaps become at that level, and, you know, you could just see yourself getting there, and then being a threat, not a threat, but a viable competitor in a competitive space, all sort of vying for this discerning clientele, that we’re talking about the people that have the ultimate expectations, to create these really amazing events. And you could do some amazing event that literally just puts you on the map. And there’s such a buzz about that event, and maybe it gets media exposure and press, the celebrities catch when and then they say one celebrity says, Oh, wow, I have to have her for this event. I mean, the things go that way. Did it take a while to get there? And I’m asking you a lot of questions, but it’s all kind of wrapped up into one. Let’s talk about is that was that your goal back then to be at that level really quickly?

It was definitely my goal to be at that level. But I wouldn’t say quickly. Because I always remembered, you know, a friend of mine saying Sophia, slow and steady wins the race, slow and steady wins the race. And I’m like, I sometimes will come to that. But then, yes. What was I sort of us anxious, not in a negative way, but anxious to like, you know, like, yes, like, I could do this. And I can get to that level, and maybe it’ll take me three months from now, maybe it’ll take me six months. I knew in my heart of hearts that I was getting there. It was just a matter of like, Sophia, you’ve got you’ve got to just, you know, play with your time. This is your time. It’s not this person’s time. It’s not that person’s done. So it was timing for me. And of course, even again, you know, looking back there were moments, of course that I couldn’t comprehend that. But then when things would kind of fall in my lap, I’d be like, Okay, makes sense. You see, it wasn’t supposed to come to you six months ago, or two days ago. It came now. So I was also the person that yeah, of course, I boasted about my like, you know, successes or my pretty events. But I also kind of reserved back a little bit I kind of intrigue perhaps Yes, I want you know, and there’s a big part of me that is that, but then there’s a small part of me that, or even a bigger part of me that likes to share, right? Because I want I want to inspire that was that I think I was born to do that, you know, on many different levels. And so. So things came to me in their own beautiful way. And timing, divine timing, love. Oh, my God, Roger, I know that now more than ever, right? I didn’t know that at 30 years old. I know. Now, my early Fiftys, the

course kept the faith had the vision and just relentlessly pursued that vision just because of the strong belief you had in it. I think that’s exactly such a lesson for our audience in that it’s like, you know, we’ve gone through the toughest of times in your business as well. I mean, the pandemic unprecedented experience. Hopefully hospitality never sees anything to that extent. But all the people that are still standing, after all the sort of leveling of the playing field, and all the companies and businesses that went out of business. And now if you’re still there, you you’re resilient, you’re resourceful, you’re creative. And you’ve got that passion and persistence. And yeah, we need that in this business. So you’re an inspiration in that carrot. Let me ask you about, let’s go back to that competition thing. Because, you know, some of the best advice to operators would be play your best game, but always know what your competitors are up to, and do market research. And you got to go into your competitors, restaurants and can kind of be a secret shopper all the time. Did they make a menu change? what’s appealing here? Is the service level extraordinary. It’s like what’s going sideways? Because we’ve got a discerning eye. And I don’t know how possible that is for you, as an event planner, and an event company owner to always stay on top of what everyone else is doing. You hear about things after the fact like oh, that was did you hear about what so and so did that event was amazing. And Oprah was, whatever, you know what it means, right? But it’s like how do you know how do you stay on top of what they’re doing? In order to play your best game? Do you even do that?

