After changing both the staffs and the menu selections, as
well as sharpening her wine and culinary tastes, Frasca has made
two of the original four (Kinzie Chophouse and Mambo Grill) quite
profitable. In fact, Kinzie Chophouse grew 40 percent in its first
year under her management. Today, those restaurants are worth
$5.5 million, more than double their $2.3 million value before she stepped in.
“Running a restaurant is very similar to finance,” she says. “You have to have a business plan, and then
you follow a science.” In this case, that meant adding prized family recipes to the menus, and tweaking them
just enough so they would cook quickly in large volumes and satisfy varying palates. At the Kinzie Chophouse,
for example, the apple pancetta salad features a dressing straight from her grandmother’s cookbook, with one
minor change: it’s served with a pastry puff in place of the traditional Italian bread.
Frasca’s success rate is running at 50 percent — not bad when you consider that 90 percent of restaurants
fail. She sold one restaurant in 2000 when it failed to reach her expectations. “I kept wanting to fix it,
and spent too much of my time there,” she explains. When a similar situation materialized with a second
restaurant, Frasca reacted much more quickly and closed the facility in October 2003. “I learned when to
stop fixing and just get out,” she says.
Despite long hours and a hectic pace, owning restaurants has its advantages. For one, Frasca has been
able to combine business with pleasure by becoming a certified sommelier. Then, of course, there’s the fact that
she can have her favorite meals — the New York strip steak at Kinzie Chophouse, for instance — prepared the
way she likes whenever she wants. Sometimes, she says, “it’s great to be your own boss.” — Laura DeMars
Teach the Next Generation
Call it serendipity. The day after Christopher B. Paisley, the former CFO of 3Com, said in a press release that
he would be retiring at the end of the year and hoped to teach, he got a call from Santa Clara (California) University. Six
months later, he became the Dean’s Executive Professor of Accounting and Finance at the Leavey School of Business.
That was more than six years ago, and Paisley hasn’t looked back. In fact, the 54-year-old always fancied himself
a teacher. “My mother taught first grade and my father was a principal,” he says, adding that he actually taught accounting
at De Anza Community College in Cupertino, California, while working at Hewlett-Packard early in his career.
Paisley knew even then that he would eventually go back to the classroom. The turning point came in 1999,
when 3Com was approaching $6 billion in revenues and the board prepared to spin off its Palm unit, asking Paisley
to be CFO of the new firm. “It was really tempting,” he remembers. “But if I did it, I had to commit for a number of
years and possibly never get back to teaching.” Thus the fateful press release.