Age 28: Director of Operations, Spoleto Restaurant Group
When Bill Collins was 13 years old, visiting Northampton for the first time, he ate at Spoleto — and was impressed.
“At that point, I already wanted to follow in the family business, which was hotels and restaurants,” he said. “I was with my uncle, and I said, ‘you know what? I’m going to work at this restaurant someday.’”
After high school, Collins was managing an Applebee’s when he responded to a help-wanted ad for a waiter at Spoleto. To get his foot in the door there, he did both jobs for awhile, until Spoleto founder Claudio Guerra, who already operated three restaurants, began talking about launching Spoleto Express, a more casual eatery, in Northampton.
“I told him, ‘listen, I just want to learn how to open a restaurant from the best in this business,’” said Collins. “So I spearheaded the project when we opened Spoleto Express, and it was hugely successful.” Soon after, Guerra had Collins scouting out locations for other restaurants, and eventually made him director of Operations for a group of dining locations that now totals six.
In that role, Collins does a bit of everything, from overseeing the day-to-day details of the restaurants to advertising; from marketing to special events. “I’ve helped with the transition from a mom-and-pop style to a more corporate style,” he explained. “We’ve come up with new systems and procedures to manage the business. Claudio is such a visionary, and I have a lot of the corporate background, having managed at Applebee’s, so together we make a great team.”
The proof, he said, is in the doubling of the group’s revenues since he stepped into his role — and, of course, all the full bellies and smiling faces.
“For me, the biggest payoff is when I’m in the restaurant and I look around and see all these people eating, drinking, having parties and anniversary dinners, and I think back to when the restaurant was just bare walls,” he said. “And I know this was something Claudio and I created as an escape, where people can come and enjoy themselves.
“Many people appreciate art or music or different areas of life,” he continued, “but dining is such a special experience. To give them that experience, to make people happy, that’s my favorite part of this job.”