Bethany Lucas always wanted to work in restaurants. Attracted at an early age to the energy of dining rooms, she studied hospitality management and communications at Florida State University and jumped right in.
Now she’s the general manager of the New York City location of Kyu, an Asian influenced barbecue restaurant that opened last April. She was also just promoted to director of operations for the company, overseeing both the New York and Miami locations (another Kyu in Mexico City is under different management), as well as the Las Vegas Kyu slated to open at the end of the year, with more to come.
Lucas loves her job.
“I like the unpredictability of it. I like that every day is different,” she said. “I love the interaction with people. … I love food and drinks and learning about that. It’s forever evolving and changing, and I love educating myself on those things.”
She said she also loves the challenge of it — managing people and their emotions, problem solving, and being ready for whatever comes her way.
“I’m not the kind of manager who sits in the office and waits for something to go wrong. I really like to be involved and present,” she said.
The Florida native grew up working in restaurants, and after a stint at Darden Restaurants in Atlanta after graduation from college, she moved to Miami to be maître d’ at the STK location there. It was with that restaurant group that she moved to New York, working there for two years before joining Nobu 57 for around three years, ending as floor manager, and then joining Zuma, a large, festive, mostly Japanese concept based in London. She moved to London with that group.
“That was really educational for me, and it was a great experience going to another country,” Lucas said. She ended up managing the 2nd floor lounge handling special events, DJs and other entertainers.
She went on to the Edition hotels, opening the Times Square property in New York City, where she was general manager of the Paradise Club, a nightclub with a cabaret show, and then went to Los Angeles to open the West Hollywood Edition, and was the GM of the Sunset nightclub there. It had just been named one of the top five nightclubs in Los Angeles when COVID arrived.
During that time she consulted with Invictus Hospitality until she arrived at Kyu, where, after standardizing some operations of the company, she was sent to New York to be general manager.
“She was a gift,” said Tom Favorule, who was hired as Kyu’s chief operating officer a couple of months after the New York Kyu opened.
He said Lucas has the soft skills that restaurant managers need, and that can’t necessarily be taught.
“Empathy is something you can’t teach people. Hospitality is something you can’t teach people,” he said. “People tend to get jaded in this industry, so trying to find people like that is hard. You can teach anybody to do admin work or deal with technology, but how to genuinely care about the guest who walks through the door is a difficult one.”
And Lucas does that. People she has worked with in the past have joined her at Kyu, including the other manager, who started as a hostess at Zuma. Lucas said an important reason for that is that she’s fair.
“One thing that my employees know about me is I’m never going to ask them to do something that they wouldn’t see me do,” she said. “I’m very hands-on. Unfortunately that’s something that a lot of managers don’t display. They’re a lot of times just the guy in the office who does the schedule and comes if there are problems.”
She also talks with her employees and knows what’s going on in their lives.
“The fact that I show them that respect and that care, they feel more loyal to me,” she said. “They also know that I’m not going to leave them stranded in the weeds. I’m not just going to stand by and watch them crash and burn.”
Lucas said she looks for consistency in her staff — not someone who has a great shift here and there, but multiple shifts.
“For example we have a gentleman, Pedro, who started as a server here and he’s now a floor manager and basically oversees our beverage program. Every day he came in the correct uniform, was educated on what was going on that shift, he worked hard every single shift. He never had a bad day, and if he did he communicated it,” she said.
As the new director of operations, Lucas plans to be with Kyu for the next few years.
“In a few years I hope that we have five or more restaurants and that they’re thriving and I’m traveling around, overseeing the operations and making sure that our brand is intact and the service is intact and guests are happy,” she said. “Having that responsibility for multiple restaurants is my goal. … Ultimately I want to have my own space someday, but I’ll be here for a while.”
Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected]