We asked the Silver Plate Class of 2015 a few questions to get an inside look at what makes them the operator all-stars they are today. Find out what they had to say about passion for foodservice, career accomplishments and what it means to be part of a legendary group of operators.
Michael C. Gibbons, president and CEO, Mainstreet Ventures, received the Silver Plate Award in the Independent Restaurants / Multi-Concept category. He was nominated by Ecolab.
What do I enjoy most about my career in food service?
Currently, I love the multi-faceted aspects of my job from creating a concept, to design development and construction oversight, and there is no bigger thrill than the opening night of a new restaurant.
Now that my company is more mature, we are deeply rooted in every community in which we operate, providing community partnerships, supporting other local businesses through vendor and purveyor relationships, and creating local jobs. Additionally, we are able to help employees at every level with tuition reimbursement for school and we provide great opportunities for career advancement. Seventy-five percent of our managers started as hourly employees and many have cultivated a career path similar to my own.
Tell us about your biggest career accomplishment.
When Mainstreet Ventures was formed in 1981, we opened a restaurant in Farmington Hills, Michigan. For those of you who were around then, you may remember the long lines at gas stations and the prime interest rate rose to 21%. We had very little startup capital at that time and borrowed heavily - leveraging our homes. As you can imagine there were many sleepless nights and 70 hour work weeks and we survived, which still seems like a miracle today! So I guess my biggest career accomplishment is survival.
How is my segment making a difference?
As a business in the fine dining segment, I think we offer many career opportunities at every level of employment and are much less of being just a starter job. Many full time servers are making well over $50,000 per year. Because of the higher check averages in this business segment, we are able to pay a bit better at every level and as we have grown, the management opportunities have grown as well. Most of our general managers are now making six figure incomes with excellent benefits.
What advice do you have for someone new to the foodservice industry?
We are the industry of opportunity! If you are willing to work hard and learn you can have a great career. I started as an hourly employee and 75% of our managers did as well. The opportunities are endless in this industry. In fact, I think I have trained half of the people that work for Ecolab and Sysco! But seriously, this means that not only are there opportunities within restaurants, but in distribution, manufacturing, education and other industry support organizations as well.
What does being an IFMA recipient mean to me?
I have been overwhelmed with the congratulations from people all over the country who have heard about it. I feel like I have just won an Academy Award! While I don't do what I do for the accolades, it sure is nice to be recognized by a group such as IFMA. A former IFMA president told me that he had nominated at least 20 people and none had ever won the award. I am both humbled and proud to be a recipient of this prestigious award.