Restaurant Unstoppable with Eric Cacciatore

Tom Douglas has been cooking Northwest cuisine since 1984, opening his first restaurant, Dahlia Lounge, in 1989. For the last 30 years, he’s made a name for himself opening 13 full-service restaurants, an event space, a cooking school, cater company, and product line all under the Tom Douglas. Tom is also known for being a wine collector, author, and radio show host . This 2012 James Beard Outstanding Restaurateur can be found at any of his restaurants on a given day putting in the work along with 1000 of his co-workers to create a successful restaurant group

Show notes…

Favorite Success Quote or Mantra.

"Deliciousness served with graciousness." 

In this episode with Tom Douglas, we discuss: 

  • What graciousness looks like according to Douglas.
  • The value in enjoying the craftsmanship in food.  
  • How the work ethic you bring can change others. 
  • How there is a trend in Seattle of undervaluing food. 
  • Why Tom recommends no one open a business until their 30's.
  • Never taking family's money who can't afford it. 
  • What Tom did wrong in his first business: not leaving any operating capital.  
  • Opening restaurants near one another so you can continue to have a presence at each while scaling.  
  • As you become more successful, never losing sight of how important your early partners and investors were to your success. Don't get greedy when the time comes to pay them back. 
  • Structuring your partnerships with buy out plans in the beginning and clearly defined roles. 
  • Being ready for and forecasting all possible expenses, especially if you agreed to a triple net agreement. 
  • Once in the position, only open additional restaurants when you have your own cash to invest.  
  • How scaling has much to do with recognizing roles, knowing who best for each role, and who wants the role.
  • How being the best often stems from recognizing that you're not the best. 
  • While loyalty is a important, not letting it overrule decisions when it comes to finding the best person for a job. 
  • Certain challenges that come along with Seattle City Council regulating policies. 
  • Your responsibility to take care of your community as a business owner.  

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Knowledge bombs

  1. Which "it factor" habit, trait, or characteristic you believe most contributes to your success?

    • Effort.
  2. What is your biggest weakness?

    • Age
  3. What's one question you ask or thing you look for during an interview?

    • Look for people who want to "take care of the village." 
  4. What's a current challenge? How are you dealing with it?

    • Labor. 
    • Douglas is dealing with this challenge by being willing to train and take on staff with little to no skill. 
  5. Share one code of conduct or behavior you teach your team.

    • Respect your team. 
  6. What is one uncommon standard of service you teach your staff?

    • Serve and take care of your team and they'll serve your guest.
  7. What's one book we must read to become a better person or restaurant owner?

    • Read cook books to get inspired to be the best cook you can be. 
  8. Share an online resource or tool.

  9. What's one piece of technology you've adopted in your restaurant and how has it influence operations?

    • Digital Signage.
  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?

    1. Have friends and treating them with grace.
    2. Respect.
    3. Community.

Contact Info

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 Tom Douglas for joining me for another awesome episode. Until next time!


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Direct download: 525_Tom_Douglas_mixdown.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EDT