Restaurant Unstoppable with Eric Cacciatore

Arlin Smith Big Tree Hospitality

Raised in Buffalo, NY, Arlin Smith earned his bachelor's degree in Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management from The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. After making his mark in the Hudson Valley, he then set his sights on Portland, ME.

In 2o12 Arlin Smith along with Andrew Taylor and Mike Wiley, purchased Hugo's from their mentors, Chef Rob Evans and Nancy Pugh. In 2015 the trio founded Big Tree Hospitality, which consists of Hugos, Eventide, Honey Paw and Eventide Fenway.

Guided by a commitment to generosity, hard work, and innovation, Big Tree Hospitality earned the 2 James Beard nominations and won the award of "Best Chef Northeast" in 2017.

Show notes…

Favorite success quote or mantra:

"Whenever work gets overwhelming, remember, it's just a restaurant."

In this episode with Arlin Smith, we discuss:

  • How Arlin got his start in the restaurant business and what it was that drew him in.
  • When you identify talent in an employee, why it is so important to draw that talent out and to make that person aware of their talent. 
  • How to hold someone accountable.
  • If you're going to be an owner, why it is beneficial to have worked all elements of a restaurant (dishwasher, line cook, chef, bus person, server, host, management).
  • If you build something, stay true to the original vision. Don't be reactionary and make drastic changes. If you do make a change, put thought into it and be very strategic.
  • Being mindful of who you partner with. Don't rush in! Go into  partnership where the percentage of ownership is not determined by how much capital was initially invest. 
  • Letting your core values determine your brand. 
  • Knowing the value of your people and making sure they know how much you value them. 
  • Other things to consider when selecting your business partners.
  • The benefits of establishing a separate brand for your restaurant group.
  • Why outsourcing brand development is worth every penny if you do not have someone in house with that particular talent. 

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Knowledge bombs

  1. Which "it factor" habit, trait, or characteristic you believe most contributes to your success?
    • Good listening and responding.
  2. What is your biggest weakness?
    • Chicken wings.
    • Patience.
  3. What's one question you ask or thing you look for during an interview?
    • Give me an example of a time you really took care of someone in the dining room.
    • Look for passion in the story. The details of it.
  4. What's a current challenge? How are you dealing with it?
    • Since opening Eventide Fenway, Smith has been dealing with the challenge of managing restaurants that are more than two hours apart by car.
    • To overcome this challenge, Smith is delegating more.
  5. Share one code of conduct or behavior you teach your team.
    • Delegation.
  6. What is one uncommon standard of service you teach your staff?
    • Being generous.
  7. What's one book we must read to become a better person or restaurant owner?
    1. Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business
  8. If there was one tool or resource that you wish you had now -- or wish you had when you were getting started--to learn from others in the industry what would it be?
    1. Toast POS
  9. What's the one thing you feel restaurateurs don't know well enough or do often enough?
    1. Put their staff first.
  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. Play good music on vinyl
    2. Be generous.
    3. Be kind.

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 Arlin Smith for joining me for another awesome episode. Until next time!


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Direct download: 545_Arlin_Smith_mixdown.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:11pm EDT