Tim Gjonbalic: “Making a positive impact is an attainable goal”

What has inspired me the most is seeing the communal expansion of empathy and consideration of others. What I’ve found most disappointing are the individuals who are unwilling to make accommodations or sacrifices for the broader good. I had the pleasure of interviewing Tim Gjonbalic, Founder of Butler Hospitality, the first ghost kitchen for the […]

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What has inspired me the most is seeing the communal expansion of empathy and consideration of others. What I’ve found most disappointing are the individuals who are unwilling to make accommodations or sacrifices for the broader good.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Tim Gjonbalic, Founder of Butler Hospitality, the first ghost kitchen for the hospitality industry and the largest food & beverage service in New York City based on total accessible guests. Delivered fast directly to the room and supported by multiple payment options including bill-to-room, Butler’s proprietary ordering and delivery tracking technology makes room service delicious, affordable, and profitable.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how and where you grew up?

I am first-generation, born and raised in New York. I grew up working in my family’s restaurant inside of a Manhattan hotel, where I was able to witness first-hand the intricacies of restaurant management in the lodging industry.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Masters of Scale — Reid Hoffman — This podcast has provided me with guidance as I’ve been navigating this journey as a solo founder.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

I don’t have a favorite quote so much as a guiding principle, which is to prioritize and invest in relationships.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. You are currently leading a social impact organization that has stepped up during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to address?

Butler Hospitality is in the service industry — specializing in the elevation of the hotel experience for guests and hotel management. Butler takes over restaurants inside of hotels and transforms them into delivery hubs that provide virtual room service and catering to nearby hotels.

With Managed by Butler, full-service hotel managers rely on Butler to operate their existing restaurants. Butler assumes all F&B operations including staffing, procurement, logistics, and in-room dining. Because most hotel restaurants are loss leaders, Managed by Butler instantly eliminates costs and creates new revenue for full-service hotels.

With Room Service by Butler, limited- and select-service hotels managers rely on Butler to provide their guests with all the F&B benefits of a full-service hotel. Guests order room service via phone, web, or text to be prepared in a nearby Managed by Butler hotel and delivered within 30 minutes. Unlike other delivery providers, Butler delivers directly to the room and bills directly to the room with no service fees

In your opinion, what does it mean to be a hero?

A hero is someone who utilizes their tools, abilities, and/or talents in service of a mission that extends beyond themselves — often in the face of adversity.

In your opinion or experience, what are “5 characteristics of a hero? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Clarity — Keen eye for what’s needed and a clear vision of how to address it
  2. Confidence — Self-assurance in the face of doubt & criticism; and the conviction to stay the course, in spite of a lack of validation/affirmation
  3. Optimism — The ability to remain positive in even the worst of circumstances
  4. Foresight — An almost prescient ability to predict certain outcomes (likely before other people see it)
  5. Commitment to goodness and the collective improvement/betterment of society

If heroism is rooted in doing something difficult, scary, or even self-sacrificing, what do you think drives some people — ordinary people — to become heroes?

An extraordinary capacity to see beyond oneself.

What was the specific catalyst for you or your organization to take heroic action? At what point did you personally decide that heroic action needed to be taken?

For Butler, exceptional hospitality depends on our ability to anticipate and respond to needs. I don’t view our participation in helping provide meals for frontline workers as a heroic action, so much as an action that is fundamental to our core business and values. Frontline workers truly embody what it means to be at the service of others — so ultimately, we were grateful to have had an actionable way to serve these heroes.

Who are your heroes, or who do you see as heroes today?

Without a doubt, healthcare & frontline workers.

Let’s talk a bit about what is happening in the world today. What specifically frightened or frightens you most about the pandemic?

The hospitality industry — a space that I obviously care deeply about — has been one of the hardest-hit industries during this crisis and will likely be transformed as a result. While I’ve always maintained my belief in this industry’s resilience, for a time, I was frightened for our hotel partners and about how long recovery would take. Also, being born and raised in New York, I have been frightened for my city and the potential loss of its dynamism which makes it so special.

Despite that, what gives you hope for the future? Can you explain?

New Yorkers have a special way of uniting together in hardship that serves as a hopeful reminder of how powerful and unstoppable a collective effort and strong sense of community can provide.

What has inspired you the most about the behavior of people during the pandemic, and what behaviors do you find most disappointing?

What has inspired me the most is seeing the communal expansion of empathy and consideration of others. What I’ve found most disappointing are the individuals who are unwilling to make accommodations or sacrifices for the broader good.

Has this crisis caused you to reassess your view of the world or of society? We would love to hear what you mean.

Not tying hustle with health — before, if you were sick, people took pride in showing up to work despite having a fever or a cough, now I think we are more mindful of the unseen impact we can potentially have on others.

What permanent societal changes would you like to see come out of this crisis?

I hope we continue to see an expansion of our concern and consideration of different experiences and perspectives. We as a nation have been humbled, with seemingly unbreakable systems turned on their heads — and while it has been profoundly painful, the humility we’ve gained has contributed to our ability to empathize, problem solve and help.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

Don’t let it be a passing consideration — making a positive impact is an attainable goal and should be regarded as a basic responsibility.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start 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. 🙂

Entrepreneurship education for underserved neighborhoods. People often only know what they are exposed to, so I feel that if more opportunities were available, at a younger age, and at a larger scale, it would expand the range of possibilities people consider for themselves.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why?

P Diddy — He has found a way to be impactful in multiple verticals — philanthropy, business, music,etc.

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