By Caitlin Raux
In the words of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, “If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat.” When Andrew Massetti (Hospitality Management ’14) was offered a position as Community Manager at Spotluck, the rapidly expanding restaurant app that solves the age-old diner’s dilemma, “Where should we eat dinner tonight?” he didn’t hesitate — he got on board. “We launched in New York with 250 Manhattan restaurants. Now, 8 months later, we have over 100 more, and we’ve expanded to Brooklyn, Queens and Hoboken,” Andrew tells me one afternoon at ICE. With a broad smile that rarely turns off, it’s pretty clear that Andrew is fueled by his job. Andrew’s willingness to take a risk on an idea he believed in, combined with his ICE education in hospitality and all things restaurants — from food production and kitchen management to sales and marketing — made him uniquely qualified for this burgeoning area of the startup world.
The idea behind Spotluck is simple. In a city like New York, where you can’t Uber a block without passing a slew of restaurants, the decision of which restaurant to choose can be a challenge. Spotluck provides a sort of restaurant roulette: take a spin on the mobile-friendly wheel and score a discount for the restaurant where you land. Andrew comes in at the point of access between the restaurants and the app — he introduces Spotluck to restaurant owners, explains to them how it works and shows them how it can improve their businesses. “Every restaurant in New York City has been acquired the same way — by personal touch. I’ve been to every single one and they know me by name,” says Andrew. Rather than chains or corporately owned restaurants, they focus on local, family-owned businesses, where the service they provide can actually make an impact. But it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. “I work with each restaurant independently, because each has different needs,” Andrew explains. “If they have higher food costs, then I work with them on the discount amount. We want to bring in as many people as possible, but make sure it’s smart for each restaurant.”
Andrew wasn’t always on the hospitality path. The Long Island native received a business degree from SUNY Oneonta, and for a time, considered a career in finance. His mother was a banker and his father a teacher, and as his twin brother had already gone the teaching route, the finance world seemed logical. After college, however, Andrew started seriously reflecting on where his passions lay. “I loved restaurants, I loved traveling, so I figured I’d do something that took everything I loved and combined it into one.” He decided to research hospitality programs, which led him to ICE. “It wasn’t too long, it wasn’t too expensive, it wasn’t a Masters program. It was just the right amount of school to give me a basis in the industry.” Andrew enrolled in the hospitality program at ICE, where he started laying the foundation for the dynamic career ahead of him.
I loved restaurants, I loved traveling, so I figured I’d do something that took everything I loved and combined it into one.
When he started at ICE, Andrew was sure about one thing: he wanted to work in hospitality. But as he progressed through the Hospitality Management program, he was able to home in on where in that vast industry he wanted to be. Through his externship and class field trips to notable New York hotels, Andrew realized that he wanted to work in a “lifestyle” property — a hotel that offers high quality service in a more casual setting. “Our class took a trip to the Ace Hotel and I thought, ‘This is somewhere I can see myself working.’” With that in mind, he landed his first post-graduation position as a guest services agent at the Refinery Hotel, a hip boutique hotel housed in a former millinery factory and tea salon. There he cut his teeth on front-of-house operations, gaining experience doing something that seems to come natural to him — interfacing with clients. He knew, however, that his long-term goals were in another part of hospitality. “I used my front desk experience to propel me into sales and marketing,” says Andrew, who transitioned to a role as sales and marketing coordinator at the Knickerbocker Hotel, the famed hotel originally constructed by John Jacob Astor IV. It was an ideal position, and one he had no plans of leaving, until he was approached with the opportunity to join Spotluck. The Maryland-based startup was on the brink of expanding into the New York market and needed a person on the ground to form relationships with local restaurant owners. Andrew believed in Spotluck’s mission and took a leap of faith.
During his school days, Andrew took inspiration from ICE’s campus — New York City. “I loved being in the city, loved being in the hustle and bustle. I would walk around the hotels and see what restaurants were around. I was learning about the industry from just being there.” Today, a large part of Andrew’s role as Community Manager is hitting the pavement. “I’ve put in a lot of miles. I’ve walked probably every street in the city,” Andrew says with a laugh. Perhaps not every city street (Ed. note: figures estimate around 120,000 blocks in the five boroughs of New York), but he’s done an impressive amount of firsthand research on each neighborhood where Spotluck has a presence. He figures out what the needs are and combines those observations with his knowledge and training from the hospitality program to help local restaurants to bring diners in. “During the restaurant operations class, I learned about food costs, revenue per seat hour and all the math involved in operating a restaurant. For every restaurant, their goal is to fill each seat and turn each table as many times as they can. I learned that at ICE.” In a time when more and more customers are opting for delivery services, convincing diners to forego Netflix and takeout for a traditional restaurant experience is more challenging than ever. That’s why the service provided by Andrew and Spotluck is so valuable — to restaurants and diners alike.
A key player in a growing restaurant startup may not be where Andrew expected to be, but in retrospect, each step prepared him for the next. And he seems nothing if not thrilled with where he ended up. For him, the intersection between startups and hospitality is the perfect fit. “It’s a unique job. If I go out today and add another restaurant to the app, we’re doing good for the restaurant and for the community,” Andrew tells me. “The most rewarding part for me is knowing that what I do every day is having a direct impact on the company.” Oh, and the perks. Of course, there are excellent perks: “Our restaurants are great — they love to feed us.”
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