WE Are the Champions: Collaboration Vital for Success


As you all know by now, I love drama. So it should come as no surprise that one of my guilty pleasures is reality TV (American Idol, Dancing With The Stars – I love the competition!) And then there is Top Chef – each season, the “Team Challenge” episode is always the most dramatic and exciting. The knives come out, someone ends up crying –and in the end one team cooks their way to victory. It’s thrilling and some of the best TV there is out there. We cringe as the contestants fight with each other to create their own vision. Season after season, it is the stubborn chefs or artists who fail, and the ones who are willing to collaborate and compromise usually do succeed.

While I may be guilty of spending a little too much time in front of the TV these days and not enough at the gym, these shows bring me back in time when I first discovered the joy of winning. We all remember our grade school gym teacher’s favorite words – “There’s no ‘I’ in ‘team.’” Although it often seems like a restaurant is most recognized and defined by its notable chef or famous owner, the key to success is dependent on the collaborative effort of every single person involved.

A great example of collaboration is the team at Carneros Bistro & Wine Bar, located in the Lodge at Sonoma, a Renaissance Resort and Spa in Sonoma, California.

At any restaurant, the kitchen and front of house must be in sync to provide diners with amazing experiences. At Carneros Bistro & Wine Bar, Chef Janine Falvo and Sommelier Christopher Sawyer – are literally the dynamic duo. They work together to give each guest the ultimate Wine Country food and wine experience.

Falvo and Sawyer also maintain close relationships with the farmers, foragers and vintners who make personal visits and deliveries to the restaurant to help them craft their menus. They have built great partnerships with these suppliers, allowing them to make special requests and get ingredients and wines not immediately available elsewhere. For these two, communication and collaboration are the keys to creating the unique experiences that have won the restaurant accolades and fabulous critical praise.

So I encourage you to visit your favorite restaurant tonight and watch the team spirit in action. You can learn a lot that can be applied to you own business. Collaboration can be a beautiful thing – and really pay off big time. I’m crying here.

On a personal note—I want to thank my team members Leith Steel and Stacey Faber for collaborating with me on these blog entries.

About The Author

Prior to opening Andrew Freeman & Co., a full service boutique consulting agency specializing in hospitality and restaurants in 2007, Andrew started his career working with several legendary New York venues including The Rainbow Room, The Russian Tea Room and Windows on The World. In addition to running the day to day marketing/public relations activities at these famed New York restaurants, Andrew was also responsible for the creation and management of their special events and catering departments. At all three venues, he also launched and then oversaw successful outside catering businesses. Andrew left New York in 1997 and departed for San Francisco to join Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants. He spent ten years with Kimpton, launching over 40 hotels and restaurants as well as the global brand. For his first five years with the company, Andrew was first Director and then Vice President of Restaurant Sales and Marketing. In this role, he worked with the restaurant team on the creation, launch activities and marketing/public relations programs for the group’s chef driven restaurant concepts and private dining venues. He was then promoted to Vice President of Public Relations and Strategic Partnerships for both the hotel and restaurant divisions. In this role, Andrew was responsible for strategic development and execution of all public and media relations activities. During his tenure Andrew also spearheaded several programs with industry and community partners including Kimpton Cares, a social responsibility program and Kimpton Hotels LGBT travel program which has garnered numerous awards and positioned Kimpton as one of the Top Companies for LGBT employment. Andrew also contributed to the launch of Kimpton’s highly successful Women in Touch program which became the spring-board for their national partnership with Dress for Success, an organization which helps low-income women enter the workforce and excel in their new jobs. Today, Andrew Freeman & Co. is busy consulting hotel clients, Hotel Shattuck Plaza, Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants, The Lodge at Sonoma, The River Terrace Inn, and Bay Area restaurant clients, the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, Barbacco, Carneros Bistro & Wine Bar, étoile at Domaine Chandon, ETO, Fifth Floor, Grand Café and Poggio. Andrew Freeman & Co. is also proud to be an intricate part of SF.Chefs.Food.Wine a food and wine event that celebrates the unique flavor, diversity and bounty of Northern California. The annual event incorporates tasting tents, classes, seminars and an array of activities while supporting local charities such as the San Francisco Food Bank, Meals on Wheels, The Golden Gate Restaurant Association Scholarship Foundation and Project Open Hand. Andrew is honored to have also worked with JW Marriott/Marriott, Larkspur Hotels, Magnolia Bakery, Personality Hotels, the Palm Restaurant Group, and W Hotels. In 2009, Andrew Freeman & Co. launched a New York City office and is proudly serving clients including Pranna, Incentient and David Burke Restaurant Group. Andrew also works with a variety of clients on sales and service training, as well as concept development and operations refinement.

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