While Kiran Pinto originally started in the industry with the dream of becoming a chef, she quickly realized her passion and purpose didn’t align. Now, she’s been with Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises (LEYE) for 17 years and has established a career that has let her explore different areas within the food industry while also driving growth vehicles for the multiconcept operator.
“Kiran is one of the most well-balanced leaders within our organization. She is creative, disciplined and incredible with our guests,” says R.J. Melman, president of LEYE. “She started her career as a host at Tru and has worked her way up to becoming a partner.” Part of that development, Pinto says, is a result of being allowed to explore within LEYE. “It’s a family-run business, and I’ve always loved that about Lettuce. … You get to grow with them. You hit bumps in the road, but you have the unconditional support of your family behind you,” she says.
Part of that has been growing her own role. She’s moved from fine dining to limited services and now she is responsible for pioneering the company’s off-premise catering and private events businesses, as well as its ghost kitchen-style concepts and delivery-only partnerships. “I’ve been so lucky in that everything has been hospitality focused, so I’ve gotten to change over and over again,” she says. As the company has evolved, she has evolved with them, learning from different partners and mentors along the way. “I’ve realized that the skill set you gather from working with different employees with different passions makes me a better, stronger manager.”
Now, in her role as partner, she gets to provide that support. “She is not only passionate, but also very talented in developing the next generation of leaders within our organization,” says Melman. Pinto says she’s learned from example. For her, the best leaders are the ones who have made themselves available for issues both personal and professional. “It doesn’t end with a shift, a position or a punch in and out,” she says. Another piece of key leadership advice she’s received from the Melmans over the years: To be a good leader, you need to take care of yourself. And when it comes to managing her team, she asks them a daily question to put things in perspective: “What’s the goal here?” The goal, she says, is to make sure the guest leaves happy. That helps her team stay focused on a positive result.
“I’m at a point in my career where I get to do projects and also contribute to the company in a way I feel proud of. [Not all events or tasks] have to do with a specific operation, but I’m supporting people.”