You know, now we have the world of social media, right? So now we get to become voyeurs on whatever crazy time where we can just click and tap and be like, Oh, is that what she did? Oh, is that what he did? And just be signed? In it right? So back in the day when I started, we didn’t have that. So it was more about the verbal, sorry, the verbal aspect, the verbal aspect of it all. So it was like, oh, let’s talk about it, you know, let’s pick up the phone, and let’s talk to this person and hear like, what it was about, or, or, you know, at industry events, we’d come across each other and, you know, kind of share. So, yeah, we’d hear about it. Yeah. You know, it intrigued me. Yeah, of course, you know, you always want to try to up your game, necessarily, I never had this like, and I’m being honest. And maybe, you know, I don’t know, but I never had this, like, Oh, she did that. I want to say, I’m going to crush her and like, go What up on her whatever. Never did I ever taken the high road. I never, I never felt that way. Was I, you know, like, envious in a good way to get out. That was amazing what she did, like, good for her good for him. But, you know, I also started forming these beautiful relationships in my industry, where we just shared things and stories, and we were able to kind of like, help each other out versus like, collaboration, right? And I could say, like, a handful or so of those people. The rest, I kind of said, Hey, how you doing? kept a distance? Because I can feel that was not aligning with me. So. So yeah, so it’s just kind of like you, I just had to kind of kind of play my cards in a way of the SOFIA way. And, however, that way was whether it was wrong or right. I played that. And whatever, you know, I’ve been grateful for whatever has come my way. And yeah, of course, is there still probably a good handful of like, maybe destinations or types of, you know, events or whatever that I might still want to do? Sure. You know, but I’m okay. Also, if whether it comes or not?

Is there a certain size of event now that you specialize in a certain number of people? certain number of elements that in there? I mean, do you get approached so much that you now curate the ones that really speak to you on a soul level? Or on a executional? Level? I mean, how do you decide which clients you’re going to take on? Especially unknown new clients? Maybe, sir, I mean, someone, and I don’t, I’m not speaking ill about anyone. But let’s face it, I mean, there’s certain people that are really challenging to work with, you know, they’ve been used to getting the best of the best, since the time they were born. And it’s like, I can afford to pay for anything, but it’s like, I’m gonna be on you every single detail. And if anything goes sideways, I mean, there are easy to work with clients, yes, that are sophisticated, discerning people. And then they’re really challenging people to work with. And I’m sure you’ve run across all of that, but, and you work with same people over again, I’m sure you get repeat business all the time, just based on relationships you’ve already built. But let’s just talk about new clients. It’s like, do you curate these events, and you decide who you’re going to work with? And who you don’t? And you refer them to other people if you don’t want to take one?

Sure. So you know, hitting close to 25 years now and September, I think I’m at a point in my life, thank you. I’m at a point in my life where? Yeah, now I started, I sort of even look at them a little bit more under the microscope were like, it’s an energy thing with me the last probably five to 10 years. It’s, it’s like, I know, some people will look at it, like be like, Oh my God, you know, it’s a million dollar event, who cares? I’m taking it and okay, can work towards your benefit. And that’s fine, too. And I don’t judge that. But for me, it has to feel good. Okay, period. Like, I know that sometimes the client might show something differently in the first initial meeting or two and you say, Okay, wow, this is a good, it’s a good one. And then they might come out of the woodwork somewhere in the middle, and they become like this, you know, crazy person. I mean, that in a funny way. And I’m like, What the hell did I sign up for? You know, and I’ve, I’ve been through that, right. However, I just feel like I’m at a point in my life where I can handle that as well, in a sense of like, okay, I do curate, to, you know, feel accurate, where I can understand and feel that individual and see if it really talks to me from a creative standpoint, from a timing standpoint, from even the monetary standpoint to say, Okay, this is gonna be a lot of work, do they understand, you know, that this is not going to be, you know, little some kind of, you know, fee here. So, I look at everything, but for me, it’s an energy thing initially, and then I can, you know, help handle the rest. And I think, you know, I have really formed such a unique way to how I speak with my clients and Did you know and that can mean different things, right? I could speak to them in sort of this confrontational way, like, Hey, let me just tell you that you can’t step on us or expect us at 2am that we’re available to answer an email, right?

cordial yet assertive when you have to be

exactly. That’s beautiful way of putting it. And, and then the other ways are just like I have this way where I kind of lure them. And even in their heightened, most nervous, you know, moment, I bring them down. And so my girls see that and they crack up sometimes you’re like, Oh my God, how do you even like, do that? I’m like, you know, I think it’s just been practice all these years, you know? Sure. And, and even like, you know, and a way people even do my own therapy, like, you know, and discovering things about myself, you know that you’ll gain more flies with honey than with Shi t. So hoarse. So you can pick your battles, right. So at the end of the day, I want this to go smooth, I want to have a load of freakin fun doing this, because what are we creating here, we’re not creating brain surgery, we’re not doing something morbid or dark, we’re creating a beautiful celebration, we’re creating, you know, a moment that it’s a one shot deal. For some, right if it’s a wedding,

you’ve got a client, but then you’ve got hundreds of other clients and I use the word client mean, you have to overdeliver to the clients expectations. But then you have to please hundreds of other people all with different personalities and expectations. Dazzle everybody,

right, and the vendors too, right? Because the vendors or vendors are like my main people here, okay, because we have to look out for each other. At the end of the day, we are creating something for you that being the client. So if I don’t have great relationships with my vendors, I don’t care what kind of special celebrity client or feeling their client or whatever is coming my way. It means nothing. If I don’t have that tribe of a team behind me, then I don’t stand I can’t do this on my own. So they’re my first people before anyone. So and my vendors know that. And I don’t worry so many of my vendors as they adore me and so they will go to bat for me if I say no, no, you got to deliver And they’re like, Sophie, I got you. So So yeah, there’s a there’s there is a curating you know, element to this. Otherwise, it just it just won’t work.

Let me introduce you to go tab. Go tab is a restaurant commerce platform with a suite of solutions, including POS online ordering, mobile pay, and even a kitchen management tool. Now, you know, I’m all about maximizing sales. But did you know that operators using the Go tab platform see 35 to 50%, higher check averages, and 20% Higher tips? Wow, that can be a real game changer to your bottom line. Now the gold tab platform empowers you the operator to run a leaner and more profitable business. Listen to what some current go tab customers have to say. Kent says with real time analytics, we can manage our plate costs. When we switch to go tab we were able to lower our labor costs and increase wages in shares that our chefs and managers love to use go tab the backend is well thought out intuitive and easy to use. While Kim adds that the Go tab team is always available for us and extremely responsive. No Go tabs flexible, easy to use solutions will simplify your operations, putting you in control of your restaurant success. Visit gotab.com/rockstars today to sign up for a free demo and get qualified to receive a complimentary meal. That’s gotab.com/rockstars

we talked about all the detailed elements that go into this. And I always say that the restaurant business is one of the 1000 details. And this certainly may take that to the next level. Maybe there’s 2000 details in a really, you know, high level event that has hundreds of people attending it. And it’s everything from the flowers to the photography to the venue itself to the right to the weather that is so unpredictable to you know, to the beauty that you bring inside through lighting and decor and ambience and creating a vibe and then there’s music and then there’s table play settings. And then there’s, well, I don’t have to tell your business but you know what I mean this 1000 details to this. But there are certain elements that are foundational to a great event. Is that a handful of things is that 10 things what would you say is really absolutely foundational that everything else builds upon to have a truly spectacular event go off without a hitch.

I think being on the same page, like knowing that we’ve all gotten each other and we know now how to sort of build from there because I think when there’s a rocky moment or two or 10 and and it’s sort of midst of planning this event, or any event, a lot of things can go wrong. So, and yes, and also, you know, some things can go wrong, even when you do have this simpatico kind of moment, too, because like you said, whether it’s weather, whether it’s like, Oh, crap, that cake is melting, or or something is happening. So I think it’s an understanding, I think it’s the, the timing of knowing that at this point, no matter how maybe even controlling or, or nervous, the client might be, that you have to, again, assure them that there’s no guarantee in anything in life. However, we’re going to make this work no matter what. And I really, really, really stand strong on this, that the fun part is a really important element to me. Because when I say fun, I’m not saying like, you know, we’re going off things and just be like, okay, just show up at the party, we’ll have a good time. No, but to remind them that this is like they have to take every part of it in, and they have to be able to enjoy it while they’re at it. Otherwise, this kind of goes like poof, doesn’t matter if it’s a year we’re working with you, or three months, or even like where I made magic and made a wedding happen in a week. It doesn’t matter. So, you know, as long as we have all the right people, you know, in place, I do believe everything follows no matter what is going to happen. It will all work out. Is there a typical

timeline to say one of these major events? Is it like months of planning? Can you pull something off in three or four weeks, depending on the scope and the scale?

