Terry Coughlin: Managing Partner of Marta and Maialino, USHG Restaurants

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Terry Coughlin is the Managing Partner of Marta and Maialino. A native of New Jersey, Terry moved west in 1989 to attend California State University, Fullerton, where he received a degree in education. It was during college that Terry had his first taste of the hospitality industry, working in several restaurants. He officially realized his love for food and wine when, after saving up money for six months, he took his mother to Spago and ordered a bottle of 1982 Chateau Margaux.

In 1997, Terry moved back to the East Coast and immediately began working at Gramercy Tavern, spending seven years at the restaurant as a server and captain.  In 2004, Terry joined Tabla as the Wine and Service Director, and three years later he was promoted to Assistant General Manager. In fall of 2007, Terry was named General Manager at Tabla, a position he held until joining the Maialino opening team in 2009. As the General Manager of Maialino, Terry was integral to the restaurant’s launch and subsequent success, and was named a Managing Partner in 2012. In 2014, along with Executive Chef/Partner Nick Anderer, Terry opened Marta at the Martha Washington hotel.

How did you get into the Culinary industry?

I studied education at California State University, Fullerton, hoping to be a teacher.  I worked in restaurants during college, simply as a way to pay my rent.  What began as a necessity quickly turned into a lifelong passion as I fell in love with the hospitality industry and the idea of taking care of others.

Tell us about Maialino & Marta. What inspired the idea and what is your vision for the restaurants?

Maialino and Marta are both heavily inspired by Rome.  Both Danny (Meyer) and Nick (Anderer) spent a generous portion of their young adulthood sampling the wonderful cuisine and culture of Rome.  Our vision is to try and capture the essence of that wonderful city, while still remaining true to the New York dining scene and all it offers.

What strategic partnerships/marketing strategies have you implemented that have attributed to Maialino/Marta's success?

We have been fortunate to have an extremely eclectic clientele that dines at our restaurants, allowing us to explore unique partnerships with music, fashion, and various other artists.  It is truly exciting to have the opportunity to collaborate in someone else’s world and discover some of the things we have in common, while also drawing inspiration from their areas of expertise.

What industry trends are you noticing and how do you capitalize on them?

I think an industry trend that has worked in our favor is that “simple can often times be better”.  Our cuisine at Maialino and Marta is not fussy or over-adorned.  Beautifully sourced ingredients, lovingly prepared and executed, allowing the flavors to shine.

Life Motto?

Be thoughtful.

Maialino/Marta's Motto?

Never become complacent.  A restaurant must always challenge itself to find new ways to improve if it wants to remain relevant.   

Your greatest success as Managing Director of Maialino/Marta? Most difficult moment-how did you overcome and what did you learn?

Greatest success is building a team that now behaves like a family.  The experience of assembling a group of total strangers together to open a restaurant, and then seeing those strangers become best of friends who will have a life-long impact on one another is truly amazing!

Most difficult moment was balancing work with the news that my daughter, Grace, was diagnosed with leukemia.  I was able to overcome this experience by trusting in my work family and knowing that they would be there for me every step of the way.  (Grace is currently doing fantastic, BTW!)

Your advice to an aspiring restauranteur?

Be willing to pay your dues.  Do not be in such a rush to “be the boss” that you do not take the time to learn how to lead.

Describe the ideal experience at Maialino/Marta.

I believe the best way to experience both restaurants is to come in with a group of friends or family and share everything!  This allows you to try as many different dishes as possible.  Also, have fun while you dine with us!

Most popular dishes and your favorites?

Five years in, Maialino’s pasta program is by far the best it has ever been!  Nick and team have done such a wonderful job of continuing to honor the Roman classics (carbonara, amatriciana, etc.) while creating new dishes that are equally crowd pleasing.  Pizza rules supreme at Marta.  Strangely enough, I’m not the biggest mushroom fan, yet the funghi pizza is my favorite!  Go figure.

How do you motivate your employees?

By treating them with respect at all times.  I believe you can always treat someone respectfully, even when you’re dealing with a difficult situation or having to hold them accountable.

One food and drink left on earth, what would you choose?

Oh boy…I’d have to say Chinese takeout.  Kind of a pathetic answer, but that’s the first thing that came blazing into my mind.  Drink (assuming I can still have water) would be Riesling.  I think it would go really well with my Chinese takeout.

What literature is on your bed stand?

Harry Potter And The Prisoner of Azkaban. (I’m reading it with my daughter, Rosemary)

Role model - business and personal?

Business- I know I sound like a “suck up” if I say Danny Meyer, but after working with him for 18 years, it is simply the truth.

Personal- Paul Newman.  His generosity as a human being is awe inspiring.

Current passion?

I love to run and now that the weather has gotten warmer, I am making up for the lost time of winter.

Favorite travel destination?

I’d have to say Rome.

What's next for Maialino/Marta?

Continuing to strive to be better.