Literally steps from the world-famous Venice Beach is The Venice Ale House. Open just three years, this thriving little spot is a haven for people who want fresh food, local craft beers and of course, a picturesque beach atmosphere!
The owners, Tom Elliott and Spoon Singh, opened The Venice Ale House because they wanted a place where they could eat good, clean, organic food and enjoy themselves while on the boardwalk. Obviously it’s working, because when I was there, the place was packed! Since opening the Venice Ale House, they have also opened “The Bank of Venice” and their newest restaurant, coming August 2013, “Fork In The Road.”
So what do these places have to do with Table Talk? Well friends, meet the multi-talented and engaging, Megan Davis.
Megan and I met through our Women in the Local Food Scene group. A nutritionist and former private chef, Megan is the General Manager of not one, but all three fabulous restaurants! I had the pleasure of sitting down with her at the Venice Ale House last month to chat about what it takes to run three great restaurants in a famous beach community!
Megan, tell me what makes the Venice Ale House, The Bank of Venice and Fork In The Road, so unique?
“We use only sustainable, organic, fresh ingredients. We strive to entertain and educate our customers about the importance of using local resources. We only work with local craft brewers. We also partner with local farms and growers so we have the freshest organic food. If you start with quality ingredients, you’ll always get great food! Nothing is fried at any of the restaurants. We don’t serve any kind of sodas, only tea, coffee and fresh juices, along with the beer and wine, of course! Nearly 80% of our customers are locals. Every dish is made to order! We’re very focused on seasonable and fresh, high quality ingredients, with no compromise on flavor. We work hard to keep prices down and to serve only the best.”
As GM, Megan runs the restaurants day-to-day operations, including payroll, P&L, hiring, scheduling, ordering and keeping track of her teams! Megan’s Bar managers order all the beer, wine and spirits, while the Chefs take care of food orders. Megan oversees those, then takes care of dry goods and paper products. During my time at Starbucks, I only managed one store. Megan juggles three different restaurants, with three different chefs, three menus, three different staffs and very different clientele for each location. She also runs their social media outlets, yet still makes time for Pilates on the beach in the mornings. I don’t know how she does it!
One thing that really stood out during my visit with Megan, was how much her staff loves her! It’s obvious. The secret to that?
“Open, honest communication and accessibility. It’s important everyone works well together. The staff here is like family. They are all very close. They have each others back. It’s a matter of giving everyone an opportunity to shine! When the servers are busy during the peak hours of summer, they can walk upwards of 8 to 11 miles during a six-hour shift (Megan says they bought pedometers to check!). Supporting them is important. It’s all about having the best people and being able to juggle different levels at different times. Knowing how to talk to people, knowing the best way to bring out the best and most creative in each of your employees. Whether it’s letting one of more artistic servers create flyers or gift certificates, to utilizing the line chefs to come up with specials for the following weeks. People are important and they make a difference!”
How did you get started in the food industry?
“I think I was born with the tray in my hand. My first job was at a Greek diner when I was 18. The place was really busy and the owners didn’t want to give me a chance. I said I would work one shift for free just to prove myself. After that night, I was working five days a week, full-time! It was a big Greek family who owned that restaurant. They all took Greek Orthodox Easter off, just a few months after I started there. They left me in charge and I’d only been there for two months. That’s how I knew I belonged in the food world.”
What’s the biggest challenge you face, managing three restaurants?
It’s a lot of multi-tasking, but I’ve always thrown myself into everything I do and I love this!”
And if you love the beach and great food, you should check out The Venice Ale House! Seriously, THIS is the view from the patio!
By the way, not only is Megan an awesome GM, she is an incredible cook! She made a vegan chocolate cheesecake back in February that was simply divine. (Ohhh Megan, will you share that recipe please?) She also makes a meatloaf that’s full of fresh veggies. It’s even on the menu at The Bank of Venice! If you go there, ask for Megan’s Meatloaf. You won’t be sorry!
I really enjoyed my visit with Megan. She’s a talented business woman, passionate food person and just a lot of fun to know. I really appreciated her taking time out of her crazy schedule for a chat. So if you’re ever in Venice Beach, California and you are looking for great, local, organic food, check out any of her restaurants!