Naf Naf Grill CEO, Paul Damico's Biggest Advice: Get to Know Your Leadership Team Personally

“I was bit by the entrepreneurial bug and decided to start a restaurant company in Southern California...grew that through about 100 restaurants,” says CEO of Naf Naf Grill, Paul Damico.

Damico started his career in the restaurant industry working in his dad’s catering business for four years. He then attended Johnson & Wales University where he earned degrees in Culinary Arts and Hotel Restaurant Management.

Over the past 13 years, Damico has had an extensive background in leadership positions for companies such as Host Marriott Corporation, SSP America, Moe’s Southwest Grill and six FOCUS Brands, including Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, Carvel Ice Cream and Cinnabon World Famous Cinnamon Rolls.

His biggest advice for someone leading a company is to foster relationships with the leadership team, which he says is something that is often missed and difficult to do when you have a large team.

“You really have to get to know your leadership team that you are responsible for at a very granular level," says Damico. "You’ve gotta get to know them and their families personally, so you can help them and help guide them through their career.”

Damico speaks passionately on this topic. When he was President of Moe’s, Damico was featured on an episode of the CBS TV series, “Undercover Boss” where he went undercover to work in the restaurants and helped changed the lives of five Moe’s employees. 
 

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Leadership Series: Tremaine Atkinson's Journey from Home Brewer to CH Distillery Founder

“I actually started a brewery when I was about 27 with two buddies and five thousand bucks and it didn’t last very long because we ran out of money,” says Tremaine Atkinson lightheartedly. “But that planted the seed many years ago for what would become CH.”

CH Distillery is Chicago’s first dedicated vodka distillery. It opened August of 2013 after Atkinson left his finance career to pursue his passion for turning raw ingredients into delicious spirits.

“I realized that if I was going to do something in alcohol I would need to raise enough capital to be able to do it successfully. So, I spent years in another career raising that capital…,” explained Atkinson, Founder of CH Distillery.

Not only was he able to raise enough capital but he also learned important skills along the way that prepared him to lead a successful business. In this leadership series, Atkinson talks about how to overcome challenges, secrets to success, and valuable leadership lessons.

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Former Wahlburgers CEO, Rick Vanzura Shares A Valuable Leadership Lesson

Former Wahlburgers CEO, Rick Vanzura Shares A Valuable Leadership Lesson

"I was sure the purpose of that call was to fire me," said Rick Vanzura, Former Chief Executive Officer of Wahlburgers and Alma Nove restaurants, as he shared an anecdote about a time in his career as a consultant that taught him one of the most valuable lessons in leadership.

It touches on the importance of confidence, vision, and calculated action with clear intent with everything you do—especially if you’re a leader in your organization.

Vanzura recently made headlines when he announced his decision to step away as CEO from the famed concepts founded by the famous Wahlberg family. He says the parting with the Wahlberg brothers and the company was done in very good terms.

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What’s The Key Role of Leadership?

What’s The Key Role of Leadership?

As 2017 is nearing its end, the answer is one that’s both consistent and evolving.  Just in case you missed Parts One and Two of this leadership series, here’s a short recap:  The question was asked, “What are the three top responsibilities of leadership, that is, an owner, or C-suite leader?”   

I answered my own question in Part One wearing two hats: experienced owner, and multi-decade “vet” who’s facilitated change and growth in over 1,600 restaurant and hospitality companies in different industry segments.  

Part Two of the series expanded the dialogue. Readers got the perspective of a Founder/CEO, SVP of a multinational brand, and COO of a regional chain.  The panel represented three different industry segments and sizes— all highly successful.

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Learn How Leadership Roles Vary Across Companies, While Still Catering To Fiscal Goals

Learn How Leadership Roles Vary Across Companies, While Still Catering To Fiscal Goals

The responsibilities of leadership, hmmm, not a small topic.  

Regardless of the to do list, resolutely clear is that actions and behavior are important.  This writer’s belief is that Culture equals Brand and Brand experience is Culture.   Inspiration, harassment, high performance or not, all come from leadership.  Brand Experience (internal for staff or external for our customers and guests) really is Culture.   What we accept, what we don’t, what we support or don’t support, all flows from Leadership.  

Our focus on leadership is also important because, at the operations level, regardless of industry segment, managers are leaders by default.  Management and Leadership are both the same and different in many ways.  It’s rare to talk about the nuances, and even rarer to train leadership skills definitively.   

In this second of a three-part series, my intention is to build on what I shared on leadership expectations from experience with over 1,000 operators over thirty years. In this edition, you’ll hear the opinions of three C-suite leaders from very Brand Conscious Companies regarding leadership, management and growth.

On my “leadership panel,” you will meet the following people:

  • Adam Reed, COO of Jax Fish House and Oyster Bar’s parent company, Big Red F residing in Boulder, Co.

  • Nick Sarillo, founder and president of Chicago-based Nick’s Pizza & Pub, the number six highest producing independent pizza chain in the US; and

  • “Brandon,” COO of a Seattle-based publicly traded international QSR, who’s asked to remain anonymous   

Their answers may surprise you.   

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