About Datz Restaurant Group: Started in 2009 with Datz, the independent Tampa Bay restaurant group has expanded to include Dough, Dr. BBQ, Burnt Ends Tiki Bar, Donovan’s Modern American Eatery, Cluck Yeah! and Sear City All American Burgers. It has been featured nationally, including on Good Morning America, Travel Channel and Netflix.
My parents were serving in the Navy where they met and married. My dad is a tough New Jerseyan who ended up career Navy and my mom is a born and bred Pennsylvanian. Because of my father’s long Naval career, my childhood was filled with many different cultures, languages, foods and places. In Taipei, for example, my Taiwanese neighbors made their living catching stunning tropical native birds – and taught me to eat octopus and monkey. In Keflavik, Iceland, I practically lived on the beautiful black beaches, watching the Orcas in the bay.
When I was young, I wanted to be a dancer in the worst way. I even tried to be a dance major in college — but my SAT math scores were insisting that I go into engineering. In true independent fashion, I ended up doing neither and got my professional start working for travel and leisure brands.
My earliest memories of Tampa Bay are thinking I could casually rollerblade up Bayshore Boulevard and quickly learning that members of the Tampa Bay Lightning also like to casually rollerblade up Bayshore. I bought a bike.
My favorite ways to enjoy Tampa Bay are: I love to sit outside at a local café on some water, sip a prosecco and breathe in the clean, fresh air. Alternately, I’ll throw on a leather jacket, take the top off the Jeep and drive around some of our parks and wilderness, also enjoying the clean, fresh air. That’s the beauty of this area: from prosecco to parks, there are so many ways to enjoy our region.
What got me into the restaurant business was loneliness. When we moved to Tampa, we knew no one and were not connected to anything. My husband, Roger, had always joked about opening a restaurant and I convinced him that he meant it. Neither of us came from a restaurant background. We just wanted a little place where we could hang out with friends and have our chef prepare healthy meals for us. That’s how Datz got its start.
No two days are ever the same. One day I’ll spend three hours brainstorming margarita ideas with my team, the next I’m pulling seasonal décor out of our warehouse. It’s absolutely chaos, and it keeps me on my toes – often literally.
My business philosophy is: Treat people the way you want to be treated. If you make a deal, keep it. If you tell somebody you’re going to do something, do it. If the employees in the trenches need help, help them. Keep your ear to the ground when your staff tells you something and respond. Reward the good where you find it.
My fondest memories with my company are: Datz Tampa is fairly close to MacDill Air Force Base and we strive to make sure our soldiers are well cared for when they stop in. There is something so powerful about seeing these brave folks meet their families for a meal with us on their way to leave for deployment and something indescribably beautiful about being their first stop when they arrive home.
The greatest adversity I’ve overcome was the pandemic. We had to recreate the business almost every day. It was extremely stressful to go from 450 to 27 employees overnight, to say nothing of lying awake every night trying to reimagine how we would – if we could – possibly reopen in the future.
My most ambitious goal for DRG is to continue bringing innovative new concepts to the Bay area. As the region finally takes its well-deserved place on the foodie map, it’s going to be a fun time dreaming up new and exciting spins on old favorites and creating brand new flavor combinations.
People would be surprised to know that I love to shoot and am a reasonably accomplished marksman. I am also a private pilot, an advanced open water SCUBA diver and a GIA trained jeweler.
The person who has inspired and shaped me the most has been my husband, Roger. He is flawlessly ethical, honest, loyal, self-disciplined and dependable. I strive to be more like him.
My proudest accomplishment is without a doubt, my son. He is recently married and as an army officer has lived in Alaska and is on his way to Honduras. He and I have always been close, but as he grows and matures, our relationship is evolving into a new phase.
Get to know another Tampa Bay fan favorite, Chris Ponte, here.