In some restaurant companies, they hold the title of CEO or president. In others, they operate behind the scenes, less public but just as effective as role models, mentors and sounding boards. They are the mothers in our Power 20 restaurant families, responsible for the existence and often, the success, of the next generation of leaders.
As a mom of two boys, I know firsthand how hard it used to be to get my kids to sit in a restaurant without getting antsy or disruptive. I never would have dreamed of taking them to one of the most revered French restaurants in New York City—a neighborhood Chinese place was about as upscale as we got. But Rita Jammet dressed her three little boys in suits and dined with them three nights a week at the legendary La Caravelle, the palace of haute cuisine she owned with her husband, Andre Jammet, for over 20 years. Nicolas, Patrick and Christophe Jammet learned to appreciate the best ingredients, picked up excellent table manners and most of all, were infused with a strong entrepreneurial spirit, says Rita.
That spirit stayed with them all, and not one was deterred by the hard work and long hours it takes to run a successful business. Nic Jammet followed his parents into the restaurant industry. In 2007, he and two partners launched Sweetgreen, the healthy fast casual that now has 29 locations and an influx of capital to expand. Nic’s twin Patrick, now director of marketing for a food and beverage startup, was instrumental in getting Sweetgreen off the ground, and older brother Christophe recently started his own digital consulting company.
The kids now are all in their 30s, but Rita still wields a lot of mom power. She was the one who rallied the forces for the photo shoot of Restaurant Business’ Power 20 cover in the March issue, choosing a time slot in the Jammets’ incredibly busy schedules and making sure they all showed up. And she continues to wield significant professional power. Rita remains an entrepreneurial role model, having launched a successful Champagne importing and distribution company after closing La Caravelle. Some of her best customers and professional connections—Daniel Boulud, Joe Bastianich and Danny Meyer—were investors in Sweetgreen.
Lidia Bastianich is another powerful mom and role model. As her children, Tanya Bastianich Manuali and Joe Bastianich, were growing up, she grew her restaurants into a mini-empire that now encompasses cookbooks, TV cooking shows, a retail line of branded Italian ingredients and more restaurants. Both kids spent a lot of time in her restaurants in Queens and later, flagship Felidia in Manhattan. When they were older, they peeled vegetables in the kitchen and bussed tables.
But going into the family business wasn’t a given—Lidia insisted they go to college and forge their own paths. When Joe “came back with a vengeance” after a stint on Wall Street, Lidia worked her connections and introduced him to Mario Batali. The rest is history. The two men are partners in over 30 restaurants, many of which include Lidia as a partner, too. Daughter Tanya earned a doctorate in art history and now runs the retail business with her husband and produces Lidia’s TV show; she also is a partner in some of Lidia’s restaurants.
Lidia encouraged her children to excel in other fields, developing expertise that significantly contributes to her businesses. There’s no doubt she has been a strong role model, but mom power also is about give and take. “I wouldn’t have the success I’m having without the ideas and energy my kids bring and the extensions they’ve created to the business,” says Lidia.
When she assumed the title of CEO of Wienerschnitzel upon ex-husband John Galardi’s death in 2013, Cindy Galardi Culpepper focused on mentoring their son, J.R. “It was always mine and John’s hope that J.R. would one day lead the company … but we have no timetable,” says Cindy. J.R., 25, was named chief visionary officer of the 54 year-old hot dog chain in 2014. Under his mother’s guidance—but with his unique millennial perspective—J.R.’s task is to evolve the brand by engaging a younger demographic and building Wienerschnitzel’s customer base. But as he looks to the future, mom is making sure J.R. doesn’t abandon the past. “He also is dedicated to upholding the brand’s core values so Wienerschnitzel can be around for another 50+ years,” says Cindy.
Highlighting these three power moms doesn’t diminish the influence of others in our Power 20 list. There’s Ella Brennan, the 89-year-old matriarch of one branch of the famous Brennan restaurant family. She opened the original Brennan’s in 1946, went on to run Commander’s Place and spawned some of New Orleans’ most legendary restaurants through her children and nephew, Ralph Brennan. And Lisa Ingram, president of White Castle, the fourth generation and first woman to head up the 400-unit chain founded by her great-grandfather. She’s also mom to four young children—a dual role that must require a lot of artful juggling.
Maurine Dickey, mother of Dickey’s Barbecue Pit CEO Roland Dickey Jr., recently launched the company’s charitable foundation. But she also guides Dickey’s moral compass. “My mom gave me Jim Collins’ book ‘Good to Great’ and it changed our outlook … no matter what happens, keep believing in ourselves, and we will not fail,” says Roland Jr.
These power moms have clout. They also know how to practice that delicate balance between work and family, teaching and listening, leading and following, and authority and affection that allows their companies—and their children—to thrive.