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DOUG STEPHEN ADDING THE “WOW!” FACTOR TO HOSPITALITY MENTORING

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oug Stephen has never been one to say “no” to people, especially to those seeking his guidance. The president of WOW! Hospitality Concepts Inc., Doug has worked in the food service industry for over 25 years and has often been recognized for his philanthropy, generosity and mentoring. Having co-founded the successful Stephen & Andrews Food & Wine Shoppe and Bridgeport Restaurant in Winnipeg and Florida, Doug has always taken a hands-on approach to his work. Not only have his restaurants seen great success, but he has also played a large role in helping other Winnipeg restaurateurs make their dreams a reality. “I want to give back,” says Doug, who believes in a collaborative culture and has passed on his values as business tools. “I don’t mentor intentionally – it happens by osmosis.” Verna Judge and Alan Shepard have experienced Doug’s mentoring contributions first-hand. When their restaurant, Step’n Out, opened its first location in Winnipeg’s vibrant Exchange District, it was in the same building as Doug’s corporate office. Doug’s experience and wisdom was always a valuable resource for the duo. Alan, as a self-taught chef, appreciated Doug’s suggestions and feedback on his new recipes. In addition to sharing his food expertise, Doug would also help Verna and Alan calculate their profit margins by breaking down their expenses and writing business plans on paper napkins. “Doug is a master with figures,” says Verna, adding that he continues to offer them support and advice. In fact, when Step’n Out received a coveted five-star review from a local food critic, Doug called right away to offer his congratulations. Also benefiting from Doug’s mentorship is Jeff Glover, who started working for him as a busboy at the Old Spaghetti Factory. After Jeff expressed an interest in learning more about the restaurant industry, Doug mentored – and according to Jeff, essentially raised him in the business. Jeff worked side-by-side with Doug when WOW! Hospitality Concepts Inc. was conceived in 1995, eventually moving his way up to director of operations. “Doug taught me that you have to have consistency in the way that you conduct yourself – to have accountability and self-motivation,” says Jeff. He calls Doug a visionary who always meshes creative ideas together to come up with something that people will love. Verna, Alan and Jeff mark only a handful of people mentored by Doug – they all describe him as generous to a fault. According to Ken Livingstone, president of Burrito Splendido, you would be hard-pressed to find someone with a bad word to say about him, as he is “hard on standards, but easy on people.” In his 15 years working with Doug, Ken has learned many key business values from him. Spending significant time and money on research, service, décor, menus and flatware, Doug ensures that diners have the best possible experience, no matter what the price point of the restaurant, says Ken. It’s that commitment that led to Doug being named Entrepreneur of the Year (Prairie Region) for Consumer Goods and Services in 1997. He was also the recipient of the 1997 Pinnacle Award for Entrepreneur of the Year by Foodservice and Hospitality magazine. But despite the industry accolades and appreciation from his mentees, Doug remains humble and seeks to continue mentoring whenever and wherever possible. “I am blessed to be in an industry serving the public,” he says. For more information about WOW! Hospitality Concepts Inc., visit www.wowhospitality.ca

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Photo: Erin Alexander Photography

Text by Andrea Danelak

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