Prepare yourself for a significant investment of your time with your restaurant.
Have the mindset & finances to stay the course.
Know when to divert, change course & change.
As part of our series about “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became a Restauranteur”, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Rob Serritella who currently presides as CEO of Creative Cloud Concepts Inc. An innovative hospitality group focused on the development & implementation of Cloud based culinary “Ghost Kitchens” which create the ultimate “Virtual Dining Experience”. In addition to CCC, Rob guides Holy Cow BBQ, an emerging BBQ chain that is currently expanding locations as well as longtime LA favorite Louise’s Trattoria. He has leveraged his 35+ years in the industry building a foundation in concept development, operational guidance, and mentoring restaurateurs to realize both short-term goals and establishing long-term strategies for measurable results. His career highlights thus far include Owner/CEO of Creative Cloud Concepts, CEO of Sprout LA, CEO of LTA Corp and Founder of Messhall Kitchen, Holy Cow, Rooster’s Chicken House, The Little Pie and Ciao Verde.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share with our readers a story about what inspired you to become a restauranteur?
Growing up as 1 of 8 in a large Italian family, food was often the central part of our lives. I remember a story that my father told about my grandfather during the great depression. The story goes that they were down to one egg in the ice box when a man knocked on the door asking if they had anything to eat, my grandfather quickly ran to the garden and gathered a bunch of dandelions (escarole) and used that last egg together and made the man something to eat. My dad asked “why would we give our last egg away” my grandfather smiled and said that man was hungry and not to worry, the chickens would make more… I guess that somehow struck a chord with me. Although I never met my grandfather, the image of him smiling and feeding a stranger was a driving factor in my desire to do the same…
Do you have a specific type of food that you focus on? What was it that first drew you to cooking that type of food? Can you share a story about that with us?
I like what is in season or what is the fridge. One of my favorite things to do is create something from the ingredients that we have on hand. We usually have a nice herb and vegetable garden growing so I generally start with what is ripe. I might love Mediterranean cooking, but I also love to BBQ equally as much.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you became a restauranteur? What was the lesson or take away you took out of that story?
One thing I love to do is laugh and engage with both my teams and guests. I find that laughter makes a tough day easier and helps us to keep our tempo.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? How did you overcome this obstacle?
Honestly, I have been blessed to work with some amazing individuals. People that have been willing to work through the most difficult times and help me stay positive with their contagious attitudes. So many names come to mind, some many great people along the way. I would say the people, my team, and my partners together have been the glue during some difficult times I have faced in this industry that I have called home for more than 40 years now. Nothing I can remember is quite like the current environment, I am sure others have faced more difficulty than I have, my heart and thoughts are with those who have been less fortunate.
In your experience, what is the key to creating a dish that customers are crazy about?
3 Keys — Start with tasty, well-seasoned & fresh ingredients.
Personally, what is the ‘perfect meal for you?
A table surrounded by my family and friends at the beach just before sunset.
Where does your inspiration for creating come from? Is there something that you turn to for a daily creativity boost?
Just about anywhere. Chefs, farmers market, food television, articles and of course hunger.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? What impact do you think this will have?
Yes, we just launched Ciao Verde — a Vegan Italian “Virtual Dining Concept.” I absolutely love this concept! There is too much negativity and myths about vegan food today. Ciao delivers on flavor first with dishes I love to feed my non-vegan friends and then tell them afterwards that that red wine Bolognese you just had was 100% plant based! That type of reaction inspires us to create interesting and new dishes on our menu. We also have Roman style “Pinsa” within that brand. We discovered this a while back and were looking for a way to incorporate this amazing style of pizza within an Italian brand.
What advice would you give to other restauranteurs to thrive and avoid burnout?
Do not be discouraged, find a partner you love and can trust, surround yourself with a great team, collaborate when possible & never let fear drive your path. This is a humbling craft and career.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started as a Restauranteur” and why? Please share a story or an example for each.
See my previous answer…Ha!
- Do your homework & listen to and trust others who have gone before you.
- Be unique and believe in what you sell.
- Prepare yourself for a significant investment of your time with your restaurant.
- Have the mindset & finances to stay the course.
- Know when to divert, change course & change.
*I’ll add a 6th — Listen to your guests, they vote with their feet…
What’s the one dish people have to try if they visit your establishment?
Depends on what concept you are in the mood for.
- Holy Cow — Tri Tip with ChimiChurri
- Rooster’s — Chicken nuggets
- Louise’s — Mama’s meatballs
- Ciao Verde — Gnocchi Bolognese
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Love, it breaks all barriers, bridges all gaps, and heals all wounds.
Thank you so much for these insights. This was very inspirational!