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“Iona made me who I am,” says Steve Buero ’88 (Mass Communication), president of 101 Concepts in Atlanta, a successful restaurant conglomerate. “When I was at Iona, the motto was ‘the proof is in the people,’ and that’s still true.”

It was at Iona that Steve Buero ’88, Frank Smith ’90 and Chris Segal ’88 met and started on their entrepreneurial journeys as restaurateurs. They became fast friends, then roommates, and eventually all worked as waiters at Juliano’s Restaurant on Main Street in New Rochelle.

After graduation, the three went their separate ways but all remained engaged in the restaurant/hospitality industry. Then in the 1990s, Steve, Frank and Chris reunited in Atlanta.

Steve had opened the Brooklyn Café, a warm, contemporary bistro-style restaurant in the Sandy Springs area of Atlanta. He recruited Chris and Frank to come work with him to ensure the success of his start up. To their delight, they found a population of New York transplants who were hungry for old favorites, such as the Brooklyn Famous Reuben sandwich, and the other reminders of Brooklyn that the café served.

Soon after that, the Gaels began looking for another project. They were each interested in wine, and so in 1997, they opened SOHO, a fusion wine bar. With a tempting menu and an impressive wine list, SOHO was a hit. Frank and his wife, Susan, now own and operate SOHO.

Relying on the dynamic combination of friendship and shared worked ethic, Chris and Steve went on to create 101 Concepts, which consists of Meehan’s Public House (five locations), Cibo e Beve, Food 101, Smoke Ring, 101 Steak, and their venture into the Florida market with Restaurant Paradis, in Rosemary Beach.

With a thriving restaurant business, there is never time to rest. All restaurateurs face challenges and Steve and Frank agree that competition is always one of the biggest threats. “There are so many options for people going out to dinner,” Frank said.

But the pleasures are there, too, and for Steve the joy comes from the people. “Seeing them relax,” Steve said, “and enjoying their time out … that’s instant gratification for us. You can see the result of all your work in their smiles.”

The three friends not only stay in touch with each other, they stay in touch with Iona and other alumni. In December 2017, they got a group together and met at Madison Square Garden for the Iona vs. St. John’s game. “It all comes back to Iona,” Steve said.

Don’t ask your employees to do something you wouldn’t do yourself.

Immerse yourself in your craft, but don’t take yourself too seriously.

Celebrate the small victories.

In 2017, annual sales in the food industry were $799 billion and 14.7 million people were employed in the restaurant industry.
National Restaurant Association

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