Larry Konecny M ’14 achieved a huge promotion that set a full table of new responsibilities. In March 2017, leading restaurant company Brinker International added chief concept officer to Konecny’s title as vice president of Brinker-owned restaurant chain Maggiano’s Little Italy, based in Dallas at corporate headquarters.
Konecny ascended the administrative ranks at Maggiano’s, bolstered by determination and a keen interest in the food business. “I have always worked in restaurants, although it was not my intention,” Konecny said. “Like most, I fell in love with the food, the fast pace and the joy of making people feel special.”
Konecny directs the marketing efforts and banquet operations of the company, including developing campaigns and managing creative elements on the menu. Konecny is currently working on adding contemporary flavors to Maggiano’s traditional, family-style offerings. Konecny keeps an ear to the ground within restaurants for inspiration. “Whenever I get tired of being in the office, I just work on a dining room floor,” Konecny said. “I get more insight from a Friday night shift than hours of reading data. If you want good ideas, there’s no better place than the team and the guest.”
Even more rewarding are creating and evaluating new menu ideas for the more than 50 Maggiano’s locations nationwide. Maggiano’s restaurants are “scratch kitchens,” offering fresh ingredients and meals made from scratch as well as specials created by chefs at many of the restaurant’s locations. If a dish makes it to a customer’s plate, it not only passed Konency’s desk but also through his lips. He tastes and approves every item on the menu.
Larry Konecny M '14, vice president and chief concept officer, Maggiano's Little Italy
“The amazing part of my job is we have the best chefs in the country, and someone has to taste all of their culinary creations.” Larry Konecny M ’14
“The amazing part of my job is we have the best chefs in the country, and someone has to taste all of their culinary creations,” Konecny said.
In 2009, while working as a managing partner at Maggiano’s in Naperville, Konecny sought to increase opportunities for bigger responsibilities by enrolling in North Central’s master’s of business administration (M.B.A.) program. “I needed to find a good graduate program that was both well recognized and also convenient,” Konecny said. “The structure of the (North Central) M.B.A. program was great, but what stood out the most was how personal the staff was on an individual student basis. That is not something you see at a large state school.”
Konecny had some trepidation about running a business, having a family and going to school all at the same time. “When I started the program, I was concerned about being overloaded,” Konecny said. “What I found was the classes actually energized me, and that was all due to the faculty and students.
“I enjoyed the diversity in the classroom the most. The conversations were rich, and I often found immediate ways to use what I learned at work.”
Konecny is grateful for receiving the tools to succeed, but also the connections made with the College. “(Half-time Assistant Professor of Business Administration) Jeff Woodruff was engaging, showed care for me and my career, and we still keep in touch today,” Konecny said. “(Woodruff) was the most impactful professor I’ve had at any school. Those classes stretched me the most in not only my understanding of the core concepts, but also in my pursuit of a different perspective.
“I learned the fundamentals of how to excel in marketing from the M.B.A. program, but I also learned how important it is to constantly have a curiosity for what’s changing.”