Jill Hanto had a problem on the opening night of her first restaurant: the carrots were overcaramelized. Her customers were very understanding, though. After all, Hanto was just 11 years old at the time and the restaurant was actually the family dining room. The customers—her parents—were simply encouraging her love of dining by allowing her to turn their home into a mock restaurant.
It worked. As she grew, her interest spun into a job as a nutritionist, and when she moved back to Cincinnati a few years ago, she and chef Elliot Jablonsky opened three eateries: the Vineyard Café, Latin Quarter and Tink’s.
Hanto’s expertise isn’t in the kitchen, but in the presentation. She trains servers how to make the customers have a pleasant dining experience.
“My strength is hospitality; how the staff treats people,” she says. “That’s really what sets you apart. It’s how guests feel when they walk out that’s important.”
Once the restaurants were up and running smoothly, Hanto took herself out of the day-to-day operations and began working as conference coordinator for the Cintas Center on campus.
“It was a very logical transition,” she says. “I meet people’s needs, from corporate conferences to weddings. I get the details and take off the pressure of putting an event together. I’ve always enjoyed people. It’s a personality trait. It has to do with really caring about people and valuing the life of every individual. It sounds hokey but if you do that, hospitality comes naturally.”