Restaurateur Peter Kambitsis: Passionate, Driven, Adaptable
Peter Kambitsis is a powerhouse in the restaurant business and many know his popular bakeries–New York Bakery and Sugarberry and he has his newest restaurant which just opened, Pappa Gallo in Long Island. He loves his Greek Community and goes the extra mile for all. In the following interview least about his great Life Lessons & Tips and the many paths he travels and ways to get there in his words.
What kind of a person are you? Try to describe yourself in 3 words only.
Passionate. Driven. Adaptable.
What are your strengths and your weaknesses as a restaurateur?
As a restaurateur, my strengths lie in creating an inviting atmosphere, managing operations efficiently, and delivering high-quality customer service. I excel in menu development, maintaining food quality, and implementing effective marketing strategies. However, my weaknesses may include challenges in managing inventory effectively, inspecting what I expect, and balancing the demands of running a restaurant with personal life. I may also face difficulties in handling unexpected crises or fluctuations in the market.
What books do you recommend for every entrepreneur to read?
The 5 AM Club by Robin Sharma.
How do you manage stress?
Each morning, I rise at 5:00 am and begin with meditation. Following that, I engage in a workout or go for a run, and then dedicate time to reading for self-improvement.
What does your typical workday look like?
My typical workday involves overseeing the daily operations of the restaurants and bakeries, such as managing staff, ensuring quality control, and addressing any customer concerns. I also focus on menu planning, sourcing ingredients, and maintaining the overall financial and administrative aspects of the business. Additionally, I strive to create a welcoming and enjoyable dining experience for our patrons.
What was the toughest moment in your business journey? How did you go past it and move forward?
Three years ago, Covid-19 shook my world upside down. My stores closed because of the shutdowns, I couldn’t visit my mother with stage 4 Cancer, my wife was pregnant and had limited doctor visits, and I couldn’t hug my 4-year-old because I was scared to get him sick. I will never forget coming home that cold night in March after serving that last customer. I looked my beautiful wife straight in the eyes and told her, “Baby, I am waking up at 5:00 am and I’ll be back when this is all over.” I had to pivot, I had to hustle. I kept all my businesses open and running. My partners and I created a marketing buzz in NYC that it is still heard today. And then just as things were going well, my mother passed on Father’s Day a few months later. I came home crying and looking through past gifts my mother had given me. The last gift was a coffee mug with the quote from Carter Crocker, reading “If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.” I got to work the next day and I started slaying dragons. My mother made us head strong and resilient. That is how I keep moving forward.
What are your tips for building a great team?
It starts with clear communication and an open-door policy. I look to have a shared vision with everyone I hire or partner with. I recognize individual strengths and then I put those “aces in their places”. I encourage collaboration, provide ongoing training and celebrate achievements. Most importantly I lead by example.
What are you working on now?
I have a few projects lined up. I am working on expanding the bakeries and restaurants to New Jersey, Connecticut and Florida. I am also working with developers in Greece to build boutique smart hotels in Athens and Kefalonia.
What are the three most important habits to be a successful entrepreneur?
Resilience and adaptability, continuous learning and effective time management. Nothing shakes me or moves me. When I am in the zone it’s game over. I like to read and listen to audio books. One of my favorite quotes from Stoicism is, “To live the best life you should have conversations with the dead”. That means to read books from people who have passed. You can put yourself in the same room as Abraham Lincoln, Socrates, Plato or even Steve Jobs. Read their books. Learn from them. And last is time management. I get up early and start my day a lot earlier than most. I plan my day accordingly and I keep a color-coded calendar for all my operations and family events. If you fail to plan you plan to fail.
How did you win over your first customers? First investors? First business partners?
Winning over first customers in the restaurant business often involves offering exceptional food quality, great customer service, and creating a positive dining experience. Winning over investors may be attributed to a solid business plan, a clear vision, and potential for growth in the hospitality industry. When it comes to securing quality business partners, demonstrating a strong concept, clear communication, and a mutually beneficial partnership can be crucial in any business.
How would you describe your leadership style?
My leadership style often involves a combination of servant leadership and transformational leadership. This means focusing on serving the needs of both guests and employees, while also inspiring and motivating teams to provide exceptional service and achieve business goals. Flexibility, empathy, and a strong focus on customer service are also important aspects of leadership in the hospitality industry.
How do you handle negative reviews?
Respond promptly and professionally. Take the conversation offline. Use the feedback constructively. And remember, at the end of the day, it is only feedback. We can have a bad day too. Nobody is perfect. I don’t take it personally. I handle the business and I keep it moving.
What’s your philosophy for customer service?
As a restaurant owner, my philosophy for customer service is to prioritize the overall dining experience. This includes providing attentive and friendly service, ensuring timely and accurate order delivery, and consistently maintaining high food quality. I believe in creating a welcoming atmosphere where customers feel valued and appreciated, ultimately aiming to exceed their expectations and leave a lasting positive impression.
How do you balance your personal life with the demands of running a business?
Balancing personal life with the demands of running a business involves setting boundaries, delegating tasks, and prioritizing self-care. It’s important to establish designated time for personal activities, delegate responsibilities to trusted employees, and make time for relaxation and hobbies. Additionally, utilizing efficient time management techniques and seeking support from family and friends can help maintain a healthy balance between personal and professional life. Be a good person and do what you love in life. I am good at what I do but I also remember to be a great son, a loving husband, an amazing dad and an awesome brother.
Do you have any advice for aspiring restaurateurs?
If you have a passion for hospitality, consider diving into this industry. It’s a challenging, non-stop 24-hour business that requires a lot of hard work and dedication, but it’s also incredibly rewarding. There are ups and downs, so it’s important to either have a deep understanding of the industry or partner with someone who does. Despite the challenges, I’ve been in hospitality since I was 9 years old and it’s my true passion. I’m ready for the next endeavor with people who share my mindset.