Restaurant365 Solutions Engineer Rich Sweeney is no stranger to restaurants. Growing up with a family in the industry, hospitality runs through his veins. From working his way up the restaurant ladder, to owning his own business, and competing on Top Chef, Rich has lifetimes of hospitality experience. While it may have taken a global pandemic to spark his pivot to technology, Rich found his sweet spot by marrying his passion for food with a newfound interest in software solutions.
We sat down with Rich to learn about the series of events that led him from working the line to competing against the best of the best on national television, and how his career evolved along the way. Read ahead to hear about what ignited his love for technology and how it shaped his belief that automation can transform lives inside and outside of the kitchen.
SaaS-y in SoCal
What’s your favorite food?
Just about anything pasta.
What’s your favorite restaurant?
My favorite restaurant has to be Animae in San Diego, California. Chef Tara Monsod brings together such amazing flavors to the table with her short rib kare kare 🤤
How long have you been with Restaurant365?
Sixteen months now. I joined the team in December of 2021.
Rich with Experience
Tell us about your history in restaurants.
I grew up working at my mom and stepdad’s bagel shop on Long Island – nothing like spending your summers getting up at 4 a.m. while all your friends are going to the beach, right? My dad was also the general manager of a restaurant, so I grew up surrounded by foodservice and hospitality, which meant that I was wholeheartedly against ever getting into the industry long-term.
Moving into adulthood, I relocated to New York City to study theater in hopes of becoming an actor and started waiting tables in the interim. From there, I became a bartender and was approached about stepping into management but wasn’t interested. However, after little success turning my theater experience into a flourishing career, I leaned more into restaurant work and ended up moving to San Diego. My original intention was to only spend the cold season in California and return to the east coast the following summer, but – no surprise – I’ve been in San Diego for over 15 years now.
When I first moved to San Diego, I was tending bar and managing a breakfast spot part time. The day that my mindset about my career path changed, two of my cooks got into an argument and stormed out in the middle of their shift. Guess who ended up being the line cook for the day? Unbeknownst to me at the time, that shift ignited a spark in me that compelled me to get more into food. A few months later, I enrolled in culinary school and fell in love with food. After culinary school, I leaned into food fully and ended up at a trendy hotspot in downtown San Diego where I worked my way up from line cook to executive sous chef.
At that point, I got myself a spot on season five of Top Chef, which spring boarded me up to executive chef of the restaurant where I was working. From there, I opened my own restaurant, R Gang Eatery, in 2010 and sold it in 2015. I went on to work for big names like North Italia (Fox Restaurant Concepts) and Tocaya Organica, all the while climbing to the title of director of culinary development. Soon after, the pandemic hit and it was time for me to figure out my next step. In the middle of the pandemic, as restaurants began to reopen, I went back to working in the kitchen but started to feel as though I was ready for a career change. That’s when I found Restaurant365.
How did your career path lead you to Restaurant365?
My husband is a software engineer, so I learned a lot about technology and coding from him. Through him, I’ve seen how software can be used to streamline and automate everyday, mundane tasks. He helped spark my interest in technology and, when I started yearning for a career change in 2021, I wanted to follow that inclination.
I discovered Restaurant365 through a good friend of mine who works here and started looking through job postings. Since I’d spent my life working in hospitality and was interested in a career in technology, it felt like a natural step to work here. Everyone I spoke to before applying had excellent things about the company and I was lucky enough to find a spot that felt right for me. I started the company as an account executive on the SMB team and transitioned over to become a solutions engineer the following year.
Changes Lives with Technology
How does your daily work impact our business and the industry?
I spend most of my days meeting with owners, operators, bookkeepers, and everything in between — from single-unit operations to large-scale groups. Through these meetings I learn about their current processes in detail to understand what’s working and what isn’t. As that happens, we discuss roadblocks and I help them discover what’s preventing their back-office from thriving. Then, I get to show them R365’s robust suite of solutions while we discuss tools that will both improve their business operations and help maximize their growth potential.
Coming from the industry and working at many restaurants through each stage in my career, I’ve seen first-hand the difficulties that restaurants experience with their back-of-house operations. I immediately saw the value in Restaurant365’s products and love to spend my days showing the benefits of our solutions to people who are standing in the same spot I once was.
What do you like most about working for Restaurant365?
I love working with such an incredible group of people from all walks of life. Many of us have restaurant backgrounds and we have the opportunity to lean on our previous experiences to help us succeed in this industry. I’m able to apply my learnings from all the restaurants I worked in towards helping our customers get the most out of R365’s tools. Not only do our products have very unique, valuable features that I enjoy showing off to customers, but they are also tools that I genuinely wish I had when I owned my restaurant. The best feeling is when I’m speaking with someone who has an in-the-moment epiphany about how much easier their life could be with our products. So many operators struggle with work-life balance and it’s exciting to show people how much time they can be saving each day.
Aside from our products, I love that Restaurant365 genuinely cares about us. It can be difficult finding a workplace that cares about its employees as much as its customers and I feel grateful to be a valued member of the community here.
What impact can restaurant technology have on the operation of a successful restaurant?
I used to always joke that restaurants were the last great stand against technology. It wasn’t too long ago that chefs would keep their most coveted recipes as cryptic hieroglyphics, believing that a computer would steal your soul if you trusted it. Now, people are realizing that you don’t have to work as hard doing everything manually. Many operators see that systems can help your business run more efficiently and more profitably, making their own lives easier in the process. The modern perspective on technology in restaurants is helping industry workers get where they want to be – whether that’s opening a business of their own or identifying their blind spots to discover where money is being left on the table.
What advice do you have for current restaurant industry workers looking to grow their careers?
My old chef from culinary school had a saying that I’ve since modified to make my own:
Each day you walk into the restaurant you should be learning, teaching, or trying something new. The day you stop doing that is the day you should hang up your apron and move on.
While that can read many ways, don’t think of moving on as a negative. Think of ‘moving on’ as a next step. Whether that means changing restaurants, changing your perspective, or even changing your career to find your passion. Hospitality workers are some of the most passionate people there are, so use that passion to make yourself and those around you better each day – inside or outside a restaurant.