Duffy’s Sports Grill’s president continues his father’s vision
Posted June 2, 2015 | No Comments.
After Paul Emmett’s unexpected death from cancer three months ago, it fell to Jason (above) to lead the Lake Worth-based company.
“It’s been tough, not having my dad around,” Jason Emmett said, reflecting on his three months as president of Duffy’s Sports Grill, following the February death of his father, Paul.
The elder, larger-than-life Emmett took a sleepy sports bar and, in 14 years, transformed it into the growing chain of sports and dining hangouts. After Paul Emmett’s unexpected death from cancer three months ago, it fell to Jason to lead the Lake Worth-based company.
Jason said his father was the one with the vision, and Jason executed it.
While managers and staff have been supportive, Jason said making decisions without his father’s advice has been a challenge. “Not having him as that safety net has been the biggest change for me,” Jason said.
But Jason Emmett has risen to the occasion.
Not only has Jason kept the 28-unit company going, he’s continued with Duffy’s expansion plans. And he remains steadfast that the company will not be sold off but will continue to be owned locally, by his family and the Morrison family.
Earlier this month, Duffy’s opened a new location in Orlando, in Waterford Lake, the third Duffy’s in the Orlando area. Plans call for new eateries in Altamonte Springs and Cape Coral. The pace is roughly three per year, Jason Emmett said.
Recently, Emmett joined the board of Discover The Palm Beaches, the official tourism marketing corporation of Palm Beach County. Emmett said he took his father’s seat on the board and will be with the organization through the existing term’s end in September. If the board wishes to keep him on, he’s happy to do so as well.
Emmett said keeping busy has helped him cope with his grief. But life still is a struggle.
A question as simple as, “What do you like about your new role?” prompts a moment of silence, then a reply from the heart.
‘Nothing brings me the same kind of joy as it did before,” Jason said. “My dad was such a huge part of my life.”
Jason said he knows the fog of his grief eventually will subside. In the meantime, keeping busy at work has helped. And he finds comfort when people talk about his father.
The reminders can come in the most unexpected places.
Just the other day, at his first Discover the Palm Beaches board meeting, “Ten different people came up to me and talked to me about my dad and how much they liked him,” he said.
Name: Jason Emmett
Hometown: The first part of my childhood was spent in New York City. I then moved to Northampton, MA, for my later childhood and high school years.
Where you live now: West Palm Beach
About your company: We are a sport- themed, casual dining chain of restaurants, located throughout the state of Florida.
How your business has changed: When my father got involved with the company in 2001, Duffy’s was a chain of four restaurants, all located in Palm Beach County. Since then, we have added locations up and down the east coast, as far south as Miami, and this year have added our first locations in Orlando and the West Coast of Florida. By the end of the year we will have 30 locations up and running. The concept was founded on the best burgers and coldest beer, and we have since expanded on that concept to include many more menu offering, from salads to steaks to seafood and pasta, while focusing on the same high level of quality the company was founded on.
First paying job and what you learned from it: I worked in the maintenance department of a hotel in Manhattan called the Dumont Plaza when I was 15. I made roughly $200 per week for that summer, which was by far the most money I had ever seen.
First break in the business: My first job in the industry was as a bus boy at a restaurant in the basement of a hotel in Northampton during high school. My first management opportunity came after I graduated college, and moved back to New York to work for the food service operator at the United Nations.
Best business book you ever read: Blink, by Malcom Gladwell. Although not a traditional business book, I found it, and really everything he’s written, more impactful on my professional life than any other book I’ve read.
Best piece of business advice you ever received: All the best business advice I got came from my father. If forced to pick just one of the many things he taught me, it would have to be his belief in the concept of taking personal responsibility for our own lives. He really believed that we should never blame others when things go badly in our lives, either professionally or personally, but rather to reach within ourselves and ask ourselves when we chose for it to go wrong. He believed that this was the only way to grow and improve as a person, and it’s one of the most important things I learned from him.
What you tell young people about your business: To treat the people they work with well, and especially the people who work forthem. Often times new managers miss this concept, or feel they have to “prove” their leadership by being too hard on the people working for them, and end up treating them badly. We have seen too many people fail in our company because of this.
What do you see ahead for Palm Beach County? With 13 locations in Palm Beach County, we obviously believe in the future of the area. We believe that as people continue to either visit or move to Florida, Palm Beach County is well positioned to experience on outsized proportion of that growth.
Where we can find you when you are not at the office? I try to stay active, running is something I’ve always tried to do, although I tend to run more in the winter than in the brutal humidity of the summer. I used to really enjoy playing tennis, it was something my dad and I used to do together often. On the less active side, I’ve always enjoyed going to the movies. For me, there’s something about actually going to a theatre that you don’t get when watching a movie at home.
Favorite smartphone app: Lately, I find myself checking an App called Breeze, which uses my phone to track how many steps I take each day. Similar to FitBit, without the wrist band. I don’t do anything with the data, so I’m not really sure why I keep checking it. I guess I just find it interesting.
What is the most important trait you look for when hiring? A friendly, upbeat, outgoing personality. You can’t really fake that. If someone smiles and seems to be a generally happy person, odds are they will do well with us, and in this industry in general. We can teach the technical skills. It’s far harder to teach personality.