It’s a Family Affair
Siblings Share Success Stories of Working in the Restaurant Biz
For Jordan Piazza, the only thing that brings him as much pleasure as following in his father’s footsteps is working alongside his brother every day. “Sometimes it can be hard working together because we must make tough business decisions, and we don’t always see eye to eye,” admits Jordan. “The beauty of it is that at the end of the day you remember that we are family, and family is more important than business. (Working together) has actually been quite delightful.”
Almost every town in the States can lay claim to one of those sentimental, old-school commercials that everyone knows line by line. For Baton Rouge, La., it’s the one featuring Phil’s Oyster Bar, the famed seafood restaurant that opened in 1950.
Its commercial debuted in 1995, featuring then owner Gus Piazza. The best part comes at the end when Piazza looks directly into the camera with a twinkle in his eye and a slightly crooked smile, declaring: “Oh, yeah. I can shuck an oyster!
That part was so memorable for sons Anthony and Jordan Piazza—who now own the iconic eatery in its third location—that they decided to include it in the updated commercial, which started running last fall. In it, they showcase a modernized version of Phil’s Oyster Bar that features them and Anthony’s 10-year-old son, Gus Piazza III, and befittingly, the vintage clip of their father at the end.
It’s something they mutually agreed upon to honor their late father’s legacy as a successful restaurateur and community leader. For Jordan Piazza, the only thing that brings him as much pleasure as following in his father’s footsteps is working alongside his brother every day. Jordan acts as managing partner and runs day-to-day operations, while Anthony oversees marketing aspects of the business. They have other siblings, three sisters (including Jordan’s twin, Caroline), who pitch in every now and then at the restaurant, but Jordan and Anthony are the sole proprietors.
The brothers believe the best parts of their father’s work ethic is in them. “The way that I am not like my father, Anthony is, and vice versa, so it is kind of like our father is still alive,” explains Jordan. ”I do the day-to-day operations, while my brother has love for being a people person. (The restaurant) only works with both of us (involved).”
Their working relationship has been so harmonious that it helped them win “Best New Restaurant 2017” honors by the Baton Rouge-based 225 Magazine. “Winning best new restaurant really validated us that we have great food, and it was all in honor of my dad,” says Jordan.
“We work as a unit. Argue in private and agree in public is a big part of what we’re trying to do and a big key to why we’re all on the same page.”
– Jerrod Melman, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises
Ask any of the Melman children—R.J., Jerrod or Molly—and they’ll tell you that the restaurant business is in their DNA. That’s because their father, Rich Melman, who co-founded the Chicago-based Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises (LEYE) in 1971, has won every prestigious culinary award and will talk about the industry nonstop.
“He has a one-track mind, and he’s always thinking about the restaurants,” says Molly Melman, who acts as a partner and divisional training manager at LEYE, which owns more than 100 restaurants nationwide. Right out of college, Molly attempted to escape her fate by moving to New York to teach kindergarteners.
But after her brothers opened in 2008 the trendy HUB 51/SUB 51, their first concept of many more to come, she felt homesick. “I felt sad that I was missing out on that important time of their lives,” Molly recalls. “I wanted to be there for them.”
She soon moved back, working at the restaurant as a hostess, eventually getting promoted to manager, yet she took on the 4 p.m. to 4 a.m. shift for four years. She says she didn’t mind because she didn’t want special treatment because she was the bosses’ little sister.
“I had to earn their respect,” she says. “I didn’t just walk in and get the title of a manager without earning my time there. I think that was important for (my brothers) to see that I wasn’t just trying to catch up to them immediately.”
Regardless, the Melman siblings are a tight-knit trio inside and outside of the office, says Jerrod Melman. They’re also brutally honest with one another, which has made them all extremely successful.
“We realized early on that it’s good to argue, but there’s a time and a place for it,” says Jerrod, who serves as an executive partner at LEYE. “We want the ability to argue with each other and disagree, but also have enough respect that when we make decisions we think as a team. We work as a unit. Argue in private and agree in public is a big part of what we’re trying to do and a big key to why we’re all on the same page.”
Another key to sibling success, adds R.J. Melman, is genuinely caring about each other. “I truly love my brother and sister,” continues R.J., who is the president at LEYE—and eldest sibling. “I hang out with them all the time. They are my life outside of the business. We are together more often than apart. If we didn’t like each other, it simply wouldn’t work.”