The People Who Make Us SucceedThe success of Portobello’s Grill and P-Beau’s Quality Food and Drink comes from the people behind the scenes - working hard, day in and day out to make their restaurants feel like family to their guests. They operate under the creed of, "Every Guest, Every Plate, Every Day!” and they mean it. You, the guest, are their top priority, and your experience with them is of the utmost importance.
Today, in part one of a two part feature, we recognize one of those people behind the scenes, Nathan Normand, Chief Operations Officer of Portobello’s Grill and P-Beau’s Quality Food and Drink’s parent company, Grace Hospitality Group. We sat down with Nathan to ask him about his career with Grace Hospitality Group, and what his “day-to-day” looks like as Chief Operations Officer.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in the restaurant business?
While my background is in Microbiology and Chemistry, I am fascinated in the science of food. I also love a fantastic meal with a great cocktail or glass of wine, so I built a career that put me in the center of my passions.
Tell me about your career path. How did you get your start? How and when did you come to be a part of the Portobello's/P-Beau's family?
My first job in the industry was with Portobello's Italian Grill and Cafe at the original location on Lee Drive. I had just finished my degree at LSU, and while searching for my calling, I started to wait tables at Portobello’s. I applied for a job while at their Happy Hour, funny enough! I was initially hired as a server, but eventually worked at every position from dishwasher to key employee. Shortly after becoming a key employee, Kiva (Owner) offered me a full-time management position and I haven't looked back since. I spent the next few years learning the industry by trial and error. I eventually left Portobello's to grow my career in the corporate side of the restaurant industry. I spent the next 10 years learning and understanding what made these corporate leaders successful and what differentiated them from locally owned restaurants. At some point, my path crossed again with Kiva and Portobello's. There was an opportunity to return, and I immediately jumped back in. I spent the next few years managing both Baton Rouge Portobello's locations before being promoted to Brand Manager. Shortly after that promotion, we opened our new Portobello's location in Plaquemine, LA. A year later we opened P-Beau's Quality Food and Drink in Denham Springs, LA and formed the parent company, Grace Hospitality Group, in which I was promoted to Chief Operations Officer. While most in this industry bounce around from company to company, I have been very fortunate to call Portobello’s and P-Beau’s home for over 15 years.
What are your day-to-day responsibilities as a Chief Operations Officer?
In my role as COO, I focus on improving our operations. I am always searching for methods to make us faster and more efficient with our time. I constantly look for new items to enhance our flavor profiles and create new recipes that our guests would enjoy. I read a lot about other’s successes and failures in the industry and compare those operations to ours. Essentially, I try to improve our brands every day.
However, what I enjoy the most of this industry is that a "day-to-day" routine does not exist. Sure, there are recurring daily events, but it's the randomness of the day that keeps me hooked. There are always first-time guests to welcome, new hires to meet, old recipes to improve, new recipes to try, and the occasional "fire" to put out. Needless to say, I am not a cubicle guy.
Be sure to keep an eye out for part two of our feature on Nathan. Next time we’ll hear more about his insight of the restaurant industry, from the floor to the top.