A Work Week With Josh and Sarissa Schwartz, Co-Founders of SJS Group
Pangea, BANG BANG, Employees Only and LuLu's Lounge - unless you have been living under a rock you will have heard of these uber popular hot spots. Now, meet the brains behind them.
Sarissa: The first thing I do when I wake up is check my emails. I know this isn’t the best habit, but I enjoy starting the day knowing what I have in store and if there are any major issues that need addressing before I do anything else! Once I’ve cleared my emails, I spend a few minutes practicing morning meditation – I believe it’s important to get things rolling in a positive emotional and mental state, especially when starting the working week. I then brew myself a hot cup of coffee, and flip through a copy of the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.
Josh: Mondays are set aside for discussing matters pertaining two of our most established concepts based in the Pan Pacific Singapore: BANG BANG, our high-energy nightclub; and LuLu’s Lounge, an eccentric and outlandishly-themed bar and lounge set in 1960s New York. The meetings last all day with the two teams, as we discuss everything – from events, marketing, operations and human resources, which typically take about six hours in total. In the evening, we head home and unwind by cooking dinner together, we also prepare some healthy snacks to get us through the week.
Sarissa: We both enjoy being active and try to fit in as much exercise as we can, I wake up early and start my day with an hour-long morning swim – it’s the best time to go as no one’s at the pool this early. Whilst Josh takes our dog or a walk.
Josh: Today we focus on Pasta Bar, a vibrant, intimate dining concept we recently opened in February on Keong Saik Road that dedicates itself to the celebration of pasta, seasonal produce and all things Italian. We recommend trying the Tagliatelle with Braised Beef Ragu and Parmigian when you’re here, it’s a favourite with all the regulars! As it is a fairly new project, we focus on scheduling and training with our staff, we go through the week’s food tastings, and we’re also working on a great Deliveroo menu so stay tuned! For myself, I also always make sure to sit down with the chefs to go through customer feedback to ensure our guests receive the best, quality experience. Consistency is key for us, in all our concepts - we’re always looking at the different ways we maintain the highest level of hospitality as we grow. Business is booming, so we might even open seven days a week if things continue to go well!
Sarissa: After our meeting with Pasta Bar, we head down to Papi’s Tacos – a Mexican eatery we opened in 2018 that serves authentic and rustic Mexican food, for a meeting with the team to discuss our monthly pop-ups, cross promotions as well as menu development – we’re currently introducing new brunch items, increasing our salad options and tweaking the ones we already have.
Josh: We both feel that it’s very important to lead a healthy, balanced lifestyle and so we start the wind down by working out – Sarissa heads for her aqua fitness class while I visit the gym, and we return home to cook a healthy dinner and make various phone calls back to the USA to catch up with friends and family.
Sarissa: After reading the news and having a cup of coffee together, we head down to Employees Only, our very well known bar and restaurant, that’s also known for their phenomenal cocktails.
Josh: In our weekly team meeting, we plan events such as Negroni Week, Cocktail Week, Halloween, New Year’s Eve and Christmas promotions – ensuring that all our ideas are exciting for guests of Employees Only. We also put a lot of thought into planning our overseas guest shifts with those visiting us. On top of this, we coordinate repairs and go over any issues that have arisen in the past week.
Sarissa: Then we have our weekly phone call with our Hong Kong Employees Only outlet for the weekly update. Through this call, we also plan trips, deal structures and site visits. We believe that it’s important to always keep innovating because it’s so easy to be left behind in this ever- changing industry, so we really hone in on new concepts and conceptualise the how and why – how we can execute it and what value it can add to the market. In the evening, we take our dog for a sunset walk together. It’s a simple way to destress and really spend some quality time together before visiting at least two of our venues to ensure that everything’s on track and that everyone is happy.
Josh: With all our team meetings for the Singapore outlets done and dusted, today we meet up with our accounting team. Together we evaluate all our costs and discuss numbers, where to cut costs, and where to invest more money.
Sarissa: After our financial meeting, we then focus on our team and meet with the relevant managers to evaluate our staff’s KPIs, look into who is going above and beyond in their work, and evaluate development plans. At SJS Group, we place a high emphasis on giving back to the community, so we work on various charity initiatives – whether it be the SJS mentorship programme, soup kitchen visits with the team, working with the charities in which we give a percentage of our sales of, or putting up items for charity auctions. We ensure our staff are able to give back to the community and have monthly a monthly pro bono opportunity on offer to all of our team.
Josh: In the evening, we make it a point to visit at least one of our venues before the day is over! The best way to end the day is leaving our guests enjoying themselves before heading home.
Josh: On the last day of the work week, we focus our energy on business development. We spend a good portion of the day working on new projects, both home and overseas. Sarissa and I put our heads together to discuss future SJS concepts – working on the most innovative ideas to add to our business in both Singapore and Hong Kong. We also explore ideas for potential partnerships with each of our venues.
Sarissa: Although we never have ‘that Friday feeling’ as our lives eat, live and breathe our venues, we do enjoy winding down for the weekend after a visit to at least two of our locations.