When I sat down and talked with the lovely Kristal Stachel McKay, owner of locally cherished Go Italian Restaurant, and heard her story leading up to the day she was able to call herself a restaurant owner, the main thought running through my head was “wow you never know what people are going through!” We often focus on the big shiny moments, which is great, but forget the work and the sacrifices that usually go hand in hand with those big shiny moments. What I can say is that when you have a goal and a vision, like Kristal had, don’t let anything deter you! When you feel it in your gut you truly can make it happen.
You had QUITE the start into restaurant ownership! Can you share a bit about the challenge you faced?
Ha! Yes, that’s for sure. The decision to jump into the restaurant industry was a long time in the making. I have always talked about wanting to open my own restaurant, and when I envisioned what my future held, I always knew it would be this. Owning my very own restaurant was a dream. Go is my dream come true. Fortunately, I have had obstacle after obstacle tossed in my direction over life, and it is because of these obstacles that I had the guts to make my dream a reality. Notice how I said fortunately, and not unfortunately? Each challenge I’ve faced has put me where I am today – I am full of ambition and I take big risks because I have learned the hard way that life is not always easy, and tomorrow is not a guarantee. Exactly one month before taking over ownership of Go, I was being wheeled into an operating room for heart surgery…. We were right in the middle of finalizing the deal and there was just no time for delays, so I handed my husband a ‘To Do’ list and asked that he have the tasks completed by the time I woke up from surgery. Yep – this is our life! My journey into the restaurant industry was a rocky one at best, but between my husband and business partner, my dad, and the absolutely incredible crew at Go, we did it!
Who do you have supporting you behind the scenes?
First mention has to be my husband and business partner, Cody. He’s my high school sweetheart, and the man that stands beside me no matter what crazy thing I drag us into. He trusts my judgement, and he supports my ambitions to no end. He’s also the guy that keeps our paperwork in order (because anyone that knows me, knows that paperwork is not my forte!), and the maintenance guy at the restaurant. Best part? He prefers payment in pizza (‘cause we have arguably the BEST pizza in YGK)!
Second mention is without a doubt, my dad. This man would move the earth for me if I asked. I will forever remember the day we had the serious talk about how much I wanted (needed) to take this leap. He looked me in the eye and told me that he had all the confidence in the world that I could do this, and he had no doubt in his mind that I would be successful in this adventure. That moment made me feel invincible. He has since appointed himself our ‘errands’ guy, and takes the job quite seriously! He frequently helps our (amazing) General Manager Catherine out with bank deposits, inventory runs, and general maintenance support.
We have SO MANY people that have supported us along this journey, so much that I often feel we live in a giant bubble of support. We have had family travel as far as Toronto to eat with us, and even Tennessee! Cody’s entire family, and their awesome Facebook and Instagram support, and all of our friends. We are beyond blessed.
Even with an incredible support system, we talked a bit about how so many entrepreneurs are perfectionists, to have their hands in all elements of their work, do you find it hard to delegate or ask for help?
Honest answer – Yes. This was my biggest challenge when I started. I am slowly learning to delegate more, but at the same time, I do feel very strongly that a business owner SHOULD be intensely involved… so there is a fine line. I have a vision – a flavour – and the best person to make sure that concept is properly executed is me. With that being said, it is important to surround yourself with people that you trust and people that you can lean on when needed. I am thankful that I have my hubby, my dad, a superstar General Manager, and a fantastic kitchen and front of house team. The Go team has fully embraced my vision, and we’re all working in unison to provide the absolute best guest experience.
I know that building your business and helping to build the community absolutely go hand-in-hand for you, what are some ways that Go Italian has been able to give back? What are some projects that are near and dear to your heart?
I have always been very involved with not for profits in the YGK community, and wished that I could somehow make more of an impact. When I purchased Go, I looked at this as an opportunity to do just that, and promised myself that we would support wherever, and whenever we could. Over the last few months we have sponsored a young hockey player, provided meals for the Kingston Youth Shelter and In From the Cold Emergency Shelter, shown support for 100+ Women and 100 Men Who Care (if you have not heard of these organizations PLEASE look them up!), several school fundraisers, Dress for Success Kingston, and so many more. This is just the beginning, and I am so excited to see the impact we can make as time goes on.
Where does the passion to give back come from?
Tough question… I’m not sure that anyone has asked me this before! I think the passion goes way back. When I was a little girl I told everyone that I was going to be a doctor. I wanted to help people all day, every day. As life went on and I decided to move towards the world of business (I have a corporate day job also), how I saw ‘helping people’ changed. I was always an old soul even when I was little, and I saw the world with wide open eyes. My parents did not shelter me, and all the ugly wasn’t hidden. Nobody taught me to have compassion, I just have it and I often can’t/don’t know how to control it. I vividly remember that when I would travel with my parents to places like downtown Toronto, I would constantly ask for change so that I could give it to the homeless. I still do this today, however now its not usually change, its warm meals. I realized early that just one person could make a difference in this world, and so I’ve made it a mission to do what I can. The very fact that I can now use Go to make an even bigger impact truly means the world to me.
I like to think of social media as enhanced word of mouth, do you think businesses are still dismissing having presence on platforms like Instagram and Facebook?
Oh my goodness yes! The amount of business owners that I’ve heard say “I only believe in word of mouth not marketing or advertising” blows my mind! Social media is absolutely a platform for word of mouth, but it is also a very powerful marketing tool that can make a huge impact for your business. We have been working hard to increase our presence online, and we are very proud of our progress. Our food photos really will make your mouth water! Check them out for yourself… Search for Go Italian Restaurant on Facebook and Instagram =)
What’s something on the menu that you dive into when you are in the mood to indulge? I know for me it’s the Butternut Squash Ravioli!
Do I only have one choice? (lol) My go to favourite items are the Amalfi balsamic chicken sandwich, mussels in a garlic white wine cream sauce, risotto balls, coconut shrimp, chicken marsala, Go Italian special classico pizza, annnnd everyone who knows me will be expecting this next one… our antipasto board (it is huge, and it is awesome)! Oh, and honourable mention goes to our coastal field greens salad – its our house dressing and the salad is topped with asiago.
When people think about Go Italian in 2018, how do you want them to describe the overall vibe?
We are a casual but sophisticated dining option in the west end of Kingston. Our food is GOOD and wholesome, and you won’t break the budget when you dine with us. We make all of our salad dressings, sauces, and pizza dough from scratch, and we only use the best ingredients. So many people drive by our location day after day and think we are just a takeout lasagna place, but we are actually a fully licensed, lovely dine in restaurant with good ambiance.
***Photo credit to the amazing Stephen Wild!