Kenekting with our Experts: 5 Questions with Chris Barrows

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We're proud of our team and their diverse backgrounds and experiences.  It's what makes us great.  In our "Kenekting with our Experts" series, we're excited to shine light on our talented leaders to share their story and their insights.

Next up is Chris Barrows! Chris has a unique ability to listen to what is said and what isn't to provide clarity and a helpful perspective. He's a foodie, avid reader, Boston sports fan and we are lucky to have him on our team!  

Q:  What was your first job in hospitality?

Chris:  Host/Front Desk. Was supposed to be “just a job” to help me save some cash for grad school. My biggest ambition was to maybe move up to bar back. Little did I know I'd fall in love with the people I worked with and the entire industry as a whole. The connections I made and exposure it gave me to so much great food- who would want to do anything else?

 

Q:  What’s a cause that’s important to you?

Chris:  Supporting local restaurants. The industry has been so resilient and creative to stay afloat over the past year. These people are fighting to sustain their life's work and their dreams. I have so much respect for their grit. I cannot imagine having your dream taken away through no fault of your own.

 

Q:  If you could meet 1 leader for coffee, who would it be and why?

Chris:  Bob Iger, David Chang, Simon Sinek, Eric Ripert. I know I'm cheating, but I have so much respect for their process and values. I would love to pick their brains more about how they've evolved throughout their journey.  Can’t forget about Gregg Popovich.  I would love to pick his brain on wine and the best places to eat in each city.

Q:  What leadership book have you enjoyed recently? What was your biggest takeaway?

Chris:  "The Ride of a Lifetime" by Robert Iger. His story is so empowering in that his journey was led by his values and work ethic. He's just a great guy who trusted his process and worked to the top. He isn't superhuman. So many "leaders" in the public spotlight are put on such pedestals that it's hard to remember that they are people.

Q:  If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Chris:  France. I've watched the Anthony Bourdain episode with Daniel Boluud in Lyon about 2,341 times and it makes me so romantic about food. To have a week or two to eat myself around France would be a dream.

 

Read more about Chris Barrows

 

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Kenekting with our Experts: 5 Questions with Brendan LeBlanc

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We're proud of our team and their diverse backgrounds and experiences.  It's what makes us great.  In our "Kenekting with our Experts" series, we're excited to shine light on our talented leaders to share their story and their insights.

Next up is Brendan LeBlanc!  Brendan is a tenacious leader and avid sports fan.  He is the true embodiment of a "growth mindset".  When Brendan speaks up, his team and peers alike listen attentively.

 

Q:  What was your first job in the hospitality industry?

Brendan:  Wait Assistant(Busser)

 

Q:  What's one trend have you noticed in the hospitality industry that excites you? Where do you see it going in 2021?

Brendan:  The industry is really coming together to support each other. I see the industry sky rocketing up once the okay has been given, and hospitality really rebounding like no other industry has seen.

 

Q:  What is one skill or hobby you've picked up since March?

Brendan:  I have focused on cooking at home.  Everything from baking to creating my own sauces for dishes. I enjoy it quite a bit and look forward to learning more about it and being even more creative with it.

 

Q:  If you could meet 1 leader for coffee, who would it be and why?

Brendan:  Bill Belichick, of course I’m a fan, but more for his insight on motivating players, coaching a team, and the role of general manager. Bill has also grown a lot of coaches around him throughout the years, and I see parallels with what I have done so far in my career with the leaders I’ve developed. 

 

Q:  If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Brendan:  South Korea.  I lived in Korea when I was 7-8 years old, and I would love to explore it again as an adult. Digging into the history and enjoying the food would be top of my to-do list!

 

Read more about Brendan LeBlanc

 

Kenekting with our Experts: 5 Questions with Melissa Davis

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We're proud of our team and their diverse backgrounds and experiences.  It's what makes us great.  In our "Kenekting with our Experts" series, we're excited to shine light on our talented leaders to share their story and their insights.

Next up is Melissa Davis!  Melissa is a sales guru who exudes optimism.  She is always there to support causes she believes in and loves a good trip!

Q:  What "virtue" do you possess that you believe has had the biggest impact on your growth and development? Why?

