By Jack Church
What does it take to run a successful restaurant? According to Wendy Dibenedetto and her husband Gaetano of Gaetano’s Batavia and Gaetano’s Forest Park, “ambition and pride. I take pride in everything that I do.”
Gaetano and Wendy are a husband and wife duo who manage, cook, and serve two renowned, five-star eateries.
Wendy starts her workday doing paperwork and helping her three kids: Molly, Mary Pat, and George, while her husband drives out to a farmer’s market to get fresh beef, poultry, and fish for the day. In addition to preparing the fresh meat he buys every morning, Gaetano also produces his own pasta and cheese. He has a refrigerator in his office dedicated to the different cheeses he has cultured at his Forest Park restaurant. Their goal is to produce the best quality meal they can for their customers.
“It gives me a sense of accomplishment that I can give something this good to the public,” said Wendy. “If I wasn’t putting something good out there, I wouldn’t be doing anything. I’m very proud of what we have built and produce here.”
Gaetano has a vivid personality, which come out in his work. He likes to demonstrate his creativity in each dish he makes.
“(Working with Gaetano) is very rewarding and challenging at the same time because we are husband and wife,” Wendy said. “Our life is a combination of our love and the business we own together. He is a highly creative person and creative people have very stimulated brains that are constantly coming up with new ideas. It can be a problem when my creative juices don’t flow as fast as his. We take different amounts of time to see the same vision.”
Wendy does work as a server on busier night, but she can’t serve all the tables. She needs quality employees to help her run a 5-star quality experience. She has a mandatory checklist for all of her new hires.
“Personal hygiene is a must,” Wendy said. “They need to be clean. Nobody wants to receive food from someone who isn’t clean. Number two on my list is their communication skills. We need people with friendly personalities because this is a service industry. The third thing I look for is on their resume, experience. We need staff who have worked in the industry before, or those who we feel can adapt quickly. My final check is if they are foodie type. Do they love food like we do? If so they need to have the refined pallet.”
These checks allow her to find high quality employees with whom she can trust and mesh. The staff needs to have a positive chemistry like any team does. Professional sports teams try to find a chemistry in their plays because it is a proven method to make their team better.
Wendy and Gaetano recognize this and have created techniques like “family dinner” to better their chemistry. Family dinner is having their employees come to work a bit earlier to have everyone have dinner together and sample the specials for the night so they can give their honest opinions to the customers.
Her last helpful tip to run a successful business is one on how to manage the stress that comes with running your own business, “expect things to go wrong. Once I realized that something will go wrong everyday I became a lot better at solving the problem. Whether it is an issue with a customer or an employee, I know something will go wrong and I’ve accepted that. I don’t sweat the small stuff and can respond more calmly to the situation.”