Talking Shop: Featuring Entrepreneur/Small Business Owner Tom Cuomo

[tweetmeme source=”helpmerhonda11″ only_single=false]Tom Cuomo grew up working in his dad’s restaurant…but that’s not why he’s a successful entrepreneur.  After 7 years in business, the owner of Grappolo Locanda share’s his ideas about building a successful business:

–       Learn on someone else’s dime: Tom worked in a friend’s restaurant for 2 years, before beginning his own.

–       Work hard, 7 days a week: There’s no substitute for hard work.  That’s why the next point is so important….

–       Do what you love: If you are working 24/7, you’d better love it.  Sharing his passion for good food, being a great host, and joking around with the staff makes Tom’s long hours secondary. Don’t get upset over every broken glass…have some fun.

–       Have a vision: At Grappolo Locanda, every detail is true to Tom’s vision: the warm Tuscan decor, the regional menu specials, an all Italian wine list, a setting for alfresco dining reminiscent of Italy. When his wine distributor suggested California wines, it was an easy decision…it simply doesn’t fit the brand.

–       Create exceptional customer experiences: Tom’s customer’s have lots of dining choices. They choose to return to Grappolo because he has created a great customer experience.  People appreciate great food, but the warm hospitality, and a personal connection with Tom inspires loyalty.

–      Know your market: In the early years, Grappolo’s menu evolved as Tom learned what his customers preferred: a more familiar menu, not a trendy NYC dining experience.  When the economy tanked,  his (simpler, less expensive) bistro menu, already popular at lunch, became a hit at dinner.

Recently, Tom discontinued an email newsletter, and instead, started a Facebook page to connect with customers, with great success.  Flexibility, and trying new ways to serve your customers is essential.

–       Treat people right: Tom’s bedrock philosophy is to “treat people the way you would want to be treated”.  His staff has been with him from day one, turnover has been low, and a philosophy of “enlightened hospitality” has served him very well. Reading the book Setting the Table, by restauranteur Danny Myers, confirmed Tom’s instincts.  Every entrepreneur should read this book.

–       Watch operating expenses: Tom installed compact fluorescents, runs fewer ovens and half a grill during slower times, and repairs his own equipment when possible. Operating efficiency enables Grappolo to hold prices, and maintain margin, in tough economic times.

–       Community: Supporting the local community helps to build customer loyalty.  Tom generously supports the  organizations and causes that matter to his clients…it’s good business.

Lessons learned the hard way: Tom was candid about mistakes made over the past 7 years.  Perhaps he should have trained longer before starting his own restaurant, spent less on certain items (like the expensive flatware), or been a more relaxed manager/chef instead of sweating every detail in those early days.   Bottom line:  no one gets everything right:  you must be willing to embrace your mistakes.  It’s how you learn what you know.

Tom Cuomo’s success boils down to these 9 core principals, which could easily apply to any business/industry.  Thank you, Tom, for sharing your knowledge with other business owners.

Do you have knowledge to share with other business owners? Contact me, let’s talk shop!

PS  Special bonus:  for social media tips geared to restaurant owners, click here.

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PPS Check out the classic You Tube Video about how Milwaukee restaurant AJ Bombers uses Twitter, with Chris Brogan, here.


About Rhonda Hurwitz

Rhonda Hurwitz is a content strategist and marketing consultant who helps mid-sized businesses develop more effective online strategies. @rhondahurwitz on Twitter, and on
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2 Responses to Talking Shop: Featuring Entrepreneur/Small Business Owner Tom Cuomo

  1. Becky says:

    Lots of common sense advice, but it helps to be reminded! 🙂 I especially like the idea of supporting the community which supports the business–grassroots CSR…

    • Becky, it always helps me to be reminded of the fundamentals. And as Joseph Jaffe says in “Flip the Funnel”, “retention is the new acquisition”…support the folks who already love you and it will be paid back…when it comes to your loyal fans from the local community, what better way?!!

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