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Ten exhausting hours with restaurateur Federico Castellucci III
A day in the life of the president of Casellucci Hospitality Group
Every eight weeks, Amazon delivers toilet paper to Federico Castellucci III’s house in Morningside. Castellucci figures half of his household supplies come from there. “If it’s a task that I don’t think is valuable, I try to automate it so that I don’t have to deal with it,” he says.
For Castellucci, automation is the solution to his chaotic work life. He’s the president of Castellucci Hospitality Group, the roots of which stretch back to the late 1990s, when his father opened several restaurants in Atlanta’s northern suburbs. The younger Castellucci, along with his sister, Stephanie, now operates the Iberian Pig in Decatur, Double Zero Napoletana in Sandy Springs, and Sugo in Johns Creek. This summer, the group will open a fourth restaurant, the Basque-themed Cooks & Soldiers, on the Westside.
So how does Castellucci keep up with four restaurants, 150 employees, and a six-days-a-week schedule? Pretty much the same way he handles his toilet paper.
By the time I arrive at Castellucci’s house, he’s run, lifted weights, stretched into a few yoga poses, eaten a bowl of cereal, and begun reviewing the previous day’s sales. We jump into his Tesla Model S and drive to the offices of design firm AI3, where Castellucci and his sister must address budget concerns for Cooks & Soldiers: The budget for the storefront was $50,000, but the designers are dreaming big, asking for seven times that. After the meeting, as we walk to the parking lot, Castellucci looks to his sister. “We’ve just got to be clear on expectations,” he says.
Afterward we head to Octane Coffee on the Westside. For Castellucci, working is not about how many hours he spends in any one restaurant. “It’s about how much you can accomplish,” he says. His dream is to handle all of the restaurants’ administrative functions remotely through phone apps or cloud-based technology. How strange this reality must seem to Castellucci’s father, who was always the first to arrive and the last to leave the restaurant.
To that end, Castellucci invests in startups like We&Co, a profile-based website that acts as an online job board for the restaurant industry. TJ Muehleman, the brains behind the site, stops by Octane to update Castellucci on an app that will simplify how tipped employees are paid. In a whirl, Castellucci prepares a company-wide survey, signs investment documents for another startup, and researches wireless temperature sensors for his refrigerators.
11:40 a.m.–1:40 p.m.
We drive to the Iberian Pig to taste dishes for Cooks & Soldiers, which will channel the Spanish coast and the region’s pintxos bars (Basque tapas). Chef de cuisine Landon Thompson passes around aerated beer cheese soup and grilled octopus. Castellucci keeps his remarks short, suggesting improvements in the way a seasoned waiter might sell a nightly special—confident but not forceful. “The octopus is tougher than it normally is,” he says. Castellucci looks back down. The MacBook, the iPhone, and the iPad never leave his sight.
We’re back in the car, and Castellucci stops at a Starbucks for another macchiato and to read—on his iPad, of course—What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, a book to help successful entrepreneurs become even more effective. This is how he relaxes. “I used to play golf, but to spend four hours or an entire day chasing a ball around—I can’t see it,” he says.
We arrive at Double Zero, where Castellucci greets the staff but soon is on call with an Austin, Texas–based startup working on an app for rating servers. As the first call ends, a second one begins with an accounting software company. Afterward, the staff gathers for a meeting to prepare for the large parties coming that night.
Once dinner service begins, Castellucci switches from a black T-shirt to a purple button-down. I’m exhausted and want to go home, but Castellucci is everywhere: He’s expediting in the kitchen and greeting customers. He’s meeting with a manager to discuss a problem employee and chatting with servers. He is as energetic and as bright-eyed as he was at 8:30 a.m. As for his gadgets, they’re nowhere in sight. Running on charisma and stamina, Castellucci has ditched the Wi-Fi and is engaging with people. And not too far away at another of the family’s restaurants, his father is doing just the same.
This article originally appeared in our April 2014 issue under the headline “Hard Drive.”