"All growth depends upon activity. There is no development physically or intellectually without effort, and effort means work." - Calvin Coolidge
Josh Rossmeisl was born in Holyoke Massachusetts to two hard-working educators. Never one to coast, Josh entered the restaurant world at the age of 15 as a dishwasher at Boston Market. It didn’t take long for Josh to show his signature work ethic, curiosity, and drive as he advanced quickly towards leadership, becoming a front of house server, cashier, “carver” before becoming a manager and senior manager by age 17. He never looked back.
Josh (18) ventured into leadership at another quick-serve giant where he uncovered some of the foundational lessons that would inform his long-term approach. First, given the challenges of putting together a cohesive team in a team in a high turnover environment, he found he was able to develop anyone with the minimum requirements that they "showed up on time and were coachable". Second, he discovered that talent was all around him, that it came in all shapes and sizes and not always necessarily from the most apparent places. Here, he unearthed his gift for recognizing glimmers of talent and embellishing them to the benefit of the individual and the team. This rare sixth sense has allowed Josh to discover and incubate incredible talent throughout his career.
At the age of 20, Josh moved on to work at Uno’s Restaurants where the pressure as a manager was ramped up and, with that, Josh learned when he implemented effective processes, it would bring order to chaos and would be a primary driver of sustained results. Growing up in a household with six kids, gaining clarity amongst madness was second nature. He also began to recognize that, when coupled with great systems, the work ethic and integrity of the team were the secret sauce to making a store run effectively. Josh set out to prove that no one could outwork him and, with his work focused in a positive direction, the team mirrored him and the results for his entire team would be elevated.
Josh’s next move was joining Vinny Testas, a scratch, upscale, high volume Italian concept, where he took on the role of General Manager and Managing Partner. With an endless pile of responsibilities on his plate, it was here that Josh evolved into a more well-rounded leader, learning to balance creating systems, consistent communication, creative marketing, earning guest loyalty, and more. Perhaps most importantly, Josh gained clarity on the importance of managing from the topline for sustainability. Counter to the way many in the industry think to this day, he knew that focusing only on the bottom line is short-sighted as it robs the guest and erodes the experience.
"There exist limitless opportunities in every industry. Where there is an open mind, there will always be a frontier." - Charles F. Kettering
In 2006, Josh took a leap of faith into the emerging “eatertainment” industry, joining Kings Dining & Entertainment as the concept in Boston’s Back Bay was getting its foothold. With an industry still in its infancy, there was no roadmap for successfully merging the concepts of gaming, multiple bars, restaurant, and nightclub into a cohesive, seamless guest experience. It was a delicate and complex symphony and, to do it well, it required a master conductor. In Josh, Kings had found a true virtuoso. Josh began applying the playbook he had developed from his prior experiences - building systems, focusing on the discovery and development of talent, obsessing over the guest, and setting the standard for hard work and integrity that he expected from his team. Before long, the concept reached a tipping point and it was clear that, under Josh’s expert direction, Kings was primed not only for success but for growth.
In 2009, the concept opened its second location, this time in the Boston suburb of Dedham, MA at Legacy Place. This was a turning point in Josh’s career as he went from single unit GM to multi-unit operator and, with the transition, took on a new set of challenges. Moving the concept from a city location to a thriving suburb, Josh showed his remarkable adaptability and an otherworldly bias for action as he quickly observed new trends, fluidly adjusted systems, and steered the team to immediate success. One major component of that success was Josh’s inherent understanding of the importance of integration with and contribution to the community. He developed a roadmap and led the way in committing to grassroots outreach and the genuine relationship building that showed the business’ commitment to the town and earned the respect and support of its residents. Josh’s efforts, strategy, and leadership made the Dedham location an unmitigated victory that allowed for further expansion of the concept.
In 2012, Kings began more rapid growth inside and outside of Josh’s home state of Massachusetts. As the operation went national, Josh didn’t skip a beat and was afforded the opportunity to truly unleash his immense and diverse talents with a promotion to Senior Vice President of Operations. With an intimate knowledge of the operation and incredible vision, there was no part of the organization that Josh didn’t impact for the better. Applying discipline, curiosity, creativity, experience, and passion, Josh was the visionary and driving force behind every major component of growth including hiring, training, venue design, vendor relationships, marketing, sales, menu development and so much more.
