Ones to Watch 2022 // Savannah Thomas
General manager, Bowood by Niche
Why Watch Her: She’s a front-of-house rockstar.
Savannah Thomas hates the cold. This makes sense, seeing as she’d never lived anywhere but Southern California before moving to St. Louis. She moved to the city in October 2019 to serve as the food and beverage assistant manager at the Four Seasons Hotel - St. Louis.
As it turned out, the bitter cold of Thomas’ first Midwestern winter was the least of her worries.
Like much of the nation’s restaurant industry, once the pandemic hit, Thomas spent nearly a year in and out of furlough. During one of her furloughs, Niche Food Group co-owner Gerard Craft asked her to help manage Pastaria. Craft knew Thomas from Cinder House, his restaurant at the Four Seasons, and already considered her “an absolute rockstar” of the front of the house. “She has a pretty even temperament but is very hands-on and leads by example,” Craft explained. “She has a really strong work ethic and a great attitude about everything, and it rubs off on the staff.” When he finalized plans to open Bowood by Niche shortly after, he knew exactly who he wanted to be general manager.
To move from an assistant manager position to GM — in the Niche Food Group no less — seems like a no-brainer. But Thomas was happy with the Four Seasons. She appreciated the way they trained, treated and compensated their employees. She also loved the rush it afforded her; she had aided in opening three new restaurants at the Four Seasons’ Westlake Village property in Los Angeles and helped a former Four Seasons colleague open a fourth. She had also gained a reputation as an expert in helping turn around struggling restaurants.
“My favorite is starting at a restaurant where things are wonky and people are unhappy,” Thomas said, describing what most would consider a worst-case scenario. “You get to tear everything apart and rebuild it again. You get to see what brings out the fire in people, to help them find the fire they lost,” she said.
Yet there was more to the Bowood job than a promotion, Thomas realized. A much-loved local gem shuttered and then reopened by a vastly different ownership group? How could Thomas retain the heart and soul of an institution she had never even gotten to visit before it closed? What could she change, and what needed to stay the same in order to honor the restaurant’s loyal customers? This reopening landed right in Thomas’ wheelhouse.
And then, of course, there was the space. A perpetually cold Angeleno was being asked to GM a restaurant situated quite literally inside a greenhouse. “It was like a fairy tale first walking in there,” Thomas said. “How could I say no?”
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