I have done three to four weeks, I had to move even a wedding to a different location on the week of and that was Robert Downey’s wedding. So yeah, we had to make a crazy change, like four days before the wedding. And so yes, I can make it happen.

So you thrive under pressure when you have to, but you’d have to have a more leisurely process. And things kind of shift and evolve. And just because this is the initial plan doesn’t mean the client doesn’t change it two or three times, which then pushes your stress level up, perhaps or your timing. No, if you do that we absolutely will not make the deadline. I mean, you’ve got to make hard decisions in this sometimes to say no, right?

Yes. And, you know, I think people forget to say no, because I you know, we always want to, you know, try to please, everyone by saying yes, yes, yes. Yes. And the Yes, is a great answer and a great sort of mindset. However, we also have to be real and and and also look at the timing of things and what have you and no is not a bad thing, either. And I have definitely acquired more of the nos in my life than yeses.

Let’s transition a little bit. Let’s talk about your restaurant. Now. You’re the co owner of a restaurant now, how did that relationship come to be? And what’s your involvement there. And once you tell me that, then let’s talk about how some of the details that go into spectacular events also find their way into delivering amazing guest experiences in the restaurant.

So just a side bar for a second. You know, I had this as I think it was maybe in my teens where I had this like, maybe one day I’ll own a restaurant. And it’ll be like a restaurant and a pretty little like area where I create flowers in the front. And they also buy the flowers and come in for you know, whether it was a coffee like Cafe plays or a little like eatery of some sort. And of course, as I got older im like, that is nuts. I would never go into the restaurant business. And here I am now probably eight or nine years ago, where, you know, Chris, my husband had the space, because he had two previous other restaurants there. And he was just ready to give up the lease. He’s like, you know, I’m done. I go, Yeah, you should be done. This is This is maddening. You already have your other, you know, business and I have my events. I’m like, we don’t need the restaurant. This is nuts. And so cut to I started designing mood boards for the restaurant, and I’m like, Oh my God, because people were telling us you have to open up a Greek restaurant. This is nuts. Nowhere in the Hamptons. Is there really a Greek restaurant and you guys being Greek need to have this? And I said no, no, no, I’m not getting into this. And so like I said, Here I am designing the mood boards and I’m going into the path of you know, restaurant business and so for me, you know, as I, you know, wholeheartedly kind of gave into this idea with my husband. I knew in my heart that transitioning also into this part of you know, the world that being the restaurant business It will kind of come naturally. Because why my events, you know, sort of paved the ground. Yeah, so much crossover there. So much crossover about hospitality is 100%. And I think any young kids that are young teenagers or adults are listening to this. Everyone should go into some type of hospitality some time in their life to understand what hospitality really means. And and I think it kind of forms us in a way where we not only become cognizant of the people around us and what we’re here to serve, whatever it is, whether it’s food from a restaurant, or me planning events, or, or the concierge at a hotel, or what have you. It, I think people really need to really get a little taste of that in their life. So I got into this business with my husband and I knew that, again, like this, like I said, would it would be an easy transformation because I was bringing so much of what I knew in the events world, and that being, you know, the curation of what is the space, you know, going to feel like when you walk in, not just from the inside, but the moment you’re pulling up, like the outside has to be beautiful, like whether it’s the potted plants and the flowers to the pretty furniture to what have you,

the first impression is so important. And then all the impressions that follow, followed by the last thing you think of or see, as you’re leaving the event, it all goes together. all goes together. Oh, yeah, I’m sorry to interrupt you keep going?

