When Nicole Paulhus finds a good thing, she sticks with it. Her 24-year tenure with The Capital Grille definitely falls in that category.
The sales coordinator in the Naples, FL, location began her career at the first location of The Capital Grille, opened by Ned Grace in an old train station in Providence, RI. The restaurant had been open only four and a half years when Nicole joined it as a server in 1995.
“Providence had been undergoing a revitalization when the restaurant opened in 1990,” Nicole recalled. “With all the business deals going on and new buildings going up, Capital Grille was the location for all the big business dinners.”
Twenty-nine years later, that hasn’t changed, said Nicole, who manages bookings for the private dining areas. “It’s not difficult to fill them because The Capital Grille is a place where people want to be seen, to celebrate special occasions and make a great impression. It was like that at the first restaurant, and it remains so today.”
Nicole met Ned, who also opened Hemenway’s Seafood Grill and Oyster Bar and Bugaboo Creek Steak House, in 1992 when he spoke to her marketing class at Bryant University in Smithfield, RI. He was a kind, dynamic speaker, and she never forgot him.
Three years later, after she and her husband had their first child, she wanted more flexible hours than her assistant restaurant manager job at a hotel allowed. So she applied to be a server at The Capital Grille in Providence because she had been so impressed by Ned Grace and his restaurant. “I never forgot Ned’s story about building his business, so I started working for him,” she said. “I didn’t want to be a server just anywhere. I wanted to work where I would be respected for my abilities and would be able to grow.”
Nicole was a server at the Providence location for 21 years — during that time, The Capital Grille became part of Darden with its acquisition of RARE Hospitality in 2007. Nearly a decade later, Nicole and her husband were ready for a change after their two daughters grew up and left home. The couple decided to move to a warmer climate and fell in love with Naples. Nicole joined The Capital Grille restaurant there in Sept. 2016 as a server and trainer. She was promoted to her current position in Nov. 2018.
“Nicole is a delight to work with, and she makes every guest who walks into our restaurant feel like they just entered her home,” said Managing Partner Christy Tolbert. “She goes out of her way to exceed our guests’ expectations. Nicole has worked hard to get where she is today, and we are grateful to have her on our team.”
Nicole said she’s “super proud” of John Martin, president of The Capital Grille, Eddie V’s and Seasons 52. They met in the 1990s when he was a manager at The Capital Grille location in Boston. “His leadership and longevity solidifies why I’m still here with this great company,” she said.
She passed along some Darden praise to her children, too. Her eldest daughter, Alexandra Egan, is a server at Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen in West Melbourne, FL.
Nicole said she’s proud that The Capital Grille has maintained its strong culture. “The brand aligns with my moral compass by treating its employees and guests with respect and dignity. That speaks volumes. I couldn’t work for a company if I didn’t believe in their values, if they weren’t the same as mine. You have to love your job, and I do.”