Acquiring a lovely restaurant in Santa Barbara is a natural move for Stacy Wycoff. She grew up in the restaurant industry working with her grandfather, her great uncle, and her great aunt, who owned and operated restaurants in San Francisco.
Now she’s making her big move!
Plan Writers (PW): What is your name and job title? Where are you from?
Stacy Wycoff (SW): Stacy Wycoff, Owner and admin of Wycoff Family Care Homes, an adult residential facility for the developmentally handicapped and the elderly. I am also a private consultant for other organizations. When I was going to school for my Bachelor's and Master's, I hung around people who had the same goal as me. And we accomplished it together.
PW: Tell me about [Milk & Honey]. What makes you unique?
SW: Milk & Honey is a cocktail and tapas restaurant located in one of the biggest tourist areas in Santa Barbara. The restaurant is small and unique, especially in the way it’s decorated. It’s not too overboard, and all-around perfect for a tapas restaurant. The vibe is a little more upscale but still casual. The food and the cocktails are delicious. The service is especially nice and that’s something that makes us stand out. Tapas is becoming more popular here in the United States, people love just going. They also have custom drinks, such as drinks with different names and decorated so pretty. Tapas that you’re sharing, invite more conversation, etc.
PW: What motivated you to get started in the Restaurant industry?
SW: I was kind of born into the industry. My grandfather and grandmother were great cooks and my father opened up a BBQ restaurant in San Francisco. My great aunty and uncle both owned burger joints. I was also bouncing around their establishments, learning vicariously and through work experience. My first experience within the industry was learning the ins and outs of restaurant management in my early teen years. I think that the best way to learn something; is to do the thing.
My grandmother went off into health care so I was always between the restaurant and healthcare industries. Although, I love business and I think that’s where my talent lies. I was always intrigued by how everything was organized as well as the operations of a business altogether.
PW: What do you like most about it?
SW: I like the food and drink. And I love the fact that people always have a smile on their face. That’s something I want to be a part of.
PW: Is there an exciting moment that really stands out for you?
SW: Oh my gosh, I’ve had so many exciting moments in the restaurant industry! The moments that are most exciting for me are the moments when I made an impact in someone’s life, when I was able to make something better, not just for the restaurant but for everyone involved.
PW: What’s something you struggle with, as an entrepreneur/business owner?
SW: You know, managing employees is probably the most difficult thing for anyone who owns and operates a business. It’s difficult. Employees are complex. People are complex. So, any time you’re dealing with people, you’re dealing with complexity. You can’t just treat everyone the same, because everyone is different. If you want to get the most out of an employee, you have to learn about what works for you and that employee. You’ve got to balance the relationship.
I see this a lot when training managers. It’s interesting because we promote people to be managers, only because they’ve been working in the company for a long time. But I don’t think this is the way it should be done. You should only promote people who have the people skills to manage people. When I go in to do my consulting, that is the issue most of the time. It’s almost always a management issue. A company could have a great product, but that just isn’t enough.
PW: What would you say your mission is?
SW: I think it would be to leave a lasting impression on a customer. I want them to remember that moment they had in the restaurant, whether it’s the food, the drinks, or a nice conversation. I want to make people happy and to create an enjoyable experience.
PW: What advice would you give first-time entrepreneurs?
SW: Some advice I would give to a person venturing into the restaurant industry is don’t listen to everyone. People are, by nature, geared toward the negative. Whatever your passion is, whether it’s owning a restaurant, a business, or being an astronaut, if that’s your passion, you’ve got to put everything you’ve got into it. My grandfather would say: “Don’t listen to your turtles. You have to be a giraffe.” Giraffes have long necks and can reach all the way up to their dreams. If you stop and listen to the turtles, you end up bringing your head all the way down to the turtles, and they start planting seeds of doubt. Don’t listen to them. Go after your passion and that’s where you’ll find your success.
Also, keep it simple. Simplicity is very key. When you try to rush things in the restaurant industry, that’s when mistakes are made.
PW: What about you? Who do YOU look to for advice?
SW: Definitely my grandfather. My grandfather was a country boy from Louisiana and ended up in San Francisco. He always had that staple country way about him. He was the only one I knew who drove an old ‘57 sport truck with a broom hanging out of the back. I was always embarrassed to get dropped off at school.
PW: Do you have a favorite food from Milk & Honey?
SW: The dates in a pit, which are dates wrapped in bacon. I absolutely love the shrimp tacos. You only get two at a time, but we have more from the three flavors. They’re great if you order a couple at a time and they’re perfect for sharing
PW: What are some of your favorite books/films/ podcasts?
SW: One of the books I just finished is “Practicing His Presence”. I am a Christian and would recommend that book to any Christian looking to work on their relationship with Jesus.
You know, I’m trying to be more disciplined when it comes to reading. Reading has given me more of a sense of joy. You turn on the news these days and you see all this violence and negativity and all of that keeps feeding into your head. I am working on finding balance. If you are always listening to the negative, your life will start to move into the negative. The way you think is the direction your life will go. So reading, for me, is a wonderful way of getting out of that “norm”. Reading good material feeds your intellect. TV does not.
Stacy Wycoff is the founder and CEO of her consulting business Appreciative Inquiry Consulting and Training. Before Stacy started Appreciative Inquiry Consulting and Training, she was an independent consultant for multiple businesses. Stacy loves consulting with restaurant business owners because she has personal experience working in a restaurant her grandfather owned years ago in San Francisco. Stacy specializes in helping clients like independent and franchise restaurants, retail operators, bakeries, coffee shops, hotels, resorts, educational facilities, hospitals, grocery stores, supermarkets, corporate food service, food service management, shopping centers, gas bars, theme parks, food commissaries and casinos build brand identity and customer loyalty, increase profits and sales, and achieve greater success.
For more than 15 years, Stacy has been working with businesses in the greater Bay Area's top restaurant, food service, hospitality, and retail owners and operators to deliver truly unique dining and shopping experiences for all their customers. Stacy's expertise provides innovative and creative food service and retail merchandising concepts.
A native of San Francisco, Stacy has lived and worked in San Francisco – the birthplace of innovative cuisine. Stacy has an extensive educational background in business operations, such as the art and science of merchandising, travel and tourism, sales promotion, marketing, and the list goes on. Stacy Holds a bachelor's degree from the University of The Pacific in Organizational Behavior and a Master's in Organization Development from the University of San Francisco and is considered an Organization Development Practitioner.
Stacy's passion from a servant leader perspective is to improve effective leadership and increase organizational effectiveness by training and consulting with all levels and titles and their departments within all organizations. Stacy visits, studies, and analyses hundreds of new restaurants and retail operations every year to keep ahead of the competition. Stacy also likes to travel and sometimes works abroad, attending seminars and workshops, conferences, and trade shows, which enables her to track the latest food service and retail trends. Stacy's goal is aligned with organization goals, and she believes that all working within the organization will collectively reach those goals and objectives. When we do, we participate in the organization and societal change, creating a joy-filled world.