You may have heard a record she worked on. You may have been to one of her restaurants. In fact, she may have even investigated you as a private eye. If there’s one thing we can say about our own Kiri Eschelle, it’s that she’s led a fascinating life — and she brings all of that expertise to our business and to our clients, every day!
For the fourth installment of our Employee Feature series, we’re proud to introduce you to Kiri, our Regional Sales Manager for the San Francisco and Hawaii regions, covering all of Northern California, Reno and Tahoe, and the Hawaiian Islands! And believe us — managing all of our Account Executives and Account Managers in that region is a big job!
What does your day-to-day look like?
Well, I start out by following up with each of my Account Executives (AEs), generally I get to maybe 70 percent of them in any given day via phone or email, [discussing] any outstanding issues. Then outside of one, sometimes two office days a week — it’s usually more like one and a half office days a week — I’m out in the field doing ride-alongs with AEs and meeting the merchants. I started out as an AE, so I have a lot of merchants where I have direct relationships.
What did you do before coming to Rewards Network?
I’ve actually owned my own companies and been in management now for 25 years. I’ve owned three restaurants, [including] Levende, [which] was pretty well known. We actually launched a rising star chef out of there who went on to be on “Top Chef,” Jamie Lauren. [But] before the restaurants, I owned a record label for 9 years. I went from being the operations manager to the vice president, with the second-largest ownership stake in the company. It’s called Om Records, and it’s put out some pretty notable artists. But before that I was a private investigator … [and] I managed the firm. I started out when I was 18 or 19 [years old], so before cell phones, before the Internet, and I literally had to go to courthouses and search for things on microfiche. My specialty was locating people who did not want to be found.
How does being a former restaurant owner help you with our clients?
I did that for 9 years, and that gives me a really unique, intimate perspective on what goes on behind the scenes. Not that I can tell everything, but I’m able to walk into a place and really evaluate it. I can just tell. Once you’re a restaurant owner, it’s almost like a sixth sense — we’ll call it the seventh sense — I can [immediately] tell when it’s good and I can tell when it’s bad. I did all my own build-out [for my restaurants]. So I know everything from the construction side, as well. So if someone starts talking to me about a problem with their utility provider, or the health department, [or] their grease trap, I actually know what they’re talking about. I understand not only the operational mechanics, but also the physical mechanics of what goes into building a restaurant and having it continue to operate successfully without too many potential pitfalls, because there are many.
What do you think is one of the biggest challenges for restaurateurs today?
Acquiring and managing and retaining staff. Qualified staff. When I opened my first restaurant, we did an open call in order to staff up, and I think we had something like over 200 people show up in a 5-hour window to apply. If I did that same kind of thing today, I’d be lucky if I got five that were qualified, and probably one of them might be worth the salt. I think there [used to be] a misconception that [restaurant work] was an easy job where you could just show up and do your shift and not take it with you. But I think people are wise now to how difficult it really is to operate a restaurant, and the physical demands that [it] places on people can be really immense. You really have to have a calm demeanor but a strong will to be in that position.
Between working with restaurateurs at Rewards Network and being a restaurateur, which do you prefer?
I prefer this job as opposed to working in the same four walls of a singular restaurant — or even two or three. That was really rewarding, and I learned a lot, but … I like dealing with [our clients]. Obviously I’m not dealing with all 850+ merchants that we have [in the region], but there’s a good amount of them who definitely know me personally and who I deal with on a regular basis, and I like hearing from all of them [about] what’s working [and] what’s not. And when I hear there’s something that’s not working, my immediate reaction is, Is there anything I can do to help? I’m kind of known for digging a little deeper on a lot of this stuff, and kind of pulling it apart, and either restructuring it or structuring things that haven’t been structured in the past. I like that research-based part of this business and trying to figure out what’s what, who’s who, and what things can be done better.
It sounds like you’re super busy! What do you do when you actually have spare time?
I actually sit on the board of the Oakland Restaurant Association. [Also], I’m an avid wakeboarder. [And] I work on my house a lot. I have a Victorian that I’ve almost fully restored. It’s pretty much done now. [And] I have two dogs … a Yorkie and a Fox Terrier/Italian Greyhound [named] Poppy and Morgan. So, I hang out with my dogs, take them to the beach, let them run around.
Want to get to know more of the Rewards Network team? Check here for more interviews with our staff: