Tim Petrillo, Co-Owner of YOLO, Tarpon Bend, Vibe, etc. (Interview Part 2)

Categories: Rants
With the opening of the new live music venue Vibe this weekend, we caught up with one of its co-owners, Tim Petrillo. He and his partners also own Fort Lauderdale restaurants YOLO and Tarpon Bend. This is teh second half of our Q&A. See the first part of our interview here.

Are you a foodie?
I love food but [my business partner] Peter [Boulukos] is definitely the foodie. He has one of the finest palates that I've ever witnessed, and I've been in the business all my life, around great chefs, and Peter is one of most down-to-earth, talented chefs I've known in my whole life. On the business side, you can create the most wonderful, spectacular dish if you spend an enormous amount on the ingredients. The balance comes when you keep a certain level of price, make a phenomenal dish, and still make money. Peter has one, the palate and two, the ability to pull that off, and when we first got together, I thought, "This is the guy we need have as part of this group."

Do you buy all your ingredients from Sysco?
A variety of sources. We get our dry goods from them but we also use local farmers.

Are you still on good terms with Mark Militello?
Yes, I am.

Have you been to Trina since he took over?
I did when he first went in. I'm gonna go back.

Do you have a business nemesis, like the Big Time Restaurant Group perhaps? [which is opening Rocco's Tacos further down on las Olas Boulevard]
No I don't really. It's this big incestuous family. Todd and I joke [that we hire managers away from each other] We have a great working relationship.

It's probably in your best interest to have more restaurants on Las Olas, to make it more of a walking district.

Do you have any new projects coming up?
There is a new concept we're trying to get done, but I can't tell you about it yet until we finalize the details.

[With YOLO being located next to the former Bova Prime space, and the former offices of Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler,] do you have any inside scoop about [Ponzi schemer] Scott Rothstein?
It was interesting, people were asking us all the time. But it wasn't like that because they had a very different clientele. We're more casual. We may have some shared clientele. I would see him, he'd come with the bodyguards and stuff. Everyone was asking me if he ever offered to buy us - he never did. I didn't really have a relationship with him. He was a part owner of Bova, so he'd hang out there. We didn't see much of him, so I don't have the inside scoop. Unfortunately!

Do you cook at home?
No, I don't. I love to eat out. I get more eating out at hotels and restaurants. I go check things out - I'll swing through hotels, bars, and restaurants -- see what they're doing. I will say my daughters have been dining in restaurants since they were born. The server always comments on how they order -- "What's in this dish? How is this made?" -- and how they behave in a restaurant because that's basically their dining room table.

Do you have a favorite dish at your restaurants?
At Tarpon Bend, the seafood kettle is my favorite, and the seared tuna at Coral Gables. [At YOLO}, I probably eat grilled trout normally every day. And our vegetables.

How many people do you employ?
Just shy of 400.

Anything in particular you look for when you hire?
Yes. The attitude of hospitality - that's the most important thing. The person who naturally wants to please people - in the sense of making sure they have a good time. You can teach someone the mechanics of service -- what side to clear a plate from -- but you cannot teach that hospitality attitude.

You've talked about Amendment Four -- you're against it.
I'm totally against it ...This economy is based on tourism and real estate -- that's what driven a lot of value in Florida. And [government revenues are largely dependent upon] sales tax - so you have to have the ability to do business. Florida is a great place to live; so many people vacation want to live here. There needs to be opportunity, job growth. Amendment Four puts hurdles into doing business in this state.

Part of the argument for it is that once there's a master plan for a city, we should stick to it -- what's the purpose of creating a vision if developers are going to continue to make changes to it all the time?

I would say, give me one example of having plan and never changing it. I know personally, when we had an idea for this place [YOLO], it is 70 percent changed. When you do a plan, in practicality it can be a totally different world - you have to make sure its practical. We already elected the officials to say "We believe in you to make decisions for us." When you have five people making decisions, it's tough; when you have 5,000 its even tougher. And it's county-wide -- so you could have people in Parkland [making zoning decisions about Fort Lauderdale.]

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