Meet Richard Coward - General Manager at Kings Dedham
Started 2010 as a “Wait Assistant” (Busboy), to General Manager at Kings Dedham.
Richard Coward, General Manager at Kings in Dedham, MA., isn’t afraid to look back on how much he’s grown up with Kings; in fact, it’s been on his mind lately.
“I just turned 29 years old on Friday, and I started at Kings at 21,” he says. “I’d never worked in hospitality before, just a little bit of retail. I was looking for somewhere I could work on the weekends to help me get out of debt coming out of college.”
Rich’s beginning as a young man fresh out of school, casting around for a weekend gig may not be the most unique story; but what makes it remarkable is the fact that eight years later, Rich can trace his rise from entry-level busboy to senior operator and decision maker by following a single thread: that leadership is all about being taught and, eventually, becoming a teacher yourself.
Starting as a Student, Becoming a Teacher
When he first started at Kings, Rich would alternate between “Wait Assistant” (Busser & Food Runner) and working as a “Door Greeter” during the weekend rush. It was fun, exciting work and there was plenty to learn.
“I’ve always liked learning new things and trying to become an ‘expert’ at them,” Rich says.
This drive to mastery in each role he was introduced to would serve Rich well, propelling him through the ranks at Kings. After eight months as a wait assistant, he advanced to barbacking for a six-month stint, learning from several dedicated bartenders including Kings’ current Beverage Director, Jen Fitzgerald. From there, Rich moved to bartending, spending the better part of a year and half mastering his craft. Yet, it wasn’t enough for Rich to just hone his own skills, he felt a need to teach those around him as well.
“If you learn something, you work to master it. Once you’ve mastered it, you pass it on to someone else,” Rich says. “You pass on your knowledge, you never just hold on to it.” This process is the very process that has allowed Rich and those before him to grow.
This drive to never hoard knowledge for himself was the sign of true leadership potential that Rich’s managers were looking for. Rich would share his knowledge and would then dive into the unknown of the next task without fear of failure. After his stint as a bartender, Rich was offered the Bar Admin position, which eventually turned into the Bar Manager role. As with each opportunity presented to Rich, he trusted in his journey, accepted the leadership responsibility and began his five year run in Kings management.
“I was amazed when I was offered the bar management position,” Rich says. “I’d had zero managerial experience before then. But I liked the idea that it was something else I could master and that the people around me had enough faith in me to take a chance.”
Creating a Connection
This faith from his leaders and peers was quickly rewarded: Rich hit the ground running, learning everything he could about the beverage program and top-notch guest service. What made Rich so effective at his job was that he recognized that the guest experience was something more than just “good food, cold drinks” - it was about creating a genuine connection.
“A Bud Light tastes the same wherever you go, so what you’re really doing is making memories with the guest,” he says, gleefully. “I’m always looking for what someone is celebrating. Seventy percent of our guests are celebrating something, so it’s my job to figure out what they’re celebrating and make it even more memorable.”
This boundless curiosity and willingness to go above and beyond paid off for guests - and for Rich’s personal and professional growth. After a year and a half bar managing, Rich was given his big shot: Assistant Manager at Kings Dedham. It was a natural move as Rich’s charisma and gregarious personality had already made him a prominent feature of the Kings Dedham experience.
The ‘Mayor of Dedham’
Sliding into the Assistant Manager position was smooth for Rich. He devoted his time to training and teaching Kings Team Members the ins and outs of high-quality guest service and guest experience. He saw it as coaching a team, passing along the lessons he had learned and finding areas where the team could shine.
“What makes Kings so great is that we believe in the people around us,” Rich says. “The company is growing all the time, but on a store to store level, it all comes down to the right people in the right places.”
In 2015, Rich turned out to once again be the right person in the right place: For all his hard work and commitment, Rich was promoted to General Manager of Kings Dedham. Again, the move felt natural as Rich used his new position to turn his attention to the greater Dedham community, helping cement Kings’ deep roots in the city it called home.
“The Senior Team refers to me as ‘the Mayor of Dedham,’” Rich says with a laugh. “It’s important to me that the city of Dedham knows that if they need something - donations, softball team sponsors, a reservation on a Saturday night, fundraising, anything like that - they can come to us at Kings and we’ll lend a hand.”
Yet for all his jokes about his unofficial ‘election,’ Rich recognizes that his own efforts are only half the story; The other half involves the unique culture of Kings that seeks out opportunities to teach and grow promising members of staff in a broader way. Rich speaks glowingly about how the leadership at Kings recognized something in him and gave him the opportunity be his best self.
“The leadership here empowers me to not just be a keyholder, but to think about the legacy I’ll leave,” Rich says. “I’m not just a number here, no one is. Working at Kings changed me as a person, it made me care about being a leader to the people who might look up to me. Every day is a chance to set yourself apart from what you did yesterday, do it better and make a more memorable experience for the guest- we do this by supporting our team members.” Rich refers to the company culture of “Servant Leadership” which is a strong practice to help others become the best they can by supporting and serving them.
Rich has been involved in many projects, helping to develop specialty cocktails many of the training guides and procedures used in all locations. Rich has developed the Dedham Kings, flagship location into a training store for the company given the diverse and talented team he leads and the passionate culture of the nearly decade-old location. Rich’s willingness to not only get involved but take action when asked to participate is helping Rich prepare for his next steps, wherever his journey may take him.
From his endless curiosity to his tireless drive to teach others, Rich’s story at Kings is nowhere close to being finished - and yours could be just beginning. If are looking to join an ever-growing team of driven, passionate people will empower you to make today better than yesterday, apply now.