Events Health

Live Event Experience: Restaurant Grand Opening

Originally seen on LinkedIn

In September 2017, I had the honor to work with a client on the Grand Opening of her restaurant. Let me be honest. This was the first restaurant opening I have ever been involved in. I knew nothing about the restaurant business at this point.
Now, hold up. Before you walk away, let me share some thoughts and insights. This goes back about 15 years, maybe further, but we’ll start there before I age myself.
I worked as a Branch Manager for a global financial institution for 5 years in my 20’s. I was the manager that upper management brought in as the fixer. If you’re a Blacklist fan, I was the Mr. Kaplan of the Region. 😉 If they brought me into an office, you knew it was a disaster.
I have this innate ability to walk into a business office, event and now restaurant and see all of the gaping holes. The gaping holes don’t always correlate with being “wrong” or “bad”, sometimes the holes just show the glaring inefficiencies.
I can see those.
For 9 years, I was the clean up and mentoring manager. I cleaned up the messes and then trained new managers on how to efficiently manage their offices, financials and staff. In the end if was a thankless job, but the skills I walked away with were irreplaceable.
I moved from the financial industry into event management. I was able to craft and hone these same skills to work for me in the event space. They translated easily. I was still dealing with messes and financials with a twist of creativity.
Today, I can walk into an event strategy session or a live event and help my clients prevent the issues or fix the issues (if they are fixable). So, when I showed up to help my client with her restaurant opening I did the same thing.
Now an event activation or a restaurant opening is really just a project. An event planner is a project manager who facilitates all the activities, supplies, vendors, staff and guest through to the deadline which is the event activation, launch or grand opening.
While I wasn’t necessarily planning an event, I was definitely in heavy project management mode. With this grand opening, I was 4-6 days away from a soft opening and then the grand opening. I found that there was no organization around what needed to be completed. The first thing I did was sit down with the owners and draft a punch list and identify who was responsible for each item on the list. We ended up with 40 items on the punch list that needed to be completed in a very short amount of time.
Now before you go off all shocked at the size of the list, let me say that list is not bad. I’ve seen worse and I’ve dealt with worse. Every week or two before you launch an event or restaurant, you will have a list a mile long of last minute details. I prefer to be brought in sooner to minimize these issues and to create more efficiency in a launch or opening, but that isn’t always an option.
Here’s where I get to have fun. The deadline looms on a punch list for a project manager. I love the thrill of getting it done before we launch or open. It’s a challenge that most would shy away from, but I dig in and go for it. See, the thing is you can’t really scare me with a deadline. I worked with some of the biggest brands known
to the world and I learned quickly to deliver under high, high, HIGH stress situations. Which is probably why I started to go gray in my late 20’s. Ssshhhh…. Yes, that is hair dye.
The magic happens when you can bring in a project manager that isn’t afraid of strong personalities, high stress, emotions that run amuck and that ever looming deadline. I was describing what a project manager does and is. Visualize this. A project manager is in the eye of the storm. While all the chaos, stress and emotion are circling like crazy a project manager can be surrounded by all of this and keep moving the project forward to meet said deadlines WITHOUT being distracted.
My team has worked with restaurants for years and this was the first time they had boots on the ground and it was a perfect collaboration. The client was able to focus on the food, FOH and BOH while leaving all the nitty gritty administrative stuff to me.
I worked with the web designer, graphic designer, social media team, the reprographics (large digital format printer), the local printer, the sign company, the city and the local media. Being able to handle all the incoming inquiries for print, media, marketing, design, etc reduced the burden of the client. The only thing they had to do was make a decision once I brought them their options. It’s a more efficient process and lets the client focus on their area of genius while I focus on mine.
Due to the depth of my experience in contract negotiation, digital printing, marketing, social media, design and more, I was able to clearly communicate and identify my client’s needs. I was able to negotiate contracts on their behalf, negotiate pricing, manage suppliers, installations, pushback on deadlines as needed, train staff, communicate with all vendors and suppliers and establish relationships with local vendors and media that will only enhance and help my client.
One thing that you will learn about me if you don’t know it already, is that I profusely encourage people to stay in their lanes, their zone of genius. It’s more effective for the long and short term. It saves both time and money.
If you are looking for long or short term project management, look for someone who has a variety of skills that will best suit your needs and purpose of your project.
Are you ready to hire a project manager for your next launch or opening? Contact me at

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