A Work Week With Peter Zwiener – President and Co-Founder Of Wolfgang’s Steakhouse
What does it take to run a multi-national famed steakhouse? We find out from Peter Zwiener, Co-founder of Wolfgang’s Steakhouse.
When you have 19 restaurants to your name, you know you must be doing something pretty good, and that's exactly the case with father and son steakhouse legend, Wolfgang's Steakhouse. Owned by Wolfgang and Peter Zwiener, the famed venue has outlets in New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Korea and Japan. Famed for their dry aged meat and impeccable service, with such a multitude of dining options opening daily on a global scale, what makes them such a roaring success? Well, we find out by following Peter in a week of his work life.
Having spent the past week here in Singapore, I am starting my day early, at 6:00am, by reading the emails or messages that came in overnight. I have a conference call with our Wolfgang's Steakhouse Japan operations team at 9:00am, so I attempt a short workout at the hotel gym beforehand – it’s important to squeeze in exercise when I can! After the call, I head to the restaurant to meet with the executive chef and review procedures and the prepping for our lunch service.
Every morning, we receive our deliveries, and since our restaurants are focused heavily on quality and freshness, we make sure every product passes our stringent quality controls and standards, otherwise we deny delivery and return product. During lunch, I observe the service and quality of food being served and take some time to meet our guests. As the lunch service slows down somewhat, I dine at the restaurant with my local partner and observe service as a customer, sampling various food and beverage items from the menu. Between lunch and dinner service, I decide to walk along the Singapore river and around the bay.
Although it is quite warm, I enjoy walking around every city I visit to familiarize myself better with the area, as well as get some additional exercise and make my much needed phone calls. After I return to the restaurant, I review the Happy Hour and Dinner Service and again greet guests – it’s still one of my favourite parts of the job, and I love hearing customer feedback on their meal.
Yesterday was my last full day in Singapore – it is now time to jet off to the next location. I wake up early to board my flight to Tokyo; Wolfgang’s Steakhouse is rapidly expanding throughout Asia, therefore I have been spending a lot of time in this part of the world, using Tokyo as my hub; I recently purchased a condo in Roppongi. We currently have four restaurants in Japan (2 in Tokyo, Osaka and Fukuoka), with a fifth (third in Tokyo) to open by summer 2019. This is my primary reason for making a short visit to Tokyo this time, to discuss plans of the new upcoming location, from design, construction issues and budget. I arrive in Haneda early evening and meet my partners in their office followed by a late dinner at Wolfgang's Steakhouse Roppongi, where I meet with our country operations manager, general manager and regional executive chef to discuss quality, consistency and service policies.
I wake up at 5am to join a conference call with my colleagues in the US. Since I have been spending a lot of my time in Asia recently, it is important that I maintain regular contact with the States - we currently have 9 locations in the US with one more being built out (a sixth one in NY) to be completed by August 2018. During the call, we find ourselves reminiscing over the past 14 years, and afterwards, my business partner sends me some old photos, including this one of us with Lenny Kravitz and Denzel Washington, taken in 2006 in our Park Avenue location.
After the call, I head to Haneda Airport to catch a morning flight to Manila. We currently have two locations in Manila - Resorts World Newport City and Ortigas at the Podium, which recently opened earlier this year, and currently building out a third location in Bonafacio Global City which should open by September 2018.
I arrive In Manila late afternoon, and after checking into the hotel, I have a late lunch at our Resorts World location with our GM, executive chef and 2 local partners. We discuss performance, quality, consistency and service procedures and issues as well as marketing plans and outreach as it pertains to our restaurants. Traffic is quite heavy throughout Manila, so I must leave shortly thereafter to attend a dinner meeting we are hosting at our location in Ortigas for 14 executives in the banking sector. I truly enjoy attending these dinners to meet our local clientele and to discuss our concept and brand. After dinner, I head back to the hotel to attend a conference call (conducted in three different time zones) with our team in Cyprus and New York to discuss the design and buildout of our first restaurant that will open in the European Union later this year in Limassol, Cyprus. The design is just about complete, we just needed to sort out some engineering issues in our layout plans.
After waking up early again, I am able to have an abbreviated workout at the hotel gym and a light breakfast before starting my day. I am scheduled to return to the Podium in Ortigas by 12noon for a TV filming - about our concept, what makes our brand different from other steakhouses and our aggressive global growth plans - that will be aired on a local variety lifestyle show. Prior to arriving at Ortigas though, we stop at our future Bonafacio Global City location on the corner of 3rd Ave and High Street for a site visit and to discuss additional storage space for our restaurant. It is imperative that each of our locations have enough storage space because we dry age each of our USDA Prime sub-primal cuts of beef for an average of 28 days, on premise, at each of our locations.
After the filming at Ortigas and a tasting lunch with key members of the staff, I head back to Resorts World location again for another corporate marketing dinner with other sectors, this time airlines and travel magazines. After dinner, I have group meeting with the entire staff to give my comments on the overall service, quality of food and consistency. Since it is my last night in Manila for this visit, I thank my local partners and staff for a job well done.
There’s no time for the gym or breakfast today, because I am heading straight to Beijing. I am looking forward to returning because I have not been there in three months.
I arrive in the afternoon, check into the hotel and have a late lunch at the steakhouse. I receive a full briefing from the GM and Executive Chef on quality of product, preparation and service as well as consistency - all very positive. After lunch, I take a quick break to return to hotel to follow up on some emails. We recently signed a new JV to open a location in Jakarta by the end of this year, so I must comment on designs. After the final meal is served for that evening, feeling somewhat exhausted, I decide to get a Traditional Chinese Massage at my favourite Spa in Beijing, very close to my hotel.