Oh, no, no, but it does it call in every night, as I tell my staff, I don’t tell them this every night, but I have drilled that into their heads every night is an event here. So that means at 445, before we open our doors, candles need to be, you know, in place, are my flowers that I left two days ago that I created, are they wilting? Does the water look murky that needs to get changed? You know, are the menus clean? Is the music at the right, you know, volume? What’s the kitchen doing? Are they ready to roll exactly at five when the first customer and or you know, take out order calls in or what have you, you know, down to every nook and cranny from the cleanliness to the from the back to the front, everywhere. And so that was a piece of cake to kind of go into, right because I had to just you know, be that sort of, you know, inspirational human being not a drill sergeant, sort of let them into my world, as well and understand the ethos of where we were going with this restaurant. That being like as if you were dining at Sophia and Chris’s home. Right. And, and sort of having that extension, you know, Chris, you know, owns the largest wine and spirit store in the Hamptons. And so, you know, he’s knowing the world of wines and spirits that was going to be obviously his, you know, forte, along with some operational, you know, back end operations and so forth. Right. I know, I was bringing in sort of the the, all the details that you can imagine and also being heavily involved in the menu development and the food and making sure that the ingredients were on point, making sure that we were ordering the top quality of everything because I wanted everyone to really feel that love a Greek food, you know, through entering, you know, a layup a cod out into a restaurant and then leaving like, happily, you know, as they would exit.

Yeah, every every dining experience is an event. And it is a celebration. And it’s something memorable. And it’s something that you want to just spread your experience with the world through social media, through friends and family, however you do it. It’s like, yeah, you’re bringing the Greek culture to life, you bring amazing quality ingredients, and you know, the curated wines and spirits that you might serve based on your husband’s expertise. Who does the cooking.

So we’ve had numerous different chefs, as you know, we know how chefs are in this world, we love them, but you know, sometimes they have to move on and so forth. And, and so right now we’re in this transitional period where we’re actually trying to find a new chef, however, my kitchen also works without one. And we’ve been very lucky to have some really amazing chefs in our kitchen that have come through some have stayed for a hot, you know, whatever, two minutes and the others have stayed two or three years. And so you’re looking at her or you’re hearing her right now. So it’s me in the sense that we’re I’m not doing the cooking of course we have a whole kitchen that pretty much has been with us from day one, because of loyalty that we also, you know, we take care of our people and especially really being out in the Hamptons, Roger, you know, trying to find staff out there, you know, whether it’s seasonal now, it’s not really become a seasonal as it used to be when I first went out there,

kids go back to college, you lose a whole bunch of people.

Exactly. So whether it’s back of the house, front of the house, what have you, you know, it’s a revolving door constantly.

To live. So you need housing, it’s like, all these things are resort areas, especially luxury areas, do they have to commute long distances and all those things, overcoming you know, those challenges clearly.

Exactly. So, of course, having that mean, you know, that main person that being a chef in the kitchen, so anyone that’s listening, if you’re interested, you know, reach out to us, but, but you have to have knowledge of Greek food or else and stuff

that’s absolutely foundational to that design is very non negotiable.

non negotiable. So, so, but it’s been sort of also one of my tasks that I’m happily, you know, I’ve happily been, you know, sort of incorporating and putting time into, and that being like, creating specials for the weekends and maybe going to a local farm and saying, Okay, what do you have, you know, whether it’s, whether it’s the corn, the tomatoes, or any, you know, sort of collard greens, or what have you just sort of maybe come back and like, Okay, we’re gonna do a special this weekend, and this is what it’s gonna be.

There’s amazing farms out there as well, like, Long Island has amazing farms and farmers and fresh produce, and the farmers markets in the Hamptons, are over the top. It’s extraordinary what you can choose from basically, yes, as your core ingredients. Yeah.

Yeah. So, so people really love our food. And so, you know, I’ve been really sort of, you know, of course, at the beginning, like any restaurant, you got to work out your kinks, you know, there’s drama here, there’s drama there, what customer is having a fit, because their food came out five minutes later, you know, so, you know, all these were sort of, you know, things I had to learn and had to really like, understand, even though we had a manager, of course, and, and a chef at the time, but you know, these were all sorts of trial and errors, again, for me in this sort of line of business that I swore I would never get into.

