Want to know where to find barbecue, booze and killer guest service? Yeah, we all do. For those who are lucky enough to be visiting or live close to Sunset Strip, you can have it all. Just follow the trail of celebrity to Saddle Ranch, a Los Angeles hot spot operated by vivacious general manager Candy Potts. The Hollywood restaurant’s concept, appropriately condensed into a three-word pitch on the Saddle Ranch Web site, is characterized as “Ranch Meets Western.” Once you’ve arrived you’ll have a chance to hop on the same famous bull featured in shows such as “Desperate Housewives,” “Six Feet Under,” Sex and the City” and of course, VH1’s reality show “Saddle Ranch” about the restaurant itself. Arrived you have. Welcome to Hollywood.
Potts, who is also featured in the restaurant’s reality show, tells us what makes her successful as a general manager and why we should all stop by Saddle Ranch for an evening of royal treatment.
Describe Saddle Ranch to us, the way you would explain it to a complete stranger.
CP: Steaks, Bull and Rock & Roll. The show focused on how we motivate our staff to accomplish this core philosophy consistently while they pursue their dreams in Hollywood – not always an easy task!
When did you become the GM of Saddle Ranch? And what did you bring to the table to help Saddle Ranch stand out above the rest.
CP: I have been with Saddle Ranch for 1 and ½ years. What I have personally done to help make the restaurant and bar successful is diligently followed our Founder’s Formula which has been successful for decades at Saddle Ranch. My ability to respect other’s philosophies and translate them into practical day-to-day use is what sets me apart as a GM.
What did you do for a living before Saddle Ranch?
CP: I have been GM or Owner of Bars/Restaurants and Catering Services companies for the past 12 years. My most recent position prior to Saddle Ranch was GM of Chaya Brasserie in Beverly Hills, a fine dining French-Asian fusion iconic local restaurant.
How has Saddle Ranch changed since your show has been on the air?
CP: We have hundreds of fans each week coming in for pictures, autographs or just to say hi. Personally, since the show has aired it has been surreal to have so many people come in just to meet me or take a picture or actually quote me (to have my words repeated back to me has been amazing).
What’s the secret to creating such a successful restaurant/bar?
CP: Blow your guest’s minds. Don’t just give your guest’s a good time – give them the best time they have ever had. Good is the enemy of great. Also, treat your staff the way you want them to treat your guests.
What are you constantly trying to improve on?
CP: Time management. I never feel like there are enough hours in the day.
Tell us about a big challenge you encountered while managing Saddle Ranch. How did you overcome that situation?
CP: The biggest challenge I have faced at Saddle Ranch was starting with a very weak Management Team. A leader is truly only as strong as their weakest follower. I have overcome this challenge with the support of our Company Founder and our corporate leaders, creating a comprehensive Manager Training Program and working one-on one with each Manager to get them comfortable with our Brand and my style before they start directly managing staff or interacting with guests.
As a woman, what are some challenges you feel are more difficult to overcome vs. a man?
CP: Very simply, it is a daily challenge for staff, guests, vendors (you name it) to truly accept a woman as a leader and accept her decisions as final. I find when a man in charge gives an instruction there is very rarely push-back of any sort, but when women in charge do the same, it is often second-guessed and becomes a discussion. This habit is embedded in our psyches and creates an unfortunate up-hill battle for women. The up-side is that discussion and even complaints about directives can lead to long term solutions for valid issues that may otherwise be swept aside.
What makes your restaurant/bar different from any others out there?
CP: The Bull. The incredible food and the mind-blowing guest service. We consistently exceed our guest’s expectations while most restaurants (at all price points) only meet their expectations.
Thinking back to when your first started, what was it that led you to believe Saddle Ranch would be a success?
CP: It had been a success for over a decade! I began smack dab in the middle of the recession so there were some challenges in keeping the successful run going. We accomplished this by getting back to our Founder’s core philosophy of treating guests like royalty. With the proven formula and tools the company provides its leaders, I knew we could keep our edge over the competition by re-focusing on the basics that made Saddle Ranch the top Restaurant and Bar on the Sunset Strip.
How would you describe yourself as a boss and what do you look for in potential employees?
CP: Strong and empathic. Nothing in life works without inner strength and sincere empathy at its root. I ask very unusual questions of my interviewees to try to get to who they really are but find that usually, if they smile easily and demonstrate patience during the inevitable interruptions that come up while I am meeting with them, that they turn out to be strong and empathic types.
What are some things you now know but wish you knew when you first started managing Saddle Ranch?
CP: Our Founder is right about pretty much everything. Though there are many counter-intuitive policies and seemingly arbitrary procedures at Saddle Ranch, they all turn out to have very calculated and smart business reasons behind them.
What have you learned the most since managing Saddle Ranch?
CP: How to deal with a large staff and a lot of volume on a daily basis. It is never quiet or calm at Saddle Ranch. I always employ an ownership mentality in my positions and expect the same from every single employee.
Tell us your thoughts about being part of the show “Saddle Ranch.”
CP: Being on the show was an amazing experience. Having grown up in Beverly Hills and having a rock singer Mom, I was pretty comfortable with all the cameras. But it was still really neat seeing myself on TV! As a company, we remain business as usual. You don’t become this successful in Hollywood without keeping Hollywood in perspective.
Describe the similarities from your job managing the bar to having your own restaurant/bar?
CP: At this level there is a total life commitment required, so the similarities are significant. The main difference would be adopting another person’s philosophies and still being able to whole-heartedly translate them into day-to-day operations as if second-nature.
What type of person does it take to run a bar like this?
CP: Strict and flexible. Tough and kind. You have to be a balanced person, not a limited or limiting person.
What’s in the works for Saddle Ranch?
CP: More of the same…Kick-ass food, lots of fun and mind blowing guest service. Steaks, Bull and Rock & Roll!
What do you LOVE the most about managing Saddle Ranch?
CP: Everything. Everyday is different. There are always new challenge and new guests to turn into regulars. I genuinely like my staff and am treated with respect by the founder and our corporate leaders. Overall, this is the most professionally satisfying position I have ever held.
Do you feel like at this point you could open up a bar of your own and run it successfully, and why?
CP: I feel I could open and successfully run a restaurant/bar myself because I have many, many years experience, utter commitment to my work and possess a gift for making people feel great even when I am telling them no. This ability to deliver a “positive no” and the desire to say yes as much as possible have proven invaluable to me in every aspect of my professional life.
What’s your best advice for current or future women entrepreneurs?
CP: Stay strong and empathic. Even when they call you a bitch or a mother hen.
Written and Edited by: Mary Ronau