Running a restaurant requires the sort of skills that usually aren’t found in just one person: militaristic precision, an intense appreciation for beauty, a fierce entrepreneurial drive, and a high level of emotional intelligence and charm.
Meet the man who had mastered it all. His name is Eamon Rockey, the General Manager of Betony, a gem of a restaurant located right off Fifth Avenue. With four restaurant openings under his belt, Eamon has learned how to navigate a notoriously risky industry. He sat down with us to share the tricks of the trade.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about running a restaurant like Betony?
Unlike what most people think, service at Betony is actually not the most stressful part. The preparation is far more stressful—ensuring that everything you need is there. A restaurant’s life is just as important before and after service. It’s like watching a baseball game. As spectators, all we see is top athletes. But those athletes spend countless hours preparing for that relatively short moment. That short moment just happens to determine success or failure. A restaurant like Betony is less about service and more about gathering all the little pieces to make service possible.
How do you stay fresh in an industry with so many tough competitors?
I don’t think about myself as a competitor in the industry. I think of myself as a part of a greater community, and I want to be a leader in that community. It’s not about beating other people. I want to execute what we do with Betony at the highest possible level. If you only work to beat other people, then you’ll stop as soon as you’ve done it. If you work to be the best, there’s no limit to what you can achieve.
What is a typical day like at Betony?
It’s tough to say, since the calendar is always rotating and full. I try to get here at 10AM, a half hour before the staff gets here for lunch service. At that time, I get to take the restaurant in a moment of quiet. I walk about whole space, making note of what needs my attention, what is going wrong, and what is going right. Every day we’re evolving and holding ourselves to a new standard.
At 10:30AM, the staff arrives and sets up the restaurant. At 11:40AM, we have a lineup. We gather the whole staff and go over all the different things that are pertinent to lunch service. We make sure to start the day with good energy. At noon, we start lunch service.
At 4PM, we have our dinner reservations meeting. We go over every single reservation that we have, so we can acknowledge every single guest by name. At 4:15PM, we have a family meal. At 4:45PM, it’s lineup. At 5:15PM, we break and detail our stations for 15 minutes. Every little aspect of our stations is aligned perfectly. From 5:30PM to 10:30PM, we offer dinner service. At 10PM, I’ll break away and start talking to guests who need special attention.
Are you just spectacularly organized?
I try. I hold myself to a series of systems to stay afloat. If I don’t put one thing in the calendar one time, then I miss something. I’ve got a million folders in my e-mail inbox. Every time I walk into the office, I try to take something out with me, instead of bringing things in. It’s a battle that’s fun to fight. I always work toward making it better.
What’s the biggest challenge with running a restaurant like Betony?
The people—but they can also be the most gratifying part. What we’re doing at Betony is intensely difficult. These are long hours, and hard hours. It requires intense study both in and out of the restaurant. You have to be very studious outside of work. Then, once you get in the restaurant, you have to be happy all the time. You have to derive happiness from being under the gun, and from making split second decisions.
You need to be able to recover from a setback quickly. You are interfacing with customers who are happy or hungry or tired or dehydrated, who also happen to be at various levels of alcohol consumption. You need people on your team who are going to support you and know how to do the things you tell them. You need teammates who would go to war for you.
How can food enthusiasts support you?
I am a very collaborative person. I learned a long time ago you can have a great idea but if you’re singular in achieving it, and you’re only person who cares about it, it’s going to go nowhere. I love hearing peoples’ ideas.
I love Betony not just because it’s a very nice restaurant, but because I’m so happy coming here. It’s awesome food and there are great cocktails that are also really affordable. What I’d love everyone to know is that this is a place for everyone—it’s not just a special occasion restaurant. You can pop in and have a fast meal, or you can have that delicious two-hour lunch. Betony is for people who want their food to be at the highest level, but also want it to be affordable.
This article originally appeared on IVY.