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ThatNickGray is Awesome

July 16, 2018 | Frank Bonanno

Today at Washington Park, we’re pouring beer and playing Corn Hole, and pretty much just celebrating our group here at Bonanno Concepts as best we know how–with food and laughter. In truth, all family picnics should go the way our Family Picnic does, because we start the day by remembering our values. We recall the pride and excellence that binds us as a group, and we give some shout-outs to specific people who possess standards so bright, that we all shine just by being in their proximity. I imagine that if every family gathering started that way the world in general (and Thanksgiving in particular) might be a happier place. But I digress.

For the past 18 months, the bulk of my focus has been on Denver Milk Market, and while those fifteen venues and the construction and fundraising and meetings had my attention, Luca managed a remodel; Mizuna’s four senior team members went off to open their own restaurant; Osteria Marco and Green Russell managed to maintain growth in a time when every other venue on Larimer Square is down financially, and Salt and Grinder just had its most profitable spring yet. In other words, while I was off tending to new growth, my BoCo team no only kept the old oak tree righted and steady, but growing.

How lucky am I?

Last night before I went to bed, I pulled up the agenda for today, and I called Nick Gray to go over some of the details. This morning, at 5:30 when I woke up a little nervous, because I maybe don’t know everyone the way I used to, I’m texting Nick to ask him for nuance. Tonight, when the day is done and there’s a bit of a buzz on and we’re all full from beer and food and games and remembrance, I’ll recap the day with Nick, and we’ll talk about how it can go better next time.

So. Let me tell you about Nick Gray.

Nicholas Gray started as the Bonanno Concepts group accountant, and for two years, Nicholas worked in a tiny office that doubled as an illegal meat curing room. He left those evenings smelling like smoked meat or funky cheese or the brussel sprout steam that came up at him from Bones downstairs. What he knew about the restaurant business was mostly from the financial side, but he didn’t hunker in to the familiarity of numbers. Instead, Nick set about figuring this business out. He travelled with me to Nashville and served as a sous chef at a Food & Wine event. Nick hosted at Green Russell and washed dishes for a pop up at Bones. He hauled trash for our first Do at the Zoo, poured beer at the Great American Beer Festival, and as the years rolled on, Nick has worked every restaurant station, in nearly every restaurant, and in nearly every capacity.

As our CFO, he honed the profit sharing program for front and back of house, became the integrator for Bonanno Concepts vision and values–which entailed coaching seasoned restaurant professionals through the nuances of labor and food costs, sitting in on weekly and monthly management meetings at every one of nine venues, and privately coaching chefs and foh managers. While Nick was tackling these overarching goals, in his spare time, he served Thanksgiving turkeys, attended educational sessions for wine and whiskey, served sandwiches at Salt & Grinder, staffed pop-ups for restaurant openings, power cleaned sidewalks, and, oh, by the way–have you seen the Milk Market logo? Nick designed that–While he was out seeking investors in a multi-million dollar project, sitting in on weekly architecture meetings, and learning how to use the register and run the lines in each of the Milk Market stations.

You may not have heard of Nick Gray,  though I nominated him for the Denver Business Journal 40 Under 40, and to my mind everyone should know who he is, but if you’ve been in our restaurants these past six years, you’ve most likely seen him–maybe just as a blur, running food or bussing tables, or possibly in a suit as my right hand man.

Nick is us. He is Bonanno Concepts. He is Pride in the way his eyes greet yours, in the way he smiles, in the way he makes friends and keeps them for years and years and years, and in the way he owns every role he takes on. He is Family through work that touches and elevates every person on our team. He is Excellence from the moment he walked into the meat locker to share a desk with Jacqueline, to his current role as the President of a 550 team-member, 23 venue restaurant group.

Every family should have such a leader.  Thank you @ThatNickGray