In the early days of Honeygrow, it was just surviving. I’d never run a restaurant before, so it was certainly a challenging time. As a young pup back in the day, I’d want to do everything. I would be on a wok, doing the website, designing T-shirts, and handling the insurance negotiations. Fast-forward eight, nine years, I’m relying on great groups of people and spending my time really providing the vision. In a sense, I’ve become more of the general than the guy in the trenches, but still visiting the trenches quite often.

I think the most important thing is for your team to see you out there. Of course you want to be safe, but check in with your team. It could be a simple email, like, “Hey, how are you?” to a general manager. Everyone’s working hard. Everyone’s really stressed. It’s a hard time, so spending the time to make your team feel good and know that they are extraordinarily needed right now is key. And make sure you give them that gratitude to keep them going. I surround myself with some great folks—from my investors being so supportive, to our management team, and to our general managers. It’s great to be working with great people, and quite frankly, that’s why we get through what we get through.

We opened a restaurant in the middle of the pandemic. It’s been pretty much our most successful opening we’ve ever had, so we’re really excited about the future of Honeygrow. We’re looking to continue to copy and paste [our model] over and over again in our existing markets. We know who we are. We know our model. We know our team. We know what to do. We know, very importantly, what not to do. And we’re excited to continue to go after good opportunities and just build the brand.

Anyone who’s an entrepreneur knows that when you see what you’re up against in terms of odds, a lot of us just don’t even want to pay attention to that. But I think you need to have that passion to succeed. And it certainly helps to have a passion for the product you’re working with.

What was your first job?

I was a lifeguard, but I was in charge of the boats by the lake. So I was essentially tying up boats, doing canoe instructions and kayak instructions, and teaching kids how to swim.

What’s your favorite menu item at Honeygrow?

I have two. My favorite salad is the Chicken Kale Caesar, but I throw in farro and breadcrumbs. On the stirfry side, it’s freshly made egg-white noodles, edamame, onions, ground turkey, coconut curry sauce, and chili flakes.

What’s your favorite cuisine aside from Honeygrow?

I’m a chicken parmesan snob. You can’t go wrong with chicken parm.

Who inspires you as a leader?

My dad. My father ran a small business in Brooklyn. He always led from the front, and that’s something that has always stuck with me—it’s exactly how I lead.

What’s the best piece of advice that other restaurant executives should hear?

The key right now is to keep your team and yourself safe. Make sure you create a safe environment for your guests. Make sure your guests know what you’re doing to keep it safe.

What are some of your interests outside of work?

I’m kind of a nerd. I love jiu jitsu. It became something that I got hooked on two years ago. I love reading. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed, and it’s a way for me to shut out things and get my brain recalibrated a bit.

Business Advice, Restaurant Operations, Start to Finish: What Inspires Execs, Story, Honeygrow