BGBS 018: Creating Happy People | Frank and Jacqueline Bonanno | Bonanno Concepts
Today’s story features the husband and wife team behind Bonanno Concepts, Frank and Jacqueline Bonanno.
Frank and Jaqueline Bonanno have built a restaurant group in Denver on the values of Pride, Family, and Excellence. If you talk to any of their hundreds of employees they’ll all tell you the exact same thing. Not only with they tell you this but they believe it with all their hearts. They believe they are family. They have tremendous pride in what they do and know that the product they are providing is excellent. It is clear that these values permeate their business and their culture because this is how they view food and it’s place in our lives.
Frank and Jacqueline Bonanno fell in love over after-shift drinks and romantic conversations centered around deeply flavorful food, nuanced service, and the business of restaurant excellence. In their twenty odd years as a couple, Bonanno Concepts built nine restaurants, two bars, a pie shop and a 16-venue marketplace.
Eighteen of their executive chefs and managers used their experiences with the Bonannos to springboard restaurants of their own, and in a very real sense, the Bonannos have shaped and elevated the culinary landscape in Colorado.
We conducted this interview, sitting in the wine room of their very first restaurant – Mizuna.
In this episode we talked about:
- The history of Mizuna; what Frank was doing prior to being in the restaurant business and what steps led him into owning not only Mizuna, but many other businesses.
- What Frank thought his parents, especially his dad, would have said about him being in the food industry, which actually had a surprising turn for him.
- The specificity of Frank glorifying Italian food.
- Jacqueline’s history growing up in Indiana and coincidently working in the restaurant space growing up and going through her college years.
- What led Frank and Jacqueline to pursue a journey in the restaurant industry and business.
- Tips Frank has for people wanting to go into culinary school.
- Frank and Jacqueline’s thoughts on the lack of passionate and qualified workers in the restaurant industry to step back and become a leader.
- How Frank and Jacqueline met…and their different versions on how they fell they in love.
- The very specific details Frank and Jacqueline notice that make the biggest difference to the overall quality and experience in food service.
- Pizza pizza pizza!! Why Pizza is so important to Frank and what he loves so much about it.
- Frank’s pizza competition experience as a judge and his thoughts on why people have a particular pizza preference.
- The journey of Frank’s positions in Denver working for many places, building numerous experience, and practicing his systems of managing.
- Frank’s thoughts on what it’s like being a chef and what anyone could expect.
- The “unique” decision for naming the restaurant Mizuna.
- What opening day for Mizuna was like and why it was an instant success!
- The tragic loss of Frank’s partner Doug and what impact that had on them and the business.
- How Jacqueline ended up getting involved with the business and how she learned the restaurant business.
[10:23] “Basically I did like the food service industry and I served as a kid in the best means for me to surf during the day was to work in a restaurant at night to make money when I was in high school and college.”
[12:31] “We didn’t tell my father I was cooking for about a year and a half until after I decided I really was just going to do this seriously because he wanted me to get into real estate or finance or something, something different.”
[20:11] “It’s more of if you learn the proper way to do something and learn it really well, you’ll be good at it the rest of your life, you’ll be well rounded.”
[23:53] “[Frank] I think that it is just very difficult to find the quality of person who wants to step back and learn and grow in a position because you can go make 50 cents more an hour tomorrow working across the street and the attitude is I can, I just want money and so the passion is not there that was there 20 years ago. [Jacqueline] It’s hard to remain passionate when you have a huge college loan bill you’re trying to pay off.”
[39:13] “The thing to me about pizza is that it is the most artisanal food. It’s just like pasta. You start with flour, water and yeast. You cultivate it and then it goes into a really hot oven. You put fresh cheese that you’ve made. Fresh Mozzarella we’ve made on top of it with some really quality imported Italian tomatoes and fresh basil like I just, the simplicity of pizza is why I love it.”
[58:59] “The hard thing about being a chef is letting go for sure. Because if you’re trying to be too controlling, you’re probably not gonna be successful. If you can’t trust people to do it. And that would be the same thing in running any business.”
[70:48] “We were on a three-month waiting list from the day we opened.”
[97:35] “20-year-old self looking at me now, would probably say, I can’t believe what you’ve accomplished. That would be it, probably. I never thought you’d be here.”