Pleasing people one at a time

| 20 Jul 2015 | 01:58

The president of the Glazier Group, which has owned and operated successful restaurants in the city for decades, talks about his career

As a kid, Mathew Glazier could always be found at the restaurants his parents owned. “You can almost say my family dinner table was in the restaurant business,” he said. His father, Peter Glazier, started The Glazier Group in 1985 and his mother, Penny, serves as the director of communications. Mathew now serves as president, which means he’s been in charge of such places as Michael Jordan’s The Steak House N.Y.C., Strip House, event spaces Twenty Four Fifth and Bridgewaters, The Westminster Hotel in New Jersey and The Reach Resort in Key West.

Upon graduation from Fordham University’s School of Law, he joined the family business and has taken on every job from bartending at Monkey Bar to managing Strip House. “I think it’s important that if you’re going to be running a restaurant, you have to be able to step in and at least know everybody’s position and see everything from everyone’s point of view,” he said. Glazier, who will still clear tables on a busy night, loves that restaurants are so hands-on in an era where most industries are moving away from that personal connection. When asked what his favorite part of the business is, he said, “Every day you get to try to wow people, and if you fail, you get another chance right away.”

Since many of his restaurants serve steak, we felt compelled to ask what his favorite order is. “I really like a good strip steak. For me, it has a nice balance; not too fatty, not too lean.”

Did you know from a young age that you wanted to work in the family business?The restaurant business is very hands on. I think it’s very good for families. If your father or mother is in the restaurant business, they can bring you to work. There’s always something to do. It’s one of those things where we always had dinner in the restaurant. So I was always exposed to it. I went to law school and, especially nowadays, a legal education definitely helps you out in this business. But it was always my creative love, the restaurant business, and trying to please people. Achieving success by pleasing customers one at a time. I guess in law you can please your clients one at a time. But I think it’s a much different animal.

In your early twenties you bartended at Monkey Bar. What was that experience like? When it opened, Monkey Bar had 25 people waiting in line to get in. We had 150 seats in the dining room, so it was really crazy. It was a small bar, but we had to do service for the dining room as well. I learned how to bartend on the job. It was my parents’ restaurant; I definitely would not have gotten that job any other way. Also, we had a catering facility back then. I thought it was the best thing ever, during my summers, to get paid good money to wait tables and I could pick and choose when I wanted to work.

One of your Strip House locations was in Planet Hollywood in Vegas. What’s the difference between having one there versus in New York?The thing is Vegas is that you’re not trying to culture a repeat customer. The local community, most of them work on The Strip, and when they’re not working, they don’t want to be there. But in New York, your business is regulars. So it’s two competing mindsets. Vegas is more glitzy glamour. Everybody was dressed up. A lot of it was atrocious the way they were dressed, but they were in Vegas and they were gonna have the most wonderful night of their life. It was fun there because everybody was charged up all the time. Holly Madison had a show literally right next door to us for a while. There were nightclubs in the hotel and they always had guest hosts. The celebrities was always exciting and interesting. We were in the Planet Hollywood Hotel so you’d see Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone a lot.

How did the partnership with Michael Jordan come about? How much involvement does he have in the restaurant? My father had friends who were close with Michael and they were looking to do something in New York. He’s more involved than you think. Unfortunately for us, he’s not in New York often. It’s very important to everyone, including him, for it to be about what he’d want when he went out for a great dinner, instead of a tourist trap. If you’ve been, there’s really no pictures of him. There are four pictures of him in one private dining room.

You’re also on the board of Citymeals-on-Wheels. I’ve been on the board there for about 10 years which is very, very rewarding. It’s one of those very complicated charities and it took me about a year-and-a-half to really figure out what they do. The city delivers meals to homebound elderly, but they only do it five days a week and they only do it for the amount of people that they can afford to do it for. What happens is you get a waitlist of people who have the need, but there aren’t resources to feed them. So City Meals comes on and takes the waitlist and also feeds people on the weekends and holidays. The charity steps in and feeds the elderly and the homebound when the government is not able to do it.

What are the pros and cons to working with your parents?Pros are we have the same goal. No one’s trying to screw you under the table. Sometimes it’s tough because the line between personal and business gets mixed. It will be Saturday, and we’ll be talking about business. I’m very close with my mother and father. Sure, sometimes we don’t see eye-to-eye on everything. But like I said, there’s no doubt we have a common goal, which is a good thing.

How do you deal with negative reviews?I used to take feedback very personally. Like, “I remember that table. Their steak was overcooked and we brought them a new one right away!” And the review was “Nobody cared.” I used to take it really personally and be angry, and then I realized that’s somebody’s perception. No matter what, that’s the way the customer perceived it, so you gotta try and learn from it. There are some people who can’t be pleased.