291: Leading from where you are with Chris Deferio


In this episode we talk about leading from where you are, staying in touch with what fascinates you about this industry, how to overcome the lens through which a manager is seen, and representing the product and the story behind it. 16 years of experience as a barista, trainer, USBC competitor, competition creator, writer, consultant, and manager have been good to Chris Deferio.

Along the way he has picked up key tips and insights into the foundational elements of what it takes to run a thriving and successful cafe.

Today, Chris serves as Shop Operations Manager for Sunergos Coffee in Louisville, KY and when he’s not in the cafe he’s sharing what he’s learned about that business with his podcast Keystotheshop.com.

Show notes…


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Favorite Success Quote or


“Be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy the effort, and keep on learning.”

-Carol S. Dweck

The Conversation

  • We discover Chris’s purpose for getting in the industry and what drives him.
  • Chris takes us on the path he took to get to where he is today.
  • We discuss why you need to lead from where you are.
  • Why you need to keep your power as a manager in check, by being a “meek” leader.
  • What is meant by “carrying a lens through which your team sees you.”
  • Staying in touch with what fascinates you about the industry

Career Challenge or Failure

  • Early in Chris’s career, he was too much of a manager and not enough of a leader. He would sit back, nitpick and grade his team during a rush, instead of jumping in and supporting them.

Knowledge bombs

  1. Which “it factor” habit, trait, or characteristic you believe most contributes to your success?

    • reflection and self-editing. Always improving, and taking ownership of his short coming
  2. What is your biggest weakness?

    • Blame shifting. Trying to find who is a fault. The mentality you need is that it is always your fault for not establishing the right culture or educating your team well enough to do it right in the first place.
  3. What is one piece of advice you have for leading others?

    • Engage you people with genuine care. If you can’t, then don’t lead.
  4. What’s one question you ask or thing you look for during an interview? 

    • Ask the question, “What, in your last job, did you contribute to their problems? How did you further these problems in the company?”
    • What to look for:
      • That they own their shortcoming and don’t blame others.
      • That there honest before anything else.
    • Hire people who are aware of their surrounding.
      • Are they reacting to loud bangs in the background?
      • Are they straightening chairs that need straightening?
    • Do they ask you questions?
  5. What’s a current challenge? How are you dealing with it?

    • Time management.
    • Chris is overcoming this challenge by implementing systems and processes that cover exactly what needs to be done each day in detail.
  6. What’s one thing (besides food) your restaurant does well and separates you from other restaurants?

    • Person to person engagement.
  7. What’s are some books or resources we must consume to become better people and restaurant owners?

    1. Manager-Tools Podcast
    2. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action 
    3. Eat that Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time
    4. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
  8. What’s one piece of technology you’ve adopted in your restaurant and how has it influence operations?

    • Square-square helps millions of sellers run their business- from secure credit card processing to point of sale solutions. Get paid faster with Square and sign up today!
  9. With all the knowledge you have now if you could go back in time and give your past self one piece of business advice, What would it be and why?

    • Surround yourself with people who are doing great work, and who have patience.

Contact Info

Twitter: @Deferio


Thanks for Listening!

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Huge thanks to Chris Deferio for joining me for another awesome episode. Until next time!