Restaurant Unstoppable with Eric Cacciatore

With excitement, allow me to introduce to you today's guest, Executive Chef and Partner at Big Grove Brewery, Ben Smart. An Iowa City native, Ben studied Geo Science at the University of Iowa. After graduating, it didn't take long for Ben to realize that he wasn't cut out for the office life, so he went back to study at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids to study Culinary Arts. After a few short stints cooking in Iowa City, IA and Kansas City, MO, Ben moved to Woodinville, WA in 2008 to work at The Herbfarm. He didn't know it then, but he would spend the next six years of his career at The Herbfarm. In 2012, Ben and his family were ready to make the move back to Iowa, and coincidently, he got a call from an old family friend for an opportunity to be the Executive Chef at a new restaurant opening in Solon, IA; Big Grove Brewery. Ben jumped at the opportunity. Today Ben is a Partner in Big Grove Brewery in Solon, IA, Big Grove Brewery in Iowa City, IA, Pullmans Bar and Diner in Iowa City, IA, and St. Burch's Tavern in Iowa City, IA.

Today’s feature affiliate: Bentobox. In need of a restaurant website? Click this link to find out why so many of my guests use Bentobox!

Show notes…

Calls to ACTION!!!

Favorite success quote or mantra:

  • "Show me your friends, I'll show you your future."

In this episode with Ben Smart we will discuss:

  • Culinary school
  • Networking
  • Fine dining
  • Mise en place
  • Farm to fork
  • Leadership
  • Soft skills
  • Tapping your professional network
  • Visioning
  • Labor
  • Business partnerships
  • Educating staff
  • CORE values
  • Imposter syndrom

Today's sponsor:

This episode is brought to  you by Plate IQ, your Accounts Payable Automation and Expense Management solution. PateIQ works with 20,000 restaurants across the country. Plate IQ uses OCR "Optical Character Recognition" and Deep Machine Learning to eliminate manual data entry from the AP process. Automate the full life cycle of your invoices from General Ledger coding to bill payment via PlateIQ’s VendorPay network. With PlateIQ’s VendorPay you can seamless flow from invoice upload to paying your bills. You can earn cashback on invoices from over 180,000 vendors. With Plate IQ Vender Pay, you can see what is due when. Schedule payment by check/ACH/or Plate IQ Card. Lastly, VendorPay is also FOR Vendors. Keeping your vendors happy will give you leverage in negotiating your terms. Vendors participating in Plate IQ’s VendorPay network LOVE it because it shortens Day Sales Outstanding by 25% - AKA: Vendors get paid 25% faster. To learn more head to to get at least 25% off implementation.

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Diageo Bar Academy equips bartenders, servers, managers, and hospitality professionals with the insights, stories, and tools to be better - raising the bar on industry standards. Diageo Bar Academy reaches a diverse audience, with backgrounds and skill levels of all ranges- providing them with skills, knowledge, and the techniques they need to improve their personal and professional lives.

Knowledge Bombs:

  1. Which “it factor” habit, trait, or characteristic you believe most contributes to your success?
    • Discipline
  2. What is your biggest weakness?
    • Organization
  3. What's one question you ask or thing you look for during an interview?
    • What is their connection to food?
  4. What's a current challenge? How are you dealing with it?
    • All the moving parts
  5. Share one code of conduct or behavior you teach your team.
    • Cut the tape
  6. What is one uncommon standard of service you teach your staff?
    • Push our BOH team to "table touch"
  7. What's one book we must read to become a better person or restaurant owner?
  8. What's one piece of technology you've adopted within your restaurant walls and how has it influence operations?
  9. What is one thing you feel restaurateurs don't do well enough or often enough?
    • Training their people - professional development
  10. Name one service you've hired.
  11. 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?
    • Surround yourself with people that challenge you
    • Find something worth sacrificing for
    • Life moves fast, so slow down and try to enjoy it

Contact info:

Instagram: @biggroveben


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 Ben Smart for joining me for another awesome episode. Until next time!

Restaurant Unstoppable is a free podcast. One of the ways I'm able to make it free is by earning a commission when sharing certain products with you. I've made it a core value to only share tools, resources, and services my guest mentors have recommend, first. If you're finding value in my podcast, please use my links!
Direct download: Ben_Smart_PODCAST_mixdown.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EDT