Interview with Josh Sepkowitz and Kyle Noonan on Talent Managment and Dogs as Conduits

Categories: Interviews

Joy Zhang
Kyle Noonan and Josh Sepkowitz first met while attending SMU. After graduating they took off in different directions and career paths, Noonan with the Pappas restaurant group and Sepkowitz as a financial analyst on Wall Street. After more than a decade in their perspective careers, both decided to come back to where it all started and open a restaurant or three.

Last year the duo opened Bowl and Barrel at the Shops at Park Lane, a boutique bowling alley with a menu created by Sharon Hage of the famed York Street. Then came Mutt's Canine Cantina near the West Village -- a playground for pets along with cold drinks for their people. Next up is a TV show about neighborhood gems, then late this summer they'll open The Rustic, a mid-sized music venue and collaboration with Pat Green.

Here's our chat about their hard and fast entrance into the Dallas restaurant scene:

How did you get in the restaurant business?
Noonan: I started waiting tables in college, just for beer money, but ended up being drawn to the industry. The restaurant industry is either something you're passionate about and love or it just isn't for you at all.

How's it going working together?
Noonan: What makes this work is that outside of all the tangibles that make a great partnership and being great friends, fundamentally we're very wired differently. Left brain, right brain thing.

Sepkowitz: I handle a lot of the legal and finances side of things and he does a lot of the operation side of things.

You have a lot going on; bowling over at Bowl and Barrel, a dog run and bar at Mutt's and soon an outdoor music venue.
Noonan: At the end of the day it's all very focused though; we're in the hospitality business. It's about people taking care of people. And we approach that in a few ways. Each one of our projects has a very unique component. We've gone from zero to 250 employees in two years. The hiring, training and development of our staff is a big focus.

Going from zero to 250 in two years is huge. A lot could be lost there. How do you get everyone on the same page?
Noonan: We have to get people to buy into the message and everyone pulling in the same direction. That's key. The closer you create the organization, the easier it is. We have to make sure we've established and maintain a good culture and focus on taking care of people. All organizations stumble in certain areas, but as long as the foundation is set and we take care of every guest that walks in the door, then we'll be OK.

How do you get to people to want to work here?
Noonan: The restaurant business is no different than any other industry. As an employer you have pride yourself on treating people fairly and providing opportunity for advancement and growth and supporting them if they stumble.

Sepkowitz: I think another aspect is they see us here, working. I fix bowling machines; I've picked up dog messes. We'll do anything that needs to be done.

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