For over twenty-five years, Suzanne Reinhard has immensely influenced the luxury event and hospitality industry. With celebrity and coast to coast clientele like Jeff Foxworthy, Steve Harvey and beyond, Suzanne has been recognized as one of Atlanta's Top Wedding Experts by Modern Luxury Weddings. Beginning her culinary and service career at Johnson and Wales University, Suzanne honed her passion and talent for serving others. As her culinary and hospitality background evolved, Suzanne became an integral leader in several award-winning restaurants in the Southeast. In 2008, Suzanne made the leap from restaurants to the event world and became the co-owner of Magnolia Events and Planning. After assisting in the growth of Magnolia Events into a premier planning company, Suzanne Reinhard Events was launched in 2014. Suzanne executes an average of four to six weddings annually, allowing her the margin to give each client the service, attention and planner relationship they deserve. When she's not bustling about her home city of Atlanta or exploring international venues, Suzanne sets the planning aside and enjoys spontaneous moments with her family.
Suzanne is married to Kris Reinhard, a partner in Bold Catering and Design and Fifth Group Restaurants, and they have three children. A graduate of Pennsylvania State University with a degree in hospitality, restaurant & institutional management, Kris Reinhard joined the Fifth Group team as a kitchen manager with the opening of South City Kitchen Midtown in 1993. With Reinhard’s promotion to general manager of Bold Catering & Design, he joined Steve Simon and Robby Kukler as a partner in Fifth Group Restaurants. In the years since, the trio has opened eight more restaurants in the Atlanta area: La Tavola Trattoria, The Original El Taco, South City Kitchen in Vinings, Buckhead and Avalon, Ecco, Lure and Alma Cocina. In 2018 and 2019, Fifth Group will continue its expansion with the opening of Ecco and Alma Cocina locations in Buckhead.
Shantel: Hi, Suzanne and Kris. Welcome to the podcast.
Shantel: We're so excited to have you both on, husband and wife team, confidants, not business partners, but work pretty closely together, and eager to her a little bit more about you guys and how you got started as entrepreneurs and business owners. I suppose, can you guys kick things off with telling the listeners a little bit more about yourselves?
Suzanne: Absolutely. I'll start real quick. I'm Suzanne. I've been married to Kris for 18 years. We just celebrated our anniversary.
| ROMANCE IN THE RESTAURANT INDUSTRY |
Suzanne: I am a luxury wedding planner here in the Atlanta area. I've had my own business for about five years now. Prior to my company, which is Suzanne Reinhard Events, I was partners in another wedding planning company called Magnolia Events that I started with a girlfriend of mine back in 2004. And really prior to the event business, I was in the restaurant industry for almost 20 years, which was a great building block and stepping stone to the event business that I have been in now for over 10 years.
Shantel: That was great.
Kris: And I'm Kris Reinhard. So I started working in the restaurant business when I was about 14 in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and I studied restaurant management at Penn State, and when I graduated from Penn State, I came down and took a job at a restaurant that was just opening called South City Kitchen in Midtown Atlanta. And I started as a prep cook, and about a year into it, I became one of the owners. And I grew with the company from there. It was a startup business, startup restaurant in Atlanta. And now, by the end of next year, we'll have 14 restaurants all in the Atlanta area as well as we have a very significant catering and design company called Bold Catering and Design. It's also in Atlanta, and we do about twelve hundred events a year, and we have been around since 1996.
Shantel: That's amazing. Congrats again on 18 years married.
Suzanne: Thank you.
Shantel: Yeah. Did you both meet in the restaurant business?
Suzanne: Of course.
Shantel: At one of the restaurants?
Suzanne: Yes. Anybody in the restaurant business will tell you that you basically can only date people within the industry because we keep such weird hours.
Suzanne: But we met back in Charleston, South Carolina. We worked at a common restaurant called Magnolias. And Chris would come home from Penn State and work in the restaurant, and I was a server there, and we were friends for, gosh, probably about four years before we started dating.
Shantel: That's great. And we didn't connect about this offline or before, but it seems like we all kind of come from similar backgrounds. I worked in the restaurant business all through college-
Shantel: -and started a wedding planning company. So there's some ties on both of those in Chicago. But unlike you, Suzanne, there were some bridezillas, and I took some not so great clients, and I couldn't spend my weekends with them anymore.
Suzanne: It has its moments. I'm lucky to, at a point, that I've got amazing clients. I'm very lucky, but yeah, we went through a few tougher ones in the early days for sure.
Kris: Yeah. And after Suzanne and I met in Charleston at Magnolias, I ended up moving to Atlanta to open up South City Kitchen, and she ended up then afterwards moving to Atlanta as well to work at South City Kitchen because the team that founded Magnolias in Charleston pulled up their roots and relocated in Atlanta to open up South City Kitchen. So we had known each other in college. Actually double dated with different people. I had my girlfriend from Penn state and dating her boyfriend in Charleston. That's really how we actually got to know each other at the beginning.
Kris: And as the company started growing and Suzanne worked at South City Kitchen for many years and then at a couple of our other restaurants, the Food Studio, she was the general manager for seven years and also at La Tavola for a couple years as well.
Suzanne: Yes. I'm a restaurant girl at heart. I love the restaurant industry. I think it's an amazing training ground for so many different businesses, actually. You can probably attest to that knowing that you started there in your early days as well.
Shantel: Oh, yeah, from a customer service standpoint and moving quickly. If you work in a fast-paced environment, I feel like you do learn so much just about staying positive and fire drills and just a ton of stuff. So absolutely. So you guys both moved here which I think is amazing. Are you still friends with the other couple-
Shantel: -the people that you double dated with?
Shantel: Okay. So now you both have businesses. Did you kind of launch these around the same time for you, Suzanne, Magnolia Events, and Kris, did you become that business owner around the same time?
Kris: Yes. I became a partner in-
Shantel: Or were there some staggering?
Kris: -a partner in about, I guess it was '95, right before we opened Bold Catering and Design, and so we kept growing the company from there. And Suzanne was really working for Fifth Group for many years, and then we got married and started expanding our family. We had twins, 14 years ago. So when Suzanne was on maternity leave, after she came back, she was looking for something that was a little bit more appropriate for, just a little bit more flexible to having twins, and then we actually had a third child just under two years after the twins were born. There was a quick building of the family in our house. Yeah.
| ENTREPRENEURSHIP FOUND ME |
Suzanne: Yeah. There was a lot going on there for a while. But the interesting thing for me as you talk about entrepreneurship and how people build their business. I have to say that entrepreneurship really found me. To be completely honest, when I left the restaurants, when I was pregnant with the twins, I thought I was going to be a stay at home mom, to be honest with you. At that point in my life, I thought that was the route I was going to take. It wasn't because Kris and I were independently wealthy, and I didn't need to work. That wasn't it at all. I thought I would just stay home and raise my kids. And what I found, which was surprising to me at the time, was when my girlfriend approached me about getting into wedding planning, my son was probably about two, I would looking for something. I had these children I'd been tending to, being in the restaurant business for so long, I loved the energy of the restaurant. I'm a relationship person. I like the relationships with my guests, and it kind of drew me back in, and as it kind of evolved, and I took it really slow in the early days with Magnolia, as far as the workload and what I was doing, I think I was very intentional about making sure that this was something that I wanted to jump into. And as it evolved, I really quickly found out that this was the direction that my life had been building to through the restaurants and what all the little baby steps I had taken in the first 20 years of my career was bringing me to a wedding planning business and a career that's now been quite successful and a huge part of our lives.
Shantel: I'm glad that you shared that. I think it's always really fascinating to hear if entrepreneurs were inspired by family members or other entrepreneurs or did they see an opportunity and just hopped on it, and kind of flew by the seat of their pants and trusted in that process? Kris, did you come from a background of business owners?
Kris: I was labeled as the only non-firstborn in my family, which is kind of interesting. It was really a bunch of engineers. So my father and my brother were engineers. My father was in the Air Force, and my mother was a political science major, and she worked in retail. So there's no restaurant or entrepreneurs in my immediate family. However, my grandfather did found a pretty significant heat processing business up in Cleveland, Ohio, which my father worked for. So there's a little bit of it, but it wasn't as quite as direct. I was on a course to go work for my grandfather while I was in high school. The plan was to have it be my grandfather, my dad, and my brother, and I running and expanding this business, but there were some pretty significant issues that happened in our family that, the best way to say it, was kind of split the family tree. And we had to kind of change course right as I was entering college, and my brother was coming out of college. So it was a pretty big disruption, so I felt like there was going to be a family business opportunity, but that really changed courses significantly, but it was certainly a blessing in that I could have gone into the situation where I would have been part of something that I didn't necessarily build and then sort of the younger brother and the son and the grandson in the company, which is probably not an ideal situation. I'm sure people can manage it, but that opportunity or that path was cut off pretty abruptly, and so we're kind of like, "Oh. What are we going to do now?" And it was like, "All right. You guys are on your own.” And I went back to the restaurant business, which I had worked in high school and changed my major at Penn State, and I got into the restaurant business and went from there.
Shantel: That's fascinating. I think it's always really interesting to look back and see-
Kris: For sure.
Shantel: -the small decisions or those small moments and how they shift and completely change the course of someone's life. And in the case of your kids, I mean now that you mentioned middle school, do you think that they are starting to think as an entrepreneur and be inspired to also start something? Or what are the kind of talks about what they want to be when they grow up?
| LEARN THE VALUE OF HARD WORK |
Suzanne: I think for the kids, I think, one of the ... It's a blessing and a curse that we give to our children is hard work. Kris and I and our lifestyle is pretty unique compared to probably most typical families. We're very much similar to entrepreneurs that we don't get Friday and Saturday nights off. We work a seven day work week. We have moments that we have down time, but so much of our work between I work at home with my job. He, obviously, has multiple locations with his business that he's in. But when we're together with the kids, sometimes we're working at home. Sometimes we're off site. But I think that with them, right now, is just learning the value of hard work and long days. It's not an eight-hour day. We don't, unfortunately, get to play tennis Saturdays or Golf on Saturdays. But we do find great joy in the work that we do.
Kris: And it's an interesting question because one of the things that I constantly question myself about is there's little things that I tried to teach my children, whether it be cooking or some kind of work ethic type scenarios at home, and it's kind of a constant challenge in trying to figure out the balance of okay, how much should they be kids and kind of have fun and do what they want? And how much should we be driving them to develop their work ethic at what age? It's really a hard thing that I constantly struggle with. It's funny, but maybe kind of sad. This weekend we were going out to ... My son had a cross country race in the morning, and then he had lacrosse in the afternoon, and we were kind of getting everyone up out of bed, and his sisters were going to be going with him. And we're on the way there, and we're talking about ... One of the things was I had to go to the cross country and then go to lacrosse and then get ready and go into work because we had about 14 events we were executing on Saturday night. And somehow the conversation led to me discussing work with them, and I kind of went on a little bit of a rampage. We were struggling getting them out of bed and on track, and I was trying to get them to embrace some of the ... We got to work, and these are things, just part of life, and trying to explain it to them, and it's very difficult. And I found myself telling them that weekends were for work, and they looked at me like I was crazy. They were like, "What are you talking about? That is the worst thing you could ever say to us. We were in school all week. We don't want to work right now." So yeah, we were trying to get them some tasks lined up. And so it's a challenge as a parent to try and figure out where you do draw the line with, okay, these kids have been in school all week, and you want them to have a good work ethic, and they meet with different groups and organizations after school whether it be sports or with tutors or whatever. And so they're busy. But at the same time, every down moment, we're used to working at such a pace a velocity, that although it's thrilling, it can also be detrimental. And it's something that we struggle with. And I'm like do I want this path and this aggressive approach, yeah, do I want them to be on this path of ... Because being an entrepreneur and being in a situation where we're responsible for ... We have a thousand employees at Fifth Group-
Suzanne: Lifestyle for our children.
Kris: -and I feel responsible for all their livelihoods. And it's a burden, but at the same time, it's a pleasure. But it's not for everyone. So trying to figure out who's going to have the personality and the desire to fill that type of role in their career, it's a tough question. And part of it is when is it instilled in them? And I struggle with it quite a bit. And I try to not make it turn my family upside down, and occasionally, it rears it's head when I struggle with what the right path is.
Shantel: I'm glad you were vulnerable enough to share. It's we're learning. And this is what we're doing. Absolutely. How do you guys, by being busy people, have you learned along the way of any tips or tricks to really optimize your day. Do you have any hacks for busy families?
| LIVING WITH NO BALANCE & LOVING IT |
Kris: -is a book that I was introduced to called Living with No Balance and Loving It. I don't know if you're familiar with this book. It's a book written by Cindy Novotny who is one of the top sales trainers in the world with works with a lot of Fortune 500 companies. And what it really describes to high-performance people don't always have a whole lot of balance, I believe. They don't live life like normal people and have this carved out time. They hustle a lot. When they're not sleeping, they're getting stuff done. And it's a lot about organization and making sure you schedule things and appropriately. But I would say that we truly don't have much of a balance, but it's really about keeping your schedule and staying busy and at a velocity that some people just don't want to have, and that's okay. But it's the life we've chosen, and you got to keep the hammer down and keep moving. And it starts very early in the morning and goes usually sometimes very late at night and on the weekends, but it's planning it out. It's just having a good game plan and making sure you put things in the calendar. I mean it's sad to say we wanted to have fun with our social time, whether it's with each other, with just me and Suzanne, or with friends of ours, we work several weeks out often. And sometimes several months out to be able to plan anything. But that's what you've got to do just put it in the calendar and come and go from there. That's right. That's right.
Shantel: Absolutely. I've talked to a lot of entrepreneurs on this show, and they're like, "If it's not in my calendar, it's just not going to happen."
Suzanne: Yeah, for sure. Planning ahead of time is so important to our family. For me, personally, because of the job that I have, I plan everything a year in advance. So I am great scheduling anything with the children, with friends, with Kris and I, but it just has to go one the calendar. I'm a terrible last minute person, and, for me, last minute is two, three weeks in advance. So scheduling is developing our family's best friend. It's kind of funny, Kris and I just received guardianship of our 16 year old niece. So she's kind of coming into our family wide eyed as she's learning kind of the ways of our family and whether it's the weekends and the scheduling. It's just interesting to see an outsider come in and she's taking it all in to see how she fits in and adjusts to our crazy lifestyle.
Shantel: That's amazing. I don't know if you guys can relate to this at all, but I find that I am like I over plan, I'm very schedule oriented in my own business, but then personally when Joseph, my fiancé, wants to go on a trip, I am so hands off in the planning piece. Maybe it's because ... I used to not be like that. But I think because I do so much every day in the business, I just cannot wait to be told where to go and when to be there. As planners yourselves, can you guys relate to that at all or does that kind of go all parts of your business?
Suzanne: For sure. Kris, you should tell her about our secret vacation that we take because of that exact reason.
Kris: You're talking about the engage? Oh, okay.
Suzanne: No, the Disney Cruises because we don't have to plan anything.
| TOTAL MENTAL SHUTDOWN |
Kris: Yeah, I have the solution. If you want a total mental shutdown, like it's amazing. I mean, if I wasn't doing what I am doing now, I could sell for Disney Cruise Lines, especially with having kids. I never wanted to go. I'm like, "I don't need to ever go in a cruise in my entire life. I never should. I have no interest." Until I realized what happens when you go on them, which is you go on them and you don't have to make any decisions. It's total mental freedom because you know exactly where you're going to eat.
Suzanne: Not a single one.
Kris: You don't have figure out where you're going to go out to eat, what route. You don't have to choose a restaurant. You don't have to wait in line. You don't have to ... It's amazing. There's a housekeeper that comes two or three times a day. You can get room service if you want. You can go ... All you have to do is decide do I want to go by the pool or do I want to go by and watch a movie in the Bueno Vista Theater. It's unbelievable. It's all about not having to make any decisions. You can shutdown for an entire week.
Suzanne: Yeah, because we do so much in our life. I'm a really good follower. When I get with a group or I get with some of my friends and maybe like you with your girlfriends and they're like, "Well, where should we go?" I'm like, "I will go anywhere. Just tell me where and where to go. What to wear and where to be, and I will be there." Yeah, we use a lot of brain power.
Kris: It's kind of like going to a restaurant and just sitting down and just saying, "Just bring me something I'm going to like." People do that in our restaurants all the time. We can do that. Or, "Bring me some wine that I'm going to like." I'm like, "We have a case of that. So no problem."
Suzanne: That's actually, if I jump in, that is probably your tip of the day for people who've never worked in fine dining restaurants is that if you go to a good restaurant and you have a really good server, just let them order for you. They know the best things. They'll bring you the best wines. If you don't feel like making any decisions and you realize that as long as you're not at the French Laundry in Oakville, California where the check might get seriously out of hand. I do it all the time. The people who work there, they know the best stuff to bring you, and you don't have to make a decision.
Shantel: That is a great tip. I have never done that. I'm open to it, and I will start doing that. But I love that you guys touched on cruises. My family, my parents and sister live in Florida. So it's like the cruise port of the world.
Shantel: So that is my dad's vacation of choice as well because I think he just wants to eat and lounge and he always uses the excuse, "I can unplug my phone. People can't reach me." I mean, I think he could be reached, but, yeah, no, we grew up going on a lot of cruises. It's very relaxing. As long as you don't get sea sick.
Shantel: So, I mean, I know you guys have both owned your businesses for a while now. But is there one ... Something that you didn't know when you first got started that was really challenging and tough, and looking back you're thankful you got over and you learned it, but one kind of defining moment or big challenge that sticks out to you guys?
Kris: Yeah, I can start with that, sure. I mean, I think that growing up in the restaurant business and growing up in working al the positions and understanding them was great. But being an entrepreneur, I mean, obviously some of the aspects of it, especially when I think about Bold Catering and Design and the growth that we've had where we open a catering company that was supposed to do work, built this place, and hopefully do a million or a million and a half dollars in sales. Now we're at a point we're doing $16 million a year and 1200 events a year. The hardest part for me was not understanding the sales process. It's like I know how to cook food, I know how to serve people, I knew how to do the basics of things, but the sales component of it, I had no exposure to it anywhere in my career until I started doing it myself. So I didn't work at a sales position. I wasn't trained. In college I didn't have any education on how the sales process works or any of that; or if I did, I certainly didn't grasp it to the level that is necessary to be successful in a business. So the sales process and understanding the sales process of ... And the business development aspect of actually selling, which is also a different ... Sales process is a very different in a restaurant than it is in catering and design. We need to go out and give a sales team that is actually finding the piece of business and finding the piece of inventory and then writing a proposal. Then closing on that proposal and booking the business. Then translating that information to the team to execute it. So we do a lot of wonderful, high-end corporate and social events at Bold. But the sales process was definitely a lacking skillset that took me a long time to get a good grasp of and have an understanding. I'm still learning. It's still one of those things that is a hard part because I always thought if you do a good job and you have a good product, you can just sell it. People will just buy it. Come and find you and buy it. To some extent, there can be some truth to that. But when you start getting ... When your business starts to grow, you really have to be an expert in all fields. That was certainly one that I was weak in and I spent years training and bringing on a consultant to help me with business growth and understanding each one of the components of the sales process so that I could have some level of mastery of it. Now we have 15 people on the sales team. They each sell about a million or more dollars each. It's just a lot that goes into it and I never would've ... I didn't expect it at the beginning, and it was a lot to learn. But we're in really good shape now and I have a great team of people that ... Director of sales and business development manager that help grow that. But you have to be able to manage them as well and understand what it is their specialty is. That was the hardest part of me, for sure.
