GREENSBORO, N.C. — He was born into hospitality. Today, he’s making his living practicing it.
He’s also one of the industry’s biggest local proponents.
In 2012, Nino Giaimo opened GIA: Drink. Eat. Listen., a restaurant on New Garden Road in Greensboro. “GIA” comes from the first three letters of his last name.
Opening GIA was the result of Giaimo’s entrepreneur spirit taking over.
“I felt Greensboro needed a restaurant that was completely different,” Giaimo told me during a recent interview and tour of the restaurant. “Three words came to my mind, and it’s what I wanted folks to do here with me. And that’s drink, eat, listen.”
At the time, Giaimo already knew a lot about serving and feeding customers. He grew up working in his father’s business, Sal’s Italian Restaurant, which used to occupy the corner of a shopping center at the corner of Holden Road and High Point Road (now Gate City Boulevard).
After getting a biology degree and a Masters of Business Administration at East Carolina University, Giaimo came back to Greensboro and started work at the front desk of the O’Henry Hotel.
Within six years, he had worked his way up to become the general manager of the O’Henry’s sister hotel, The Proximity.
It was during that time, he learned a key component of housing, feeding, transporting and entertaining visitors:
“Attention to detail during the guest experience,” he said. “Just making sure you’re anticipating things before a guest even recognizes that they need it is one of the most important things.”
When he opened GIA, he realized one of the most important things was the need to listen. It’s among the reason the restaurant’s small plate concept has worked so well. Customers are encouraged to share the small plate entrees and talk about them.
“One thing I noticed about GIA and the small plates concept is the fact that folks aren’t buried in their cellphones. They’re actually here,” he said.
Giaimo has also recently expanded his business. In November, he opened the LaQuinta Inn and Suites near the Piedmont Triad International Airport, an area he feels has a lot of potential.
“On the northwest side of Greensboro, there’s so much opportunity going on, it’s really the connection hub of the Triad,” he said.
But he stresses “opportunity” and “connection” are the hubs of both his businesses.
“I call GIA a ‘teaching restaurant.’ For example, everything in our kitchen’s made from scratch,” he said. “And every four weeks we are essentially training our culinary team on a brand new menu.”
Giaimo also spends a lot of time on what he calls “beverage education.” GIA even offers mixology classes and other educational events.
But he’s always interested in “entry-level” people.
“We are always looking for great folks who are passionate about food, beverage and taking care of people,” he said. “And with the amount of hospitality avenues in our city, opportunities are endless.”
He also feels if more local businesses would incorporate this philosophy, it would solve one of the area’s biggest economic challenges: keeping the local university graduates in town after graduation.
“I think there’s just not enough opportunities for these graduates to get their jobs here,” he said. “So they’re having to go to Raleigh or Charlotte instead of bringing it home.”
Most of the local colleges/universities and community colleges have hospitality programs. In fact, Giaimo even teaches courses in UNC Greensboro’s Department of Marketing, Entrepreneurship, Hospitality and Tourism.
For more information on GIA, including some of the educational opportunities, click here.