The Magnificent Manager: The Final Chapter

Hope and Hospitality: Faith in Our Business …


Mentors enrich, deepen, and celebrate our talents. And they inspire us to believe. My first guru was my grandmother Celeste who turned me on to Rachmaninoff, Revel, Beethoven, and Debussy. She left an indelible mark that sparked my music career recording albums and playing with Woodstock icon Richie Havens. When that stalled, waiting tables seemed a deep drop from riding in limos and playing at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

Awaken a spirit. Then came Michael O’Grady, who turned waiting, perceived a mundane job, into an art form. Each night was a performance, a “live show daily” to be delivered with urgency, mastery, purpose, and joy. His insights in the classroom and on the floor awakened a spirit of hope and discovery. He embraced my love of wine and sent me to classes. He recognized my enthusiasm for selling and put me to work as a trainer. Eventually, I took a new kind of “show on the road.” Michael cheered me on. Slowly, I went from delivering seminars for $75 at the MacArthur Café three blocks from my one-bedroom basement apartment on MacArthur Boulevard in Washington, DC, to delivering keynotes, developing sales, coaching, and creating front office programs for Marriott, Disney, Red Lobster, and Olive Garden.

Respect and encourage. Michael gave time, attention, and direction to everyone from dishwashers, line cooks, and bussers to hosts and managers. Consider Juan, a dishwasher who left civil-war-ravaged El Salvador and lived in an apartment with three other families in Mt. Pleasant, a rough part of DC. He took two buses to get to work. Yet, Paolo’s provided an emotional safety net where he not only got a regular paycheck and staff meal but was addressed by name and respected by everyone as an important part of the team. Even more important were the times Michael sat Juan down to ask how we could cut down on breakage and improve efficiency. Michael’s support set the stage for Juan to move to kitchen prep and eventually line cook.

Provide opportunity. Same thing with our Thai bus boys who came to America for a better life. Each had a minimum of two or three jobs and took only a handful of days off each year. They saved and sent money home religiously. I remember Michael telling them every night is like a theater production with positions to take and lines to deliver. They took his cue, moving through the dining room with grace and harmony, clearing and resetting a table in 15 seconds flat. Kit, our head busser, attended Northern Virginia Community College while working at Paolo’s and took insights from Michael to open his own restaurant Urban Thai in nearby Arlington, Va.

Build leadership. “Michael’s lessons furthered me too,” says Tom Girard, former dining room manager. “After moving on to become general manager at the prestigious Galileo Restaurant, I never forgot the night Michael pulled me aside and said, ‘I need you to move faster—a lot faster. Everything starts with the manager and filters down. So, I need you to not just be the ship’s captain but to lead with a sense of excitement and urgency. And, if you don’t start moving faster, they’ll be footmarks on your back—mine. I have two words for you: double espresso!’ Michael often told the story of how passersby love to stand at the edge of a huge construction site and watch people work. ‘When guests see you moving with energy and passion, they give you the benefit of the doubt,’ was a lesson I carried with me throughout my restaurant career and beyond,” Tom says.

Be a hope giver. Michael made us believe there could be more than just the everyday grind. For some, Michael’s maniacal pursuit of perfection was a pain in the ass. Still, most cherished his brash, sarcastic, playful ways because they felt his love. He was an ironic mix of critical perfectionist and empathic supporter who lead us to his promised land.

I’m at my best when I follow in Michael’s footsteps as a hope giver to all who reach out for inspiration, mastery, and love — those I teach, my friends, and, especially, my family, my wife Judith and our children, Nathan, Emily, and Connor.

About the Author

BOB BROWN, president of Bob Brown Service Solutions,, was the #1 speaker at the 2017 National Restaurant Show. He has worked with hospitality icons such as Disney, Hilton, Morton’s of Chicago, Nordstrom, Olive Garden, and Ritz Carlton and works internationally with the prestigious seven-star Burj Al Arab in Dubai. He has appeared on the Food Network and is author of The Little Brown Book of Restaurant Success, selling over 100,000 copies worldwide. Contact Bob for keynotes, breakouts, and workshops at 571-246-2944 ©Bob Brown Service Solutions 2016.

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