tgfs x who’s that girl: olivia ruggeri

We’re on a roll!

Welcome to the third post of tgfs x who’s that girl! This week I’ve profiled one of the hardest working people we know; she co-owns a restaurant in Sydney’s Inner West with her partner, works 6 nights a week and always has a smile on her face.

Olivia is the perfect example that Gen Y’ers are not lazy and when we put our mind to something, success if the only outcome we’re interested in!

I sat down recently to chat about all things food, from the menu to finding reliable staff, Olivia opens ups and gives us a wonderful insight into the not-so-easy world of restaurants.

TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF AND HOW YOU GOT TO WHERE YOU ARE TODAY

When I was 19, I was studying event management at Ryde TAFE & my Aunty had just opened a restaurant. I only worked behind the bar and this is also how I met my partner as he was the head chef of this restaurant (directly across from me watching all my embarrassing stuff ups!).
I learnt a lot about wines, cocktails, how to make coffees and managing the takeaway orders. It was very fast paced and some nights very overwhelming. A year on and my partner and I decided to buy his parents business- a small 50 seat restaurant in Balmain- as they were retiring. I had to learn a lot about managing a restaurant and taking care of customers very quickly. Before I knew it 4 years had passed, a lot of hours working, stress, a few tears and missing a lot of social events but it was all worth it as we are now in a bigger restaurant with the opportunity to have events & really enjoy what we do.

WHAT DOES A NORMAL DAY LOOK LIKE FOR OLIVIA?

Even though the restaurant only opens for dinner, we have to get in early to food prep and clean. We also make sure the menus and website are up to date as well as coming up with something new to post on social media. I’m constantly checking & answering emails & the phone (even when I’m at home). Once the doors open at 5pm I am making sure service runs smoothly and taking care of customers.

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Every now and then I get to squeeze in a lunch date with friends or family and at the end of a long night, I indulge with a glass of wine and whichever show I’m currently binge watching on Netflix!

WHAT ARE THE THREE MAIN CHALLENGES OF RUNNING YOUR BUSINESS, AND WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR THOSE WHO MAY ALSO HAVE THESE CHALLENGES?

  1. Finding experienced, long-term, reliable staff.
  2. Finding a good balance between work & life.
  3. Always trying to maintain high standards of consistency with all aspects of the business from food quality to customer service regardless of unexpected circumstances such us staff calling in sick.

What helps a lot with these challenges is being up to date with what’s new to do with your trade (tools, apps, new companies, social media groups).

THERE’S CURRENTLY A LOT IN THE MEDIA ABOUT BEING A WOMAN IN A MALE-DOMINATED ARENA. DO YOU THINK THIS AFFECTS YOU AND IF SO, HOW DO YOU OVERCOME IT?

I don’t believe this really affects me as we have a good balance of male and female staff. Although, I do get a kick out of the surprised reaction from some customers, and even new staff, when they find out I’m one of the owners, but that could also have to do with my age!

 

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A delicious spread from Olivia’s restaurant:Β Prima Cucina

 

HOW DO YOU COPE WHEN A CUSTOMER COMPLAINS ABOUT SOMETHING?

I’m very lucky as we rarely have any complaints, but I always find a solution fast, making sure at the end of the day the customer enjoys their experience. It’s important not to ignore or avoid the customer or table but also not to be overly apologetic. We’re all human, mistakes happen & you can’t make everybody happy!

YOUR PARTNER IS THE HEAD CHEF, HOW DO YOU MANAGE THE RELATIONSHIP YOU HAVE IN AND OUT OF THE KITCHEN?

A lot of people ask me this and it’s surprisingly easy: he controls the kitchen, I control the floor and neither of us tells the other how to do their job. We share our ideas, we don’t always agree on everything but we always find a compromise. Even with only one day off, we try to relax and enjoy the day out together somewhere or just chill at home.

HOW DO YOU COPE WITH THE STRESS?

Being organised and finding solutions to what’s causing the stress. Also catching up with people outside the restaurant helps.

WHAT INSPIRES YOU WHEN YOU’RE PUTTING TOGETHER THE MENU?

When it comes to the menu, that’s all up to my partner, and I’m lucky enough to taste test! What inspires him is emphasising on seasonal produce, being honest with traditional recipes but also giving them a modern twist.

+ THE SPEEDY SIX:

FAVOURITE PLACE TO EAT IN SYDNEY: My Nonna’s House!
FAVOURITE BAR: The Lodge in Balmain
FAVOURITE SPOT IN SYDNEY: Anywhere with a water view
WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO: Whatever is playing on KIIS106.5
THE LAST BOOK YOU READ: Second Glance – Jodi Picoult
YOUR LIFE MOTTO: “Work hard, stay humble”

I hope the next time you’re dining out, you spare a thought for hard-workers, like Olivia!

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Feeling hungry yet? Book a table and say Hi to Olivia!

Have a great weekend!

-tgfs x

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