The Longest Winter: Gerard Craft

  • Season 1, Episode 1
  • June 15, 2021
  • 37 minute listen

The Longest Winter: Gerard Craft

“There were so many decisions and none of them were good.”


On March 18, 2020, or thereabouts, the world turned upside down. With dire news around the spread of the deadly coronavirus came staggering uncertainty for business leaders. How should they respond? Among restaurateurs, owners were forced to make incredibly consequential decisions in the snap of a finger. They had to look into the fog and consider how long this new world would last. Pivoting operations is expensive—and hard to justify for only a few months. Fail to pivot quickly enough, however, and opportunity is lost, people lose jobs, businesses shutter.

We look through the eyes and the experience of James Beard Award-winning chef and restaurateur Gerard Craft, owner of Niche Food Group, a group of restaurants in St. Louis and Nashville. We explore what decisions he faced in the first weeks of the pandemic, what lessons he quickly learned, how he pivoted and how his decisions differed from colleagues in the industry. The bigger story here is about how to lead through uncertainty.

We also talk to WashU Olin Business School scholars Elanor Williams, associate professor of marketing, and Peter Boumgarden, Koch Professor of Practice in Family Enterprise, to share what history and research tells us about leading through these situations.

This podcast is a production of Washington University in St. Louis’s Olin Business School. Contributors include:

  • Katie Wools, Cathy Myrick and Judy Milanovits, creative assistance
  • Jill Young Miller, fact checking and creative assistance
  • Hayden Molinarolo, original music, sound design and editing
  • Nate Sprehe, creative direction, production and editing
  • Angie Winschel, production assistance and project management
  • Olivia Hanford, social media
  • Lexie O'Brien and Erik Buschardt, website support
  • Mark P. Taylor, strategic support
  • Paula Crews, creative vision and strategic support

Special thanks to Ray Irving and his team at WashU Olin’s Center for Digital Education, including our audio engineer, Austin Alred.

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Download the podcast transcript (PDF)