We are so proud to introduce you to this year’s Influential Women of Cincinnati. These women are using their unique talents and abilities to make our region a better place. Whether it’s starting nonprofits, creating new communities, or feeding and caring for the less fortunate, these women are making a difference.
Q. CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR CAREER?
A. I grew up in the restaurant business that my father started, and our family still runs. I started working at The Waterfront as a teenager and have worked in nearly every restaurant position in both front and back of house. After completing my degree from the University of Cincinnati, I attended the Midwest Culinary Institute, and then worked as a manager in our restaurants for several years. After that, I moved into various positions in our home office where I was further mentored and grew into my current role as CEO. My brothers and I are very proud to be a strong second-generation in this business. As a family-owned group, we cherish the opportunity to serve each of the communities where we have a presence and continue to deliver our culture of caring to our guests and work families alike.
Q. WHAT CHALLENGES HAVE YOU OVERCOME RECENTLY?
A. COVID-19 has obviously been an enormous challenge for not just us but the entire restaurant industry. When COVID hit, we went into immediate survival mode, first for our employees and business, and then the greater industry. Now, we’ve learned to live with our new normal, and we continue to operate very safely and efficiently while never losing focus on the guest experience. I’m on the board of directors for the Ohio Restaurant Association because I care so deeply for the industry. It has lost 1 million employees since the pandemic hit, and they aren’t coming back. Ohio lost 3,100 restaurants from the pandemic. It’s the goal of the ORA to make sure it’s not 3,200. With their help, operations like ours and many others are given the knowledge and resources they need to survive. We feel grateful that although we had to furlough 500 of our 620 employees in early 2020, we’ve been able to welcome them back and grow even further to 670 total team members.
Q. HOW ARE YOU GIVING BACK TO THE COMMUNITY?
A. In 2019, we were ramping up the Jeff Ruby Foundation and increasing our fundraising activity. All of that was brought to a screeching halt in March of 2020, but we’re excited about relaunching those initiatives in 2022.
My dad never knew his father. He ran away from home at 15 years old and raised himself. A high school football coach became a father figure and mentor to my dad, helping him get on track and earn a full-ride scholarship to Cornell University. From there, Dad went into the hotel and hospitality business and built his own restaurant. When we talked as a family about what was important to us, it was kids who didn’t have families, and our passion for the foster care system was realized.
We’re able to use our strengths as a restaurant group to connect people and grassroots nonprofit organizations. With our foundation, we can join their efforts and provide them with much needed re- sources, all while working toward the same goal of helping children in the foster care system. Our fundraising endeavors help children in the local foster care system, but it is our long-term goal to be able to work with organizations that will change the broad foster care land- scape for the better for generations.