Melissa:  The virtue that has had the biggest impact on my growth and development is definitely optimism. Personally and professionally, there have been some extremely difficult times where the choices were to quit or change my mindset and get it done no matter what. It's a lot easier to face a challenge with a positive outlook than to look for all the negatives and drown yourself in fear. Optimism is very contagious and will often spread to those around you as well. It's incredible how much more you can accomplish when you have an optimistic perspective in life.

 

Q:  What is one skill or hobby you've picked up since March?

Melissa:  A hobby I've picked up is walking dogs/dog sitting. I love meeting new pups and with everything shut down, I took it as an opportunity to grow a small dog walking business through Wag and Rover. I've been able to hang out with fun (and sometimes VERY hyper) dogs, get daily exercise and meet some really cool pawrents!

 

Q:  If you could meet 1 leader for coffee, who would it be and why?

Melissa:  Since the start of 2020, I've been listening to a lot of podcasts about personal development. One that has really stuck out recently and I can't get enough of, is Evolve with Emily. She is a leader in the fitness industry, but continuously looks to evolve herself every single day. One of her mantras is having gratitude every single day, even for the smallest things. It would be great to meet Emily Hayden, I've been using a lot of her practices she discusses in podcasts. One of her recent episodes discusses "failure is a personal decision", this has really resonated with me. I truly believe everything is "figureoutable" no matter what.

 

Q:  What’s a cause that’s important to you?

Melissa:  I'm involved in many causes and am always willing to lend a helping hand to those in need. It's something that's been important to me my whole life. I can remember being very young and *attempting* to draw pictures of the Tall Ships when they came to Boston on year. I sold them in my neighborhood for $1 each and donated the money to a local organization in my town. I was about 5 or 6 years old...the drawings were NOT good but feeling like I made a difference with the few dollars I raised in my small neighborhood stuck with me. In terms of the causes that I'm most passionate about, I would definitely have to say anything that supports veterans, cures for diseases, recovery programs and animal rescues. I recently traveled out of the country and helped to rescue puppies on the island that were in awful living conditions. A few days after the rescue, I helped to transport two of them to their new loving furever families in the US. Seeing the joy in their new families eyes and knowing the puppies are safe is such a rewarding experience!

 

Q:  If you could have any super power, what would it be? Why?

Melissa:  Flying, definitely flying. I've gone skydiving twice, nothing beats that feeling of freedom. It sounds crazy, but it's one of the most exciting yet calming things you can do. There's just something about touching the clouds and the breeze that high up that's so peaceful. I would travel everywhere and have the best views while doing it!

 

Read more about Melissa Davis

 

Meet Kirt Strock

Building the Future of Experiential Dining & Managing Partner, Amp Up1 Hospitality Management Group

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Kirt was drawn to “Experiential Dining” and “Eatertainment” early in his hospitality career. He found the fusion of food, drinks, and fun to be far more fulfilling than just dining out. His first venture was with Splittsville in Disney Springs on their service team before eventually moving over to Kings Dining & Entertainment located in Orlando’s International Drive. Kirt’s then General Manager (and eventual Kings Vice President of Operations), Mr. Leo Neves, recognized the qualities and attributes of great leadership within Kirt so he proceeded to carefully plant seeds for a journey of growth.
 
Kirt never backs down from a challenge, so when asked to help in the sales and marketing office in Orlando, he jumped at the opportunity. Kirt had a natural ability to connect with guests, which when empowered to focus on large scale marketing projects allowed him to shine. A quality that many admired about Kirt was his internal drive and motivation to grow himself without the need for carrots and sticks. When a door opened for him, Kirt would bet on himself and seize the opportunity, which led him to diversifying his skill set and eventually moving to the operations side of the business. Armed with the knowledge of the sales and marketing arm of the business, Kirt was able to motivate the service team he was now leading to support the sales building efforts of the business.

Always keeping his foot in the door of the “Experiential Dining” world, Kirt upped his game by learning from and working for a company that focused on the digital side of marketing with a focus on online reputation management, search engine optimization and the complex world of social media. He eventually made the decision to double down on his passion for leadership and guest service by going “all in” on his career in hospitality when Kirt was offered a full time position as a “Sales & Marketing” manager at Kings. This full circle return to the sales team allowed his talents to shine after a diverse journey through the many roles he previously held. Empowered to listen carefully and respond creatively, Kirt was a major part of the many sales home runs the venue produced during his time in the department, including some of the largest full facility “buyouts” in the company’s history.
 
