Mario Batali on Management

Mario Batali sat down with Christopher Kimball of America’s Test Kitchen to talk restaurants, home cooking, and life.  Lots of interesting takeaways throughout.

One thing really caught me.  Kimball asked the chef how he juggled television shows, family, and 20 restaurants.  Batali focused on the eateries and said he hadn’t opened so many restaurants because he was trying to dominate the field.  He had a different reason and it was a good one.

He said that each time he develops a restaurant, he goes through a process of finding really good people and training them.  He teaches them to care about the details the same way he would. The problem is that they become too big for their jobs.  Too big to be an assistant.  Too big to be a second banana in the house.

And so . . . he opens a new place.  The alternative is to see one of his competitors scoop up talent he has grown and then to see them working against him.  Batali’s rationale for growth was the best I’ve ever heard.

When you train up strong people, you have to find appropriate opportunities for them so that they can flourish.

In baseball, we now hear talk about a player’s “wins above replacement.”  In other words, how many more games do you win with this player than with the average performer?  If you have somebody who can significantly outperform the average because of intelligence, experience, attitude, or any other reason, it makes a lot of sense to keep them.

Growing to match the capabilities of your people is one of the best cases for expansion I’ve ever heard.