These stars act as the mayors of a dining room–unsung fixers who live to make your meal a seamless success. They are Kevin Franke, operating partner at Olea; Dylan Cloughen, general manager at Ocean at Main; Ghali Benhima, general manager at Vaca.
Franke: Remaining hospitable to all while maintaining a green and growing attitude.
Cloughen: Focus, diligence, and dedication. Be adaptable, imaginative, and innovative.
Benhima: Strong personal organization, people management, and customer-centric focus.
Your mentors or idols
Benhima: My industry mentor is Ahmed Labatte. He taught me the 5 P’s—Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance.
Franke: Danny Meyer is an industry icon for me. I’ve read his book (“Setting the Table”) numerous times. One thing he says that sticks with me is “Business, like life, is all about how you make people feel. It’s that simple, and it’s that hard.”
Cloughen: Of course Craig Strong is a mentor to me but additionally, I have had incredible mentors after 15 years in this business. To name a just a couple more, Derra Lee Edwards (VP at Montage Hotels and Resorts) and Patrick Yumul (President of Mina Group), a true visionary who taught me the art of balance in business.
Common misconceptions about your job
Benhima: That it’s effortless and glamorous.
Franke: That the restaurants hours of operation are the only hours we work. There are countless hours behind the scenes required to be successful in this industry. It is the details that are reviewed early on before we open that create a successful restaurant business.
Cloughen: That we stand around and talk to people all night. Most GMs spend much of their night with their sleeves rolled up, getting to work.
Recipe for a nightmare
Benhima: Rain appearing out of nowhere, because nearly half of our seating is outdoors.
Franke: Failing to prepare is preparing to fail. Being proactive is how we stay a step ahead of nightmares, because we know if it can go wrong, it will.
Most demanding holiday
Franke: Valentine’s Day books up early and guests will start as late as we can take them to make sure they find a seat for their special valentine. That said, it can also lead to four- or five-hour dinners! All holidays are an opportunity to meet first-time visitors and make them guests for life.
Benhima: Valentine’s Day or any night there’s a sold out show at the Segerstrom Center of the Arts.