1.2.3. From Diners to Friends: The Power of Making Genuine Connections In Your Restaurant

Connection is (or should be) a major pillar of a good restaurant.

I’ve spent the last 7 years of my career with my face in a cutting board, dough machine, pizza oven,  or glued to a screen or book, trying to learn how to bake bread like Chad Robertson, understand the process like Peter Rhineheart, and listen to every Smart Pizza Marketing episode I could ingest. Connection is something that had fallen off my radar long ago.

At my last restaurant, I didn’t spend much time front of house. My team was very important to me, and that’s where I put most of my social energy.

Since opening Hot Tongue, I’ve been forced to be FOH. Being in front of the people who support this dream, getting to meet the individuals that come from all over the city and globe to dine in and take out. I’ve been missing out on what a lot of people might think is an obvious part of running a restaurant. I’ve given so much of myself to the food and the team that I had completely forgotten about the importance of connecting with the people eating the food and enjoying the restaurant.

In the last year, I have made more friends than I have in the last 20.  From Travis and Brandi, 2 of our favorites who shared a birthday with us. To Rick and Rachel, who bought my son Christmas presents and stop by every time they are out here from Malibu. Francisco, a barber, who now cuts my hair, and Bryce, who has brought half of USC to our shop.

Getting to know all of these people has been a great pleasure for me personally, and a huge reminder that this experience isn’t all about hydration, equipment, cleaning charts, employee handbooks, design, and Instagram. It’s also about connecting with people and sharing a slice of time. Your food can be the best in town, but it’s nothing without an authentic experience every time someone walks through your doors. Food is what gets them there but service and real connection are what keep people coming back.

“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” – Brené Brown

I feel incredibly grateful for everyone who walks through our doors and I hope that everyone can come in as a guest and leave as a friend. That’s not bullshit, it’s just the truth.


Randy Newman is a legend.


Love, crust and pizza dust,

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