And you’re still wearing a lot of hats, right? Because you’re running an event company, you’re inspired leader there, it sounds like you’re also an inspired leader at the restaurant, you’re working with your husband, which is challenging. In some cases, not everyone can work as a spouse or a partner. And I’m a testament to that I’ve worked with my spouse for a long, long time. So not everybody can do it. But it’s a juggling act. Right? Is there a typical day for you, Sophia? I mean, it must be all all different all the time, or sometimes days blend together? And it’s like, what day is it?

It’s a combination of everything you just mentioned. So there’s a typical day where yes, I can start my day with my meditation process with your journaling with like, you know, having my cup of tea or coffee, you know, dog, walking my dog and all that stuff. And, and, and, you know, diving into, you know, splitting myself up in half, like, one minute, I’m on event mode. The next minute, I’m like, answering restaurant questions and, and showing up in my restaurant, if I’m not in the city where, you know, I’ll work out in my home for my events. And then at three o’clock, I’m like, Okay, it’s a wrap, I gotta go to the restaurant to check in. So, you know, I, it changes sometimes I can be consistent for two, three days. And other times, I’m like, a be a crazy woman. So whatever it is, it is I take it, I’ve embraced it. And I’m just going with it. So

let’s talk about the bottom line to your businesses. Because you started the conversation by saying you’re a creative type. You never wanted to go into business and economics and all that stuff just kind of send you sideways. Yet. Profitability is the part and parcel of what we do. Yes, we want to have fun. Yes, we want to employ people and create better lives for them. Yes, we want to get the accolades and the gratification of serving the public because we have a passion for hospitality, but everything’s still as to make money. With the event company, every event is so completely different. It’s not like you’ve got a menu. And you should routinely costed out to make sure you’re maintaining your margins, it’s like every event is different. And this one requires this and that one requires that so there’s tons of research involved. Do you have a specialist that just sort of dials in does the research figures out what the cost is what the market is on that element that’s going to be spectacular when they first walk in? And then the same thing happens with the restaurant, like who’s in charge of maintaining margins and making sure that it’s a profitable enterprise?

So with my event business, I do I have two people that I sort of console with, and I mean, at this point, I think I know the the dynamics and the equation, if you will on how to sort of price myself because I do work as a percentage. So so that is now easy, breezy, you know, because at the beginning I was like, okay, even though that wonderful woman, you know, guided me and, you know, sort of led that pay Rosalie to kind of get on and figure it out myself, you know, my first gig was $2,500. I mean, that’s what I got for a crazy full service wedding. I mean, who would have thunk it that now I mean, you know, it could be as high as in the six figures, right? So certainly so. So times, you know, obviously evolve, you know, you learn you, you become more confident. And so, I’m okay in that area in regards to the restaurant. And, of course, it’s between myself, my, you know, Chris, my husband, our general manager, we look at numbers, we have a bookkeeper who obviously, you know, shows us, you know, our numbers, and we’re, we’re, you know, and our projections that I sit with her and I kind of like say, Okay, this is season number x that’s coming up, what are we projecting, you know, are we hitting the numbers, you know, so there you go. Of course, like any, any restaurant, you know, at the beginning of this, there’s no profit, like, there’s zero, like, I don’t see a profit the first couple of years. That, you know, unfortunately, I’m sort of fortunate, I meant to say, the lat the last three years were in the in the green in the green zone. So which is a great thing.

How old is the business? No, Sophia? How established seven years in the restaurant gig? Yeah. So

seven years? Yeah. And about almost nine years ago, give or take eight years, we started lean at the ball going of like, are we doing it or not? I said, No, yes. No. Okay. But we started it. So

you’re commuting back and forth between the city and the Hamptons frequently?

