333: The importance of asking questions with Nick Kokonas

In this episode we discuss: Food as a central aspect of life. The science of food. The emotional response to food. The importance of choosing the proper location for your dream restaurant. Why do fancy restaurants have white table clothes? Anything is possible as long as it obeys the laws of physics. The struggles of building a restaurant. Bars should work like restaurants. Fixing inefficiency. The business side of owning and operating a restaurant.


After graduating with a degree in philosophy and a successful 10-year stint as an independent derivatives trader, Nick Kokonas partnered with Chef Grant Achatz to open Alinea Restaurant in 2005. In the years to follow, Nick would go on to co-find Next, The Aviary, and Roisters. In addition, Kokonas is the Founder and CEO of Tock, a cloud-based comprehensive booking system for restaurants, events, and pop-ups around the world.

Show notes…

Favorite Success Quote or Mantra.

“Ask good questions. The questions are more important than the answers.”


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Knowledge bombs

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

    “Intellectual curiosity. Wake up every morning and ask ‘Why?'”

  2. What is your biggest weakness?

    “Short-tempered. Lose focus quickly.”

  3. What is one piece of advice you have for leading others?

    “Learn how to do it yourself first. Don’t “hire away” your problems.”

  4. What’s one question you ask or thing you look for during an interview?

    “I let them interview me. What are the last 10 books you read?”

  5. What’s a current challenge? How are you dealing with it?

    “Trying to build a new music venue in our space.”

  6. What’s one thing (besides food) your restaurant does well and separates you from other restaurants?

    “We are very good at editing ourselves. We have great patience for our ideas become their best.”

  7. What’s one book we must read to become a better person or restaurant owner?

    Fooled By Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

  8. What’s one piece of technology you’ve adopted in your restaurant and how has it influence operations?


  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?

    Speak out more. Question the experts more often.


Resources Mentioned:


The Aviary


Contact Info

Tock – consumer

Thanks for Listening!

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Huge thanks to Nick Kokonas for joining me for another awesome episode. Until next time!