Not many young people achieve their childhood dream by the time they’re 24, and not many restaurateurs can keep their establishments in business over three decades.
Steve DiFillippo (above) recognizes his good fortune, on both counts. That’s why he’s throwing a party on Oct. 21 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of his ownership of the Davio’s restaurant business.
The indefatigable DiFillippo has transformed what was once a single Italian restaurant on Newbury Street with just four barstools to a veritable empire with seven locations, and with two new ones scheduled to open in Los Angeles and King of Prussia, Pa., next year.
The Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse on Arlington Street in Boston will shut down for the event. DiFillippo is charging $200 a head, with all proceeds going to the Greater Boston Food Bank. He expects 300 to 400 people to show and hopes to raise $60,000 to $80,000.
His vendors — such as Foley Fish, Cambridge Packing, Martignetti Cos., and M.S. Walker — all donated food and beverages for the night. The classic rock cover band French Lick, with Boston Celtics chief executive Wyc Grousbeck on drums, will provide live music.
The expected attendees include former New England Patriots players Joe Andruzzi and Matt Light. Auto dealer Herb Chambers will also be there: Chambers, a friend of DiFillippo’s, said he’s impressed with DiFillippo’s work ethic, passion for cooking, and attention to customer service. (Chambers said the ethos of DiFillippo’s book “It’s All About the Guest” applies to any business, not just restaurants.)
“If you look back 30 years ago, how many restaurants are still with us? There are not a lot,” DiFillippo said. “I’m just getting started. I hope to have a 60th.”
The competition, though, is fiercer than ever. And DiFillippo recognizes there are thousands of critics now who can promote or complain about a restaurant, with the emergence of websites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor.
“You’ve really got to stay on your game,” DiFillippo said.
“I worry about it every single day, that it’s all going to go away. I don’t take it for granted.” — JON CHESTO
Catered affairs company
Christine Marcus isn’t a chef. In fact, her job used to be making sure the books weren’t cooked at the Department of Energy, where she was deputy chief financial officer from 2006 to 2011.
But she’s now the one that companies such as TripAdvisor, InsightSquared, and Moderna Therapeutics call when they want custom catered meals for their employees — and one more thing to make the rest of the workforce jealous. (Did you hear about the game room and outdoor amphitheater at the new TripAdvisor office?)
Marcus is chief executive of Alchemista, which recently changed its name from Phoodeez after three years of managing corporate takeout orders. The rebranded Boston company, which she started with restaurateur Sal Lupoli, has a new business model: It connects firms to a small pool of restaurant chefs looking for extra work.
“It’s like having a private chef for your company,” Marcus said. “What we’ve realized is the best brands in the city really emphasize company culture. Food is one way they do that.”
Because brilliant minds apparently can’t subsist on the same stuff as everyone else, the chefs on its roster prepare dishes you might not find every day in their restaurants, which include Revolution Kitchen in Woburn, Skewer’s Wood Grill in Tewksbury, and Flame Cafe in Boston.
Alchemista, venture backed by Project 11, handles occasional — or even daily — lunch orders for clients with between 60 and 315 mouths to feed.
“They give us some guidance on what their clients are looking for, but then they give us free reign to develop a menu and put our unique spin on it,” said Michael Spiegel, the owner of Revolution Kitchen. — CALLUM BORCHERS
When startups land their biggest deal of the year, the founders often celebrate with a round of drinks or two — or at least a few high-fives.
But the team at Ditto Labs just went straight back to work after they learned tech giant Oracle Corp. would integrate Ditto’s photo analytics technology into a social media management tool Oracle sells to businesses. Ditto, a Cambridge firm led by president Joshua Wachman and chief executive David Rose, unveiled the Oracle deal to the public last week. But they’ve been quietly working with Oracle on the integration during the past few months.
“It’s the biggest deal in the last year for us,” said Wachman, whose firm’s technology allows clients to track where their logos show up in photos on social media sites. But “we’re not running around going to bars, or jumping up and down. Personality-wise, that’s not how we operate.”
One thing Ditto is doing is hiring engineers and marketers. Wachman said he expects the firm to grow, from 22 people today into the 30s range a year from now. He’s finding what many in Boston’s tech world know: It’s a tight job market for software engineers here, with a throng of companies competing for talent.
Rose and Wachman are shareholders in Ditto, along with co-founder Neil Mayle, the firm’s chief technology officer. But so are the other employees, according to Wachman. They own stakes alongside Mars Agency chief executive Ken Barnett, Boston Globe CEO Mike Sheehan, MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte, and Wired cofounder John Battelle. Venture capital firms Cue Ball, Stage 1 Ventures, and Wavemaker Partners also invested in Ditto, along with the MDC Partners network of marketing firms.
“To see Oracle decide to partner with us, that’s a deeply satisfying validation of what we set out to do,” Wachman said. — JON CHESTO
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