Valeo’s Pizza Kitchen is one of the most popular and delicious restaurants in town, Let’s get to know the owner, Christal Spata in this exclusive Q&A.
Q. How did you get into the restaurant business?
A. My parents owned Valeo’s for 40 years and I grew up there…..literally. I had always had a dream of owning my own restaurant, so when my parents told me they wanted to slow down, but not retire; it was the perfect opportunity for my wife and I to buy the business from them. We worked and saved for several years to be able to make this dream happen.
A. It’s always the people! The foodservice industry is hard, if you don’t love people, it doesn’t make sense to own a restaurant. At Valeo’s, we have such a unique opportunity to really impact people’s lives. We get to be everything from people’s first jobs to their last chance at gainful employment. We get to make customer’s lives easier and better by sourcing clean ingredients and serving great food. We get to support people when they need it the most. Life in this industry is truly a privledge.
Q. What is the most challenging part of your job?
A. Balancing work and family life. As a restaurant owner, you are always “On-Call”. There is no such thing as a vacation from work. You must always be reachable to your team when they need you.
Q. With the challenges of the current economy, what steps have you taken to continue to drive your business forward?
A. We don’t believe in paying minimum wage….to anyone. We gave our entire team raises this year because of how amazing they have been and how hard they have worked. We also started providing health insurance to our full-time team members. We know that this year has been hard, and as business owners, we know that this is when we need to step-up to be there for our team when they need it the most. People were scared this year. Providing heath insurance is a dream come true of ours and it couldn’t have come at a better time. We are thankful to our customers who have been loyal to us so that this could happen.
Q. How often do you eat at your own restaurant? And what is your favorite dish?
A. We vacillate. Some seasons in life, we eat it a little too frequently and sometimes we will go a couple months without eating our food at all. When we are testing new menu items and experimenting with food, we eat it quite a bit. During the intense growth periods of the business, when our kids are there with us every day, it’s hard to find the opportunity to eat anything else. That is why we are so careful about making our food with high quality products. My favorite food from Valeo’s right now is the Baked Cheesy Bread. It’s an all-time favorite.
Q. What makes your restaurant stand out from others, what is something particularly unique?
A. We invest in our team as leaders and in their leadership development. We believe that they can become the greatest version of themselves, BECAUSE they were on our team and we invested in their personal development. Our team knows they are more than just a number, but that they are someone who truly matters. If you invest in your people, they invest in your business.
Q. How do you cope with the everyday pressure of restaurant life?
A. We try to travel as a family as much as we can. This year has been hard, obviously. Traveling is how we stay strong as a family. We love to create new memories together.
Q. What advice would you give other entrepreneurs that are starting out in the restaurant business or small business?
A. Take it one day at a time while never losing sight of the big picture. There are some really hard days and sometimes there are many of those days in a row. It will get better overtime. Learn to be the first to acknowledge your mistakes to your team. They will trust you more if you do. Remember that you are only human and you will screw up. Take a deep breath, learn from it and grow. From an employer perspective, learn to recognize toxic behavior from employees and remove it — it takes a toll on the rest of your team and you are serving them well by getting it out of your business and out of their work environment.
Q. What is your restaurant’s signature menu item?
A. We have a few: Stuffed Spinach Pizza, Baked Cheesy Bread and our Valeo’s Special Pizza
Q. Anything new or notable you would like to share for the upcoming year?
A. We have a lot of new things coming this year that are really big. We aren’t quite ready to announce them yet, but we have been working on them for a few years and we are super excited. Get ready to see around town a lot more!
Valeo’s is located at
5021 30th Avenue. Kenosha, WI 53144
(Q&A and concept by Donny Stancato)
(Photos from Valeo’s facebook page)