I mean, I do some, yes. If need be I do. In the summertime, I do a lot out there. So I don’t really need to be cleaning that much. But But again, wherever the clients want to take me to as far as like, you know, if we want to go abroad, if we want to, you know, go wherever,

that’s, that’s very exciting. Like what amazing opportunities that are potentially they’re an extraordinary life experiences, too. And if you bring your team along with you, right, I think you you said every young person should experience hospitality and get your feet wet in that business. And I think we would agree that life skills are learned in this business without necessarily a formal education, what you learn in dealing with people, and in negotiating, perhaps and salesmanship and hospitality and just, you know, over Yeah, all of that is like, oh, that anywhere in life

it can take you anywhere. i tell that to my young nieces. I’m like, yeah, get your hands involved. You know, even if it’s two days a week, you know, I know you have you know, this job going on with it. Just get into something that you know, really, you know, we’re there’s people connection, because we lacked that today, right? wouldn’t agree with you. We do. I don’t have children. But I see

electronic world is kind of taken over. And we’re not necessarily outdoors as kids as we were when you and I grew up in reaction, the social interaction is lacking the pandemic made everybody remote learning and they weren’t in school. It’s like my kids went through all that. So I told right, follow, and now that we’re out of that, you don’t want to fall into those bad habits and lose those social skills.

Exactly. Because we really, that is the I think the foundation of it all.

So let’s talk about your company culture. And that’s probably twofold. Maybe there’s some overlap. But let’s first talk about the events company. And then we can talk about the restaurant. I mean, culture is really obviously, the spirit of the place. It’s not a mission statement on the wall, it’s the spine of the place, how would you define the company culture in both your operations

it’s interesting that you say the word spirit, because when we were creating our ethos for the website, at first, I was stuck on an essay stuck in a good way, just back on the word spirit, because it is about the spirit and the spirit of it being on a high note, not on a low note. Because again, we’re in the happy, you know, World of events, we’re not, you know, we’re not doing anything that’s on the dark side of things, you know, so, so the spirit for me, needs to be in sync. It needs to feel good for everyone that is involved, whether it’s my internal staff, whether it’s, again, like I said earlier about the clients, but the spirit is there’s there’s an elegance to the spirit, there’s a sophistication to the spirit, there’s a simplicity to the spirit, and then there’s this love, like no kind of holding back like whatever, you know, feels good that I just want to kind of get there I just go there, right? So there’s like no holding back. I just want to feel free. So there’s this free, beautiful spirit. I think, you know when it comes To, you know, my, my event company.

Great. So would you say a lot of that carries over to the restaurant as well?

1,000%?

Yeah, okay.

1,000%. You know, it’s, it’s something that I also, I also embed, you know, in the, in our staff, you know, when I am involved in the pre shift meetings, if it’s, you know, my managers want, obviously running them, but I do like to always pipe in at least three times a week if need be, and hear what, you know, my manager is talking about, and here, if there’s any, you know, comments or any disturbance, you know, from the, from the staff. However, I always remind them, like, how much of a great word is traveling around the Hamptons, if not the city, about our place and our service, and what we stand for, and our food and everything. So, I think, the love of it all, when you love something, Roger? Yeah, you’re gonna pour yourself into it. So I think we’ve I think I’ve done a lot of that. And yeah,

I totally get that. Yeah, I keep that word inspired, keeps coming up, because you’re an inspired person. Yeah, you clearly understand hospitality. You clearly have high expectations not only for your team, but yourself and your businesses. It’s all a reputational thing, especially where your businesses are located. And every person that works for you, as a team member needs to feel that teamwork and respect, but also understand that they’re brand ambassadors for your business, and that they present you every single day. And you’re only as good as that last experience that any one of your team delivered. 2% impressions are lasting. Yes. 1,000%. You’ve been a fantastic guest we shared so much and I can’t wait to release the episode. Thank you so much, Sofia.

Thank you to Roger. This was a pleasure.

My pleasure entirely. Thanks for being that was the restaurant rockstars podcast. Thanks so much to our audience for tuning in. Can’t wait to see you in the next episode. Hope everyone stays well. And we’ll see you then. Sofia, I can’t thank you enough for being a wonderful guest in the podcast, your insights, your expertise, and experience as well as your enthusiasm is a huge benefit to our audience. So thanks for being with us. Thanks to our sponsors and audience. I can’t wait to see you next time. Please stay tuned.

