Bill Dominy’s favorite aspect of his job is developing the people who work for him, and as general manager of the Rusty Bucket Restaurant and Tavern in Sarasota, Fla., he has plenty of opportunity to do that.
“Helping out the associates, watching them grow, has been one of the things I’m more proud of,” said Dominy, who grew up in Huron, Ohio, and started working for Rusty Bucket in Dublin, Ohio, 10 years ago. “Like getting Stu, my old dining room manager, promoted to GM [at an Ohio location] with his hard work — that was awesome. Getting my new dining room manager, Cesar, developed — when I started here he was a busser — that’s what I really, really like about managing restaurants.”
As with many people working in foodservice, he had different plans when he studied finance in college, graduating in 2010.
“Both of my brothers studied finance, and I was like, ‘They both love it. It should be something I could do, too,’” he said. But when he moved to Columbus, Ohio, for a finance job, “I didn’t care for it at all.”
Through a friend he got hired at a restaurant.
“I realized that this is an atmosphere that I really like and can be myself in, but still work hard at and develop my skills,” he said.
He joined the Dublin location of Rusty Bucket in 2013 as a server. He went on to be a bartender and then worked his way up through the management ranks.
“Every challenge he had in front of him he took with great responsibility and has been a tremendous asset to our company,” said Bill Everett, Dominy’s supervisor and a regional director for the 22-unit chain.
Not that this particular general manager needs much supervising, which is a good thing because most Rusty Bucket locations are in Ohio and Dominy is several states away.
“He’s really flourished,” Everett said, adding that the Sarasota restaurant has great sales even though it doesn’t have the marketing and other support that the Ohio units have.
“It really takes a person with a strong sense of ownership to run the restaurant,” he said. “He ensures that our culture and philosophies are alive.”
Also, “people really enjoy working for Bill,” Everett said.
Dominy saw the Sarasota restaurant through the pandemic-related restrictions, including enforcement of the company’s mask requirements, which were considerably stricter than those in the city as a whole.
“We had some [customers] who were really upset, or yelling at the host. You don’t ever want to see a guest yelling at the host, especially since they’re usually 16-, 17-year-old girls. I definitely try to jump on that,” Dominy said.
“But it was definitely a lot easier to operate down here, without the restrictions and trying to calculate, are we 75% full? Are we 66% full?”
When guests aren’t yelling at hosts — not that that happens much — Dominy likes interacting with them.
“The relationships that you’re able to build with the people who come through the doors, or the vendors, are things that I really enjoy,” he said.
His approach to developing his employees’ talent is straightforward.
“You just spend time with them, coach them, teach them how to be better at their job,” he said. “And when people see that you’re putting the time in to help them, they’ll usually return the favor and put in the effort to learn how to take care of their guests better, learn the cocktails and all the beers and stuff like that. It’s really just spending time with them.”
He acknowledges that not everyone wants to advance in their careers.
“If you’re perfectly happy serving tables, then I’m happy for you to,” he said. “I don’t want to get you somewhere where you’re not comfortable.”
And when there’s a problem with an employee, he faces it head-on.
“You sit down with them once you realize there’s an issue, and you say, ‘Hey, we’ve got this going on. We need to get this corrected. Here’s what we need you to change and here’s the timeline,’” he said. “For the most part they’ll react to it, but if not then you have to deal with it.”
Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected]