Written by Verden Salvador
Ron Naples is currently the Chief Operating Officer for Mangalitsa by Mosefund. He has decades of experience in managing restaurants, conference centers, and catering operations. This spring semester, Ron will teach the Restaurant Operations course, as part of the Tisch Center’s Professional Diploma in Restaurant Entrepreneurship (applications due January 4).
Q1. What is your professional background?
I started working for Viacom in 1982 which at the time was building a conference center. I was the Facilities and Conferences Manager and I oversaw the final construction and opening of the center. This was before there was even a large meeting and events industry, and before universities were offering degrees in meetings and events. After Viacom, I worked at several different organizations where I managed the conference center and all of the catering operations, like at the Millennium Conference Center in New York and the World Bank in Washington, D.C. From 2005 to 2007, I was the Customer Service and Administrative Consultant for Naples Franchising Systems, so I was responsible for the business planning and development strategy for the restaurant franchises that my brother owned. There, I also developed training and operations procedures for the company’s employees and planned the company’s annual meeting and other marketing events. I currently work for Mangalista by Mosefund, where I manage a private swine farming operations in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Iowa and Missouri. My background is mostly in corporate meetings, events, and conferences, and food and beverage.
Q2. What brought you to the Tisch Center?
In 1990, a good friend of mine was teaching a program at NYU and asked if I wanted to join. By then I was teaching at Cornell’s Professional Development Program so I had the teaching experience and I really enjoyed it. I was excited to respond to the call. I started teaching at the Tisch Center about the meetings and conference industry.
What I really like about the program is that you see immediate results. People coming through the program may already have degrees, or they may be looking for a change of career or following a dream, so it helps them visualize where they want to go and help them achieve their goals. The NYU brand carries a lot of weight around the world so I’m happy to be a part of the program.
Q3. Could you tell us more about the diploma program?
Well the program itself is broken into four parts. First, students will learn about concept development. Second, they will learn about financing. Then, they come to my class where they learn about operations. After, they will learn about sales and marketing. Each part is integral to the program to get a well-rounded view of restaurant entrepreneurship.
Q4. Could you tell us a little more about your class specifically and what students can expect?
In my class, Restaurant Operations, students will get good first-hand from an owner’s perspective. Students will learn a lot of small things that are actually very important, like working with the board of health or sanitation concerns. They’ll also learn about menu planning, food cost, purchasing, staffing, licensing – all of the administrative things that make a restaurant work. My goal is for students to understand that all of the parts must work together and that you need to keep your mind on the outcome. When they leave the program I want them to think critically about the future, not just the day-to-day operation.
Q5. What is one piece of advice that you would give to students as they get their start in the hospitality industry?
I would tell students to be persistent. Go in smart. Take initiative. Hospitality is one of those businesses where you have to keep going at it, you have to do it consistently and eventually it will give way. So many people currently in the industry enter as a server or a dishwasher and then rise through the ranks, but nowadays, students want formal training. There is nothing extraordinary about the physical things that you get from a hotel but hotels try to do everything in an extraordinary way. Burger joints serve the same exact things and have been doing so for years, but there are so many different chains. That’s because they each claim to be different in some way. Today’s student has to be persistent with the goal of doing things differently and better than it has already been done.