People go to restaurants for lots of reasons for fun celebration for family for lifestyle. What the customer doesn’t know is the 1000s of details it takes to run a great restaurant. This is a high risk high fail business. It’s hard to find great stuff. costs are rising and profits are disappearing. It’s a treacherous road and SMART operators need a professional guide. I’m Roger. I’ve started many highly successful high profit restaurants that I’ve now sold for millions of dollars. I’m passionate about helping other owners and managers not just succeed, but knock it out of the park.

I created a game changing system and it’s filled with everything I’ve learned in over 20 years running super profitable, super fun restaurants. Everything from creating high profit menu items and cost controls to staff training where your teams serve and sell to marketing hooks, money maximizing tips and efficiencies across your operation. What does this mean to you more money to invest in your restaurant to hire a management team time freedom and peace of mind. You don’t just want to run a restaurant. You want to dominate your competition and create a lasting legacy. Join the academy and I’ll show you how it’s done.

Thanks for listening to the restaurant rockstars podcast for lots of great resources, head over to restaurant rockstars.com See you next time.

 

Maximise Profits with Restaurant Rocktars

The three costly mistakes you could unknowingly be making?

Find out in this FREE guide and restaurant assessment specifically designed to reveal the unexpected hurdles standing between you and exponential business growth.

Thank You To Our Sponsors

Plate IQ

Your operations base camp that scales standard procedures, trains your team, controls operations, and even manages food safety.

Get white glove service with FREE onboarding and implementation.

GoTab
The GoTab platform empowers you the operator to run a leaner and more profitable business! Request a DEMO:
popmenu

For a limited time only, popmenu is offering our listeners $100 off your first month plus an unchanging lifetime rate.

Request a DEMO:

The Restaurant Academy

Knowledge is power.  Empower your entire team to up-level your business!

Want to become a podcast sponsor?

Please get in touch with Roger at roger@restaurantrockstars.com

You might also be interested in these episodes...
Episode #370 How They Scaled Their Restaurant Brand
Episode #301 The Magic Restaurant Formula
Episode #385 Restaurant Success – The Key to Thriving in This Business
Episode #321 Get BIG Money Back from your Payroll Taxes via ERTC
Episode #376 Awesome Restaurant Employees: What they REALLY Want
Episode #359 How To Get Powerful Restaurant PR
Episode #332 Lessons Learned from Secret Shopping Breweries
Episode #320 Restaurant Profit – How to Move the Needle
Episode #378 Stocked & Stirred: How to Master Restaurant Inventory
Episode #312 How to Grow a Restaurant Chain With Culture
Episode #388 The Future of Restaurant Pricing Strategies and Tipping
Episode #303 A Possible Labor Solution for Restaurants
Episode #353 Expert Tips on Restaurant Finances From a CFO
Episode #316 How to Feel Good About Food Waste
Episode #314 How to Simplify Your Restaurant Accounts Payable
Episode #337 Restaurant Strategy Shifts in The Digital Era
Episode #340 How to Maximize Restaurant Profit – An Operator’s Journey
Episode #323 How to Run a Strong Restaurant Kitchen
Episode #329 Launching a New Restaurant Concept
Episode #377 How to Increase Restaurant Sales & Build Guest Loyalty
Episode #351 Epic Advice from Bar Rescue Hero Jon Taffer
Episode #307 Do You Have a Restaurant Strategy?
Episode #335 How to Run Great Restaurants
Episode #327 The Keys to Total Restaurant Success
Episode #366 The Story of Growing a Single Restaurant to a Global Brand
Episode #308 Killer Advice from a Restaurant Lease Expert
Episode #375 Using Restaurant Technology to 10X your Business
Episode #306 Restaurant Marketing with a Mission
Episode #311 How to Provide True Hospitality + Get Raving Fans
Episode #372 What Makes a Successful Restaurant?