Kirt was challenged again by moving in a Senior Operations role before eventually moving to Miami, Florida to become the Director of Operations overseeing the company's venue in a brand new market. Kirt was mentored by Mr. Corey Simpson, who turned over the reigns to Kirt after preparing him for his new role as Mr. Simpson prepared his move to Nashville, Tennessee. In their time together, the pair produced some of the most impressive results seen by defying the odds and creating a culture of service excellence, sales building and people development.
 
You have to truly know Kirt to understand him. There are few people in any industry that possess the incredible dexterity of a seasoned salesperson as well as the undeniable skillset of a great leader. Kirt has a motivated drive to push himself to learn and grow himself and those around him to break through plateaus. His passion for guest service and his legendary action muscle has produced world-class results innumerable times and he is just getting started. Most impressively, Kirt is among one of the most coachable leaders in the industry which allows him to continue to be challenged and level up as his journey continues.
 
Kirt has joined the AMP Up1 Hospitality Team and is helping redefine “Eatertainment”. Kirt is supporting many projects, specializing in the Membership program, and is helping build the “Kenektions” platform for the Kenekt brand the company is launching. With his diverse knowledge of the inner workings of the operations of the industry, his passion for curating experiences, and his love for reducing friction, Kirt is a natural fit to assist in the growth of the brand's membership program.
 
There is no typecasting Mr. Strock as he’s proven to be a versatile player in the experiential dining world. Although his skill set is being applied to the marketing, innovation, sales, and social media arm of the brand, his journey is only starting and will certainly continue to evolve over time as the brand launches and grows.
 
Armed with “Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose”, Kirt joins a team of passionate hospitality professionals who he’s worked with, been mentored by, and supported for years and continues to prove that “it’s not who the person is today that’s important, but who they can be if you believe in them”. Kirt has exceeded expectations from the time he started with this team in 2015 as a Server to the company executive and Partner that he is today and will no doubt apply his intrinsic motivation and virtues to his journey as it continues to unfold.
 

Kenekting with our Experts: 5 Questions with Doug Warner

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We're proud of our team and their diverse backgrounds and experiences.  It's what makes us great.  In our "Kenekting with our Experts" series, we're excited to shine light on our talented leaders to share their story and their insights.

Next up is Doug Warner!  As co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer, Doug is a mentor to all at AMP Up1. His optimism, energy and leadership are an insipration to all who are lucky enough to work with Doug. 

Q:  What "virtue" do you possess that you believe has had the biggest impact on your growth and development? Why?

Doug:  I would have to say optimism.  I've always been prone to find a silver lining, to find meaning in failures or disappointments and to "keep on trucking" forward.  I've never seen much value in naysaying or lending negativity to the world.  There's plenty of that to go around.

 

Q:  What's one trend have you noticed in the hospitality industry that excites you? Where do you see it going in 2021?

Doug:  I've studied hospitality technology a lot this year and I think one of the most exciting trends is technology integration.  Where in the past, we saw a lot of silo'd technologies, now there are many more solutions that work with one another for a holistic and custom solution.  This will allow restaurant employees to do their jobs more efficiently, gain better insights and to innovate.  This, in turn, will have a big impact on the guest experience in terms of reduced friction but also elevated service.


Q:  If you could meet 1 leader for coffee, who would it be and why?

Doug:  Since innovation fascinates me and is central to my job, I'd have to say Jeff Bezos.  I feel I could learn quite a bit from a guy who turned a bookstore into the multi-faceted empire that Amazon is today.

 

Q:  What’s a cause that’s important to you?

Doug:  My mother was diagnosed and beat breast cancer when I was in the fourth grade, an experience that had a profound impact on my life.  My father passed away from cancer almost 7 years ago which has left a hole in my soul.  Cancer has impacted and stolen several other close friends and family members as it has with so many.  Developing treatments and, ultimately, a cure is something that I am very passionate about and will continue to support.

 

Q:  If you could have any super power, what would it be? Why?

Doug:  Does time travel count?  I'm fascinated by time travel so my superhero name would be "Flux Capacitor"

 

Read more about Doug Warner

 

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