Steve Havelock is the GM of Riondo’s Ristorante, a fine dining Tuscan Italian restaurant in the vacation destination of Galveston, Texas. With more than 30 years’ experience in the restaurant industry (and other industries), he shares his perspective on current trends, how technology like BevSpot helps Riondo’s excel, and why he’d like to have dinner with Albert Einstein.
Location: Galveston, TX
Size: 90 seat dining room, 90 seat banquet space
Staff: 40 people
There are two owners, which is where the name came from. The chef’s name is Rico and the the other owner is Don, everybody calls him Dondo, so the combination of the names became Riondo’s. Rico has been on the island for 30 odd years—he’s an excellent chef, very innovative. Don has a marketing background—he ran marketing for the U.S. Olympic ski team—and was a pro volleyball player. They were introduced four years ago by a local contractor who knew them both and Riondo’s was born.
Many, many, many years ago when I was a teenager I started in the hospitality business—actually in the kitchen, I wanted to be a chef. Then I got sidetracked into a computer career, and when I tried to retire to Galveston in the 2000s, I wasn’t ready for it. I worked for the previous owners of this building, so when Don and Rico came along, they asked if I’d continue in this position. All in all, I have about 30 years of experience.
I spent some time in New York, and I was fortunate enough to be there when Anthony Bourdain opened Les Halles. He was a great influence—I used to eat there a lot, I had the pleasure of meeting him a few times. He definitely had a different spin on things. I came from a more traditional background, and he kind of blew those ideas out of the water.
I think there’s a couple of aspects. One, social media—trying to manage all the different interactions that we have and responding to reviews on Yelp and OpenTable. There’s also maintaining a presence for the restaurant on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Keeping that side of it managed is constant.
Two, being smarter about what we do. Obviously there are a lot of tools available, like BevSpot, that can help. We have two seasons here. During the summer, it’s very much tourist-related business. Fifty thousand people live here full time, but in the summer, it’s up around one to two million. Big difference! So in the summer we cater to tourists who are looking for quick meals to get back to the beach. In the winter we’re back to our local, regular customers, and they expect fine dining. It’s almost like two different restaurants.
I think there’s more pressure to be constantly innovative, especially with the menu. It used to be that people picked a restaurant because they knew it would have their favorites. Now it seems that people are looking for restaurants that bring something different, keep the menu fresh. Different generations have different expectations.
I have six or seven different wine and alcohol vendors, and I used to have to call in orders on the phone. There were always mistakes, the wrong things being delivered, misinterpretations of what we wanted. The ordering system has alleviated all those issues—I know exactly what I’ve ordered, when the delivery will come, and we can double check the expense to see what they’re invoicing for versus what they’ve actually delivered. That’s a great help, it’s cut down on a lot of expenses with unnecessary deliveries.
Inventory is obviously a big factor because it dictates what we’re going to order, and the sales side is great because we change our wine and spirit menu to fit the seasons. With sales insights we know what’s selling so we can make more educated guesses as to how to change the menu. You always have a gut feeling, but it’s nice to be able to look at real data to confirm your choices.
About three months before BevSpot announced they were going to do food, we signed up with MarketMan, which is only for the kitchen side. The owners had seen the benefits we were getting from BevSpot in FOH, and we wanted to collect the same ideas for the kitchen. So we started to use MarketMan, we had all our product uploaded and were doing weekly inventories, and then BevSpot announced the food product! From a business point of view, we didn’t want two systems, and we decided to cancel MarketMan and switch to BevSpot for BOH.
The benefit is going to be inventory. The kitchen is definitely a little more old school than FOH. Even if we can get a sense of what’s in the inventory, that’s a big step up from where we’ve been.
I visited the Savoy Hotel a few years ago, and they prepared a very traditional Dover sole which was filleted at the table. It was pretty impressive.
Albert Einstein. Fascinating guy. I’m sure I wouldn’t understand half of it, probably only 1% of it, but I think it would be an interesting conversation!