| COURAGEOUS CONFLICT RESOLUTION |
Suzanne: I think Kris and I come ... Obviously we have two completely different businesses. I work at home. I have a small business. I do about four or five luxury weddings a year. These weddings are in excess of six to seven figure weddings. So they're big projects that I work on. But one thing that I've noticed from other people in my industry or people who have not had the opportunity to lead a full staff, to be in the position where I was a general manager of a restaurants. I think something at the time in my early parts of my career that was so hard and I didn't really understand ... One of the values at Fifth Group because I worked there is courageous, conflict, resolution. The first time as a business person or an entrepreneur, when you have to whether it's let somebody go or you need to give them a review, the very beginning that was so hard for me because I'm such a people pleaser by nature. But through experience and the more that we do it, the biggest lessons I've learned is people love feedback. One thing that Fifth Group has always done so well is they always did annual reviews of all their employees. People need to hear it, they love to hear it, and when it's time to let somebody go, I think being in communication with people leading up to the point, it's not letting them know ... What do they need to be working on, what are the challenges you're facing with that person. So by the time that you get to the end of the road where it's maybe time for you to separate and go your own ways, it's ... I don't want to say it's a positive thing, but it's something that everybody's kind of on the same page on and it doesn't have to be as dramatic as sometimes you may feel. New people in that position might feel it's going to be a big deal. So I think the first time I came up to those, they were hard. But it's only part of growth and it helps make your company and your businesses better by embracing them and learning to work with being just upfront, transparent with your staff. Yeah. Absolutely. I think it is certainly very challenging. Lots of personalities, which you both have a lot of experience in being in the restaurant space, but when they're your team and you have to motivate them or know how to lead that sales team or know how to fire, give constructive feedback, it's challenging because you don't want to hurt feelings or you don't know how they're going to interpret what you're trying to say and you have to make sure you do your best in leading with the right words. So I'm glad you both mentioned that.
Shantel: I think last question for me, and I'm just curious if you're open to sharing, you guys are busy. You guys get home at the end of the day or you are home but you've been working from home. Are there pieces that you outsource and you're like, "Okay. Yes. I will have a cleaner. I will have someone help cook," and maybe the cooking's not a good example because you guys come from that background. But are there pieces that you guys have just had to let go of, and that's okay because you've decided your time is better spent somewhere else?
Suzanne: Yeah. That is probably for sure the biggest thing that we did and it's probably the biggest bit of advice that I would give for working moms and working parents or as you're building your business to really take that into account. The one thing that Kris and I didn't realize is each child learns differently. We started with twin girls were our first children into the school and studying. Both of our girls did pretty good. They were pretty self motivated. They were able to keep up with their studies. Then we had our crazy little boy come along who is much happier outside playing than ever picking up a school book. So it did cause a good number of years of stress. When we outsourced the tutoring, it's definitely been a very big help, and it's allowed the family not to have crazy nine o'clock in the evening arguments over who's done homework and why hasn't it got done or we're just learning about a test that's happening tomorrow.
Shantel: Well, I appreciate you guys sharing that. I think it's great to be that self aware and just kind of come to terms with you can't do it all and be everything for everyone. I so appreciate you guys being vulnerable and honest and diving into what all of that looks like behind the scenes. Thanks so much for being on the show.
Suzanne: Oh, we loved it. Thank you so much for having us.