Married with Restaurant

The co-owners of Downtown 140 share more than just the day-to-day responsibilities of running a business; as a husband-and-wife team, Shawn and Tiffany Monday share a life built on a love of food.

We all know the rule: Management frowns upon workplace romances. But what happens when you are management? As husband-and-wife owners of Hudson’s Downtown 140 restaurant, Shawn and Tiffany Monday cope with the simultaneous demands of work and marriage. Feast! sat down with Shawn (the chef), and Tiffany (the general manager), to see how they manage to pull it off.

How did you guys meet?
TM: We were both working at the Inn at Turner’s Mill. I was a server and he was the sous chef.

How did management feel about your workplace romance?
TM: We were talked to about it and told that it could become an issue. It almost forced us into a position where one of us would be forced to quit. The owners quickly shuttled me into management to avoid the possibility that I would receive special treatment as a server.
SM: Not that I ever gave you special treatment.

Some say that the only way to make a relationship succeed in this business is to work together, because otherwise you never see each other. Others say working as a couple is suicide for a relationship. Which situation is harder?
TM: There was a year and a half leading up to the opening of Downtown 140 when I wasn’t working and Shawn was cooking at Three Birds. That really took a toll on me. Shawn would be out until 1 in the morning while I sat and stared at my watch. Having experienced both, I’d say that it is much harder on a relationship to be apart.
SM: In this business you work so many hours that if we didn’t work at the same restaurant we would only see each other a couple of hours before bed and one day a week. It’s definitely better to be together. But I’m not saying it’s easy.

If co-owners and married people have anything in common, it’s arguments. Any juicy ones you care to share?
SM: Whenever there is a menu change I prepare the new items for the entire staff. On one occasion, only three of Tiffany’s servers showed up for the tasting. I blew up at her in front of the staff, calling her servers prima donnas and vowing never to do another tasting.
TM: One night, as I was giving a wine presentation to the staff, Shawn walked up to me and said, “You’re not wearing that shirt tonight, are you? You’re showing too much cleavage.” It might sound humorous now, but I was pretty ticked off at the time.
SM: Arguments happen; I think it just makes things real. Who doesn’t argue in a relationship? Why wouldn’t it happen at work?

So how do you keep the arguments from bubbling up in the first place?
TM: It’s important to have a definite chain of command at work or it can feel like the other person is telling you how to do your job. For example, Shawn gets angry when I talk directly to his line cooks. He wants me to direct my comments only to him.
SM: And Tiffany doesn’t like it when I criticize her servers; they get too flustered and become scared of me. We have very different management styles so it’s best if we stick to our own duties.

Do you think you guys relate to each other differently depending on whether you are at work or home?
SM: I still refer to her as the boss either way. No, seriously, at work, we don’t think of each other a lot of the time as husband and wife. She becomes the GM, I become the chef.
TM: Yeah, that ‘married’ coat comes off when you walk through the door. You have to respect each other as professionals, not just as your spouse.

Overall, does working as a couple make the job easier or harder?
SM: It makes many things easier. Because we know each other so well, I can trust that Tiffany is going to do her job as best as she can. And hopefully she thinks the same of me. A GM and a chef need to be a strong, united team. We have such a good relationship, it makes us better as a team.

How do your guests respond to the husband-and-wife dynamic?
TM: I think it offers our guests some peace of mind to know that this is a couple-run operation. They know our hearts are in it.
SM: You have to make people feel like family. And having a family running the place just helps to set that tone.

Do you both share the same vision?
SM: The immediate goal is to cook good food, serve great wine and make people happy. We both share that vision. What comes in the long run …
TM: I prefer to keep things the way that they are, but Shawn always wants 10 more seats. But to grow, you end up losing what you created in the first place.

You guys just got back from a snowboarding trip to Banff. How important to your sanity is getting away?
SM: In this business you have to get away or the hours will just kill you. It refreshes the soul. We come back stronger than ever, both as a couple and as operators.
TM: Our favorite quick breaks are Sundays; they are our own little retreat. We are just normal people; we get groceries, pay the bills, Shawn cooks all day.

Any advice for those who’d like to follow in your path?
SM: We’ve only been running this restaurant as a couple for two and a half years [Downtown 140’s three-year anniversary is this coming July]. Do we have all the answers? Check back with us in 10 years and I’ll let you know.  |!|

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