Talking with Kismet owners Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson during my first week at FSR was, well, kismet. 

I had just moved from Los Angeles, where one of the most dynamic food scenes in the country is constantly sending us new menus and chefs to watch. So it was fitting that these Los Angeles restaurateurs would lead the pack in our 2018 Rising Stars.

The duo is making waves in the kitchen, but not just with their menu. Vogue featured Kramer and Hymanson in 2017 in an article about changing kitchen culture throughout the industry. I had the chance to ask them about this—about the tone they take with their staff and the language they use in the restaurant. It goes beyond the gender-neutral bathrooms, they told me. It’s about being welcoming, communicating openly and transparently, offering support, and providing the opportunity for employees to take ownership. 

There’s also never any yelling. Ever.

Through our conversation, I discovered that the Sara(h)s and I had a lot in common, aside from our mutual love of shakshuka. Their restaurant on Hollywood Boulevard is within walking distance to where I lived in Los Angeles. I left the East Coast shortly after they did to follow food-related dreams and felt like I found a community that reflected my values where I landed. 

I imagine we all have a little something in common with someone on the Rising Stars list, because these hardworking entrepreneurs, chefs, bartenders, and sommeliers are doing that one thing we all strive for: following a dream and absolutely killing it. Some of them started as bussers or came to the restaurant industry fresh out of school without a drop of experience and climbed quickly to dominate their field. Cheers to their achievements, and to our collective aspirations. Find your Rising Star role model here.

But we all know this business is built on more than talent. For many of you, I’m sure your business is as much about people as it is about the bottom line. Take it from Sam Ballas, cofounder and CEO of East Coast Wings + Grill. He says it’s all about the EBITDA, or (for those of us who don’t hang out on earnings calls or read the Wall Street Journal) it’s all about the Benjamins. If you follow the money, follow along with this Q&A to find out what Ballas is banking on as the chain prepares to sail past the 50-unit mark.

I can agree with Ballas that growth is important; it’s something I’m trying to do with FSR, to grow us into what the industry needs us to be. I’m still learning, so don’t hesitate to reach out and give me a heads up about what your business needs.

Expert Takes, Feature