Some blogs take me an hour to publish, but others can take me years.  Working as a restaurant consultant, I get to meet a lot of really inspirational and creative people.  Every once in a blue moon, I meet someone so in tune with their profession, I take my time digesting their words before I regurgitate them.

It was hard for me to grasp the lesson I was being bestowed with.  I’ve always been accustomed to change.  I’ve never experienced routine as part of my way of life.  I’ve always worked for myself and never had a clock to punch or a schedule to abide by.  I’m easily bored and unamused and tend to hop from one project to the next as soon as I can.  I could never understand how some people could do the same thing every day of their lives.  “I’m too creative for that.” I would tell myself.  “I need adventure and challenge in my life.”

So many people have admired the free spirit in me; for what they deemed an ‘exciting lifestyle.’  Although it is exciting to work on new endeavors and on new restaurant projects, I do in fact get discouraged; I just never realized it until interviewing Tim McEnery, founder and CEO of Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurants.  According to Tim, we all have a routine.  But what our routine consists of is the important part.  Coming from someone with so much success and mental stability, I had to dive in.  How is he so creative yet so happy opening the same restaurant over and over again?  How does he remain successful after so many years?  Tell me your secrets!

Recreating the Same Restaurant Over and Over

So you want to start a restaurant chain?  That’s a good idea, seeing as that’s the fastest and most productive way to make a dime in the restaurant industry.  But if you’re like the majority of the restaurant owners, you are typically very creative and therefore like to, well, create new things.  It’s no fun opening the same restaurant over and over again, unless of course you’re Tim McEnery, owner of  25 Cooper’s Hawk Restaurants.  When I asked him if he ever got bored of opening the same restaurant over and over again, his response was “A great routine will set you free.”

The key word there is “great”.  Perhaps some of our routines aren’t so great, and although they bring a lot of excitement and adventure, they bring a lot of struggle.  There had to be a lesson in here somewhere, so I stuck around to hear more…  plus he was feeding me wine and apps so why not.

 

You don’t strike me as a typical restaurant owner, how did you get into this industry?

  • “My aunt and uncle ran a restaurant at a golf course, and that’s where I started washing dishes.  I love the pace, excitement.  I literally just worked my way up.  I graduated college at 21 with a Restaurant / Hotel Management degree from Perdue.  I ran Green Garden Country Club for a while and that’s when I left the industry to be a financial advisor.  It was the best thing I’ve done because I knew that I wanted to be in the hospitality industry 100% and I haven’t looked back.”

The man with the “great routine” just told me he didn’t always have the answers.  He too had to find his niche, or routine.  That was inspiring and kept me asking questions.

You seem so easy going.  Who makes the decisions around here?

  • “Great ideas come from all over, and we discuss them, but I ultimately make the final decisions.  Someone has to make the FINAL decision or everything will fall apart.”

Is this what keeps your ‘great routine’ a routine? 

  • “It’s part of it.  People need systems and systems are created by great leaders.  But we make it our routine to grow as a team and not just an establishment.”

Ever heard the saying, “too many cooks in the kitchen”?  It’s a common saying in general but in the restaurant world it couldn’t be more fitting.  There really is an abundance of  creative minds in the world of food which unfortunately brings about just as many egos as it does delicious dishes.  I truly believe the reason why so many restaurants fail, is because there’s a lack of leadership and team building.  It’s hard enough getting one restaurant to succeed, but Tim McEnery has 25 successful restaurants.  I would consider this great leadership.  I would consider this a routine worth following.

Takeaway: Create a system that your team will follow.  Give them a routine that encourages growth yet gives them security.    

As we sipped on four different kinds of wine (Chard, Cab, Barbera, and Pinot Grigio/Riesling Blend), all Cooper’s Hawk labeled, I couldn’t help but notice Tim took time out of his busy schedule to let me interview him and pick his brain.  Great leaders are always teaching and inspiring.  They never keep their knowledge to themselves, or their wine for that matter.

Tell me about your wine club and what makes it so unique.

  • “It’s the largest wine club in the world with over 200,000 members.  That alone tells you there’s something unique about it.
  • We release 47 different wines each year, on the menu plus 12 unique blends every year, which are our wines of the month.
  • We create community; bring wine club members together through our events to create friendships.  It’s super powerful and engaging.
  • Wine can be ordered online and shipped right to your door.”

I want to personally thank Tim McEnery for teaching me a few really valuable lessons:

  1. A routine does not have to be boring.  YOU create your own routine, so make it great.
  2. Teams need systems and routines in order to be successful, led by one leader.
  3. Great routines build empires and set you free.