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Baum: How did you go about that?

Anthony: I worked two months in the kitchen before I made a change to the menu. There's always a percentage of your customers who will embrace change and a percentage that won't. Customers were not happy when I took a signature item—fillet of beef—off the menu. I got emails from many customers saying, 'How can you take my menu item off?' For those people, we still grilled the fillet of beef for them, but we also pressed ahead with new dishes and now customers have become connected to those dishes.

Quagliata: Danny was aware of what would happen when we changed the menu at Union Square Cafe. We didn't change the menu for months after I arrived. But we introduced new items as specials, and many eventually caught on.

Baum: What have you learned from Danny about managing a restaurant?

Garutti: Danny told me once that no matter what decisions I make, it won't change Union Square Cafe. It was his way of giving me a sense of ownership and the freedom to run the restaurant without fear.

Anthony: At each restaurant in the company there is a relationship between the chef and the general manager. It's a marriage that connects the kitchen to the front of the house.

Meyer: If you look at each of our restaurants, you'll find an executive chef who is also a celebrity chef. But they understand they’re responsible for making smart business decisions, which involves putting our employees first and our customers second. My biggest job it to assemble great people and let them do what they do best.

Anderer: An important factor in the company is that we are all very competitive, and not just with other restaurants but within the organization. It's a healthy competition.

Meyer: Sibling rivalry is good if you use it in a constructive way. Some years back we created a barista Olympics where baristas from each of our restaurants compete against each other making coffee drinks. It created a competition among our people, but it also united us as a company. And the best part of it all is that all of our restaurants now serve better coffee because of the competition.

Restaurant Hospitality editor Mike Sanson reported live from the South Beach Wine & Food Festival in Miami Beach, Fla., Feb. 20-23. The event, now in its 13th year,attracted more than 60,000 attendees, 150 celebrated chefs and 250 wineries and spirits producers. A component of the festival is trade panels designed specifically for restaurant operators. Sanson's reports from South Beach focus on those talks and interviews with top chefs attending the event.