While most leaders faced with the extreme challenges of back-to-back-to-back (x10) store openings and seemingly endless travel might get lost in the details, Josh’s exceptional internal compass has always kept his focus on his most important asset, his people. He knew that the only way to grow successfully was to put “aces in their places” and establish an unbreakable culture of passionate individuals all rowing in the same direction. Josh has never been impressed by a lengthy resume, a gaudy title, or a fancy degree. Rather, he judges individuals by their character and their actions. He kept the company focused and steady by recognizing talent across the organization and giving good people the opportunity to succeed and grow. His signature mix of genuine empathy, radical candor, and strategic vision produced emerging leaders across the company, sometimes from the most unlikely places. His servant-leadership philosophy and his willingness to roll up his sleeves to remove roadblocks for his team earned the trust and respect of the entire organization.
"Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other." - John F. Kennedy
As the company reached new heights and he took on the role of Chief Operating Officer, Josh continued to find ways to improve himself and, as he unlocked new efficiencies, he enthusiastically shared his discoveries with his team. To combat the rigors of incredible pressure and regular travel, Josh placed a renewed organizational focus on fitness, nutrition, and sleep. In an industry where mistreating one’s mind and body is too often an odd badge of honor, Josh fought the tide and encouraged his team to stay sharp and in fighting shape for the betterment of themselves and the business.
One of the highest impact initiatives of Josh’s career came as he put a heavy focus on personal development and growth through education. A voracious reader, researcher, and student of trends, Josh infuses the importance of learning and education into the culture that he creates. This, in turn, has unlocked tremendous creativity and unveiled success paths that would have remained dormant and undiscovered without his passionate pursuit of personal growth.
All told, at Kings Josh led the successful opening of 11 locations across 5 states. The underlying stats are off-the-charts. Over the course of 15 years, he never closed a location, achieved industry-leading profitability, amassed a 97% approval rating, and drove a 4.5-star employee rating on Glassdoor. In 2019, he was named one of the most influential restaurant executives by Nation’s Restaurant News
Beyond the numbers, what cannot be understated are Josh’s adaptability, grit, and selflessness. He’s able to see around corners and anticipate the needs of his team. He takes it upon himself to constantly improve and re-shape himself into the leader his team needs. Shifting seemingly effortlessly from peacetime to wartime, stirring the pot to avoid complacency, keeping the team on its toes, and putting them in positions to succeed. The discipline, strategic stubbornness, and amount of self-education needed to stay ahead of the curve do not go unnoticed or unappreciated by his team.
As a complete industry titan, Josh’s most impressive accomplishment, and certainly the one of which he’s most proud, is the impact he has had on the thousands of team members who have thrived under his leadership. Whether it's on a signature walk and talk or quick inspirational chat, without exception Josh prioritizes truly connecting with his team. From humble beginnings, he takes the time to understand “what makes people tick and what ticks them off” and makes it a point to learn something from every single individual in the organization. This is one of his most special gifts. If you’re the person he is connecting with, you will be the only thing in his universe that matters to him in that moment. He holds up a mirror of empowerment for team members to recognize their talents and subtly pushes people away from comfort to allow for growth. Doing so has opened doors to successful hospitality careers for countless individuals working for him and driven a rare and unique culture that feels more like family than work. In doing so, he has created a disproportionate and immense legacy for a leader his age and has amassed a “coaching tree” the size of California’s great redwoods.
"True leadership is when people follow you when they have a choice not to" - Jim Collins
Most recently, Josh made his biggest move to date, founding AMP Up1 Hospitality Group
with extreme clarity and a drive to incubate groundbreaking ideas and redefine the experiential dining industry. In recognition of his people-first approach, the “AMP” stands for autonomy, mastery, and purpose - the keys to intrinsic motivation first championed by respected thought leader, Daniel Pink. The “seeds” he’s planted on his journey, have manifested with over a dozen incredible leaders
who have joined him with a united vision and a belief that, under his leadership, anything is possible. In the first order of business for the emerging company, Josh partnered with his team to create the company's North Star - the Mission, Purpose, and Values
which serve to guide the team’s direction and decisions. With the impending launch of AMP Up1's "Eatertainment 2.0" brand Ke'nekt
, Josh and the team he leads are prepared to once again redefine their industry and employ thousands of more individuals who will be positively impacted by the culture he cultivates.
Truly special leaders are exceedingly rare in any industry. Ultimately, the mysterious and perfect alchemy of talent, drive, empathy, energy, and other factors are more art than science, but when you see it you know. Josh Rossmeisl is a standout among truly special leaders. He has already accomplished so much and made a profound impact on the careers and lives of so many. And the most exciting part? His journey has only just begun...