Running a successful restaurant is a theater of the unexpected, where things can go right, and anything can and does go wrong. There are unanticipated menu snafus, staffing problems, big personalities, and online customer complaints. Not to mention the need for a profit margin at the end of the day. Viviani calls it the “most unpredictable-predictable business in the world.”
In the foreword he wrote for his Chief Operating Officer Ken McGarrie’s book, “The Surprise Restaurant Manager,” Viviani tells it like it is: “…I’d like to make a point about what being a restaurateur feels like. With a company that encompasses over 50 hospitality concepts in nearly a dozen different states—from hotels to gaming facilities to standalone restaurants to bars and quick service, as well as fast casual and event venues—my team and I basically have our hands in anything and everything that has to do with people eating, drinking, lodging, and having fun. So now let’s chat for a second about what our business is really like. The best way I can describe this business is that it feels like a consistently unexpected sucker punch in the face.”
Nevertheless, and despite the challenges, he goes on to say that hospitality is a beautiful business. And Viviani is doing a beautiful job on his steadfast vision towards owning and running America’s largest privately held hospitality group. Fabio Viviani Hospitality Group currently operates 50 hospitality properties and will be at 60 by year’s end. His plan is to reach 1,000 properties by the end of this decade. And he is opening his first hospitality franchise, JARS, which he believes will be the fastest-growing casual dessert concept that America has ever experienced.
Prime & Provisions offers a true steakhouse cuisine using a clean eating philosophy and clean ingredients. It is located at 222 North LaSalle Street in Chicago.
No one knows him better, or has worked with Fabio Viviani longer, than his chief operating officer, business partner, and “consigliere” Ken McGarrie. McGarrie is one of the top talents in the American culinary and hospitality world, and he’s shared his expertise and school-of-hard-knocks stories in “The Surprise Restaurant Manager,” a book he wrote to help people who start out as a bartender or cook, and suddenly find themselves in charge of the whole restaurant operation.
“Fabio is a hustler, he’s so passionate, and a risk-taker,” McGarrie said. “There is little he cannot do. He creates a positive work culture where people want to work for him. He treats his guests like they are in his home, and he even answers the hundreds of daily texts he receives from people.” According to McGarrie, there is no one more committed to his guests and growing community than the man he works for. “Fabio genuinely loves connecting with people.”
McGarrie explains that the company strategy pivoted during the pandemic. With restaurants hit the hardest, the costs of opening new properties with all the heavy upfront investments wasn’t as feasible. So, in addition to owning their existing properties outright, Fabio Viviani Hospitality Group expanded into a consulting and managing team for hospitality venues owned by others, leveraging their marketing and operations skills, as well as the firm’s celebrity status. “For example, Hollywood Casino hired us to take over their eateries,” McGarrie said. “We work with casino groups, Hyatt and Hilton hotels, and other large entities.”
Opening nights reveal Viviani’s caring character and hands-on approach. “It is entertaining to watch him,” McGarrie said. “He goes from table to table and talks with everyone. And on one opening night occasion, when our open-tickets order system went down, Fabio stepped in and took orders from the servers, called them out loud to the chefs, and made sure orders were ready at the pick-station on time. He’s a great chef and a true visionary.”