A Day in the Life of Quince’s General Manager Matt Cirne

Matt Cirne
Matt Cirne

Photo Credit: Matt Morris

With three Michelin stars and a hefty price tag, Quince is one of San Francisco’s most well-regarded restaurants. Everything—from the black truffle tortellini to the elegantly polished glassware—is virtually perfect. To maintain this level of hospitality, chef and owner Michael Tusk has to employ the right type of people to oversee his empire. One such person is general manager Matt Cirne.

For the past five years, Cirne has been a critical part of Quince’s team. Not only does he run the day-to-day operations of the restaurant, but he also supervises the action at Quince’s sister restaurant Cotogna, all the while helping with the opening of the group’s third and upcoming French wine bar, Verjus. As you can imagine, Cirne, who is also a sommelier, is a busy guy. In anticipation of Verjus’ opening, we reached out to Cirne to find out what his regular day looks like. Here in his own words are a day in the life of Matt Cirne.

The dining room
The dining room

Photo Credit: Quince

8:30 a.m. I check the news, industry websites, and auction sites while getting coffee. This usually involves blitzing through the BBC and NYT apps to see what’s going on in the world before hitting websites that pertain to the restaurant business including Eater and Punch which is always a favorite. Online wine auctions are run every week all over the world. You never know which wines are going to crop up at auction. If there is time on the way into to work, I’ll browse various catalogs and place bids and track wines that I’m interested in picking up for the restaurants.

9:15 a.m. I arrive at Quince. The first thing I do is review sales reports and the previous night’s server logs. This will give me all the information I need to know about the prior night’s service, which guests came in, and which wines were sold. While I typically work the restaurant floor I’m in the process of working to get our third location, Verjus, open so I’ve not been on the restaurant floor as often as I would typically be. The logs are a great way for my team of sommeliers and the restaurant managers to let me know what’s happening during service. We share feedback about wines through the logs and communicate regarding inventory levels and 86s (a term used for when a bottle sells out).

The restaurant's wine cellar
The restaurant’s wine cellar

Photo Credit: Quince

9:30 a.m. I review the reservation books for the restaurants. Doing this helps me plan out my evening, I know which restaurants to be in at which time and can generally get a gist of what kind of service we can expect–which is typically a busy one! Specifically, it is great to see if guests have joined us before, where guests are visiting from, and if they are celebrating a special occasion. This past weekend we had a couple join us for their 50th wedding anniversary—their golden anniversary. It just so happened that we have a bottle of 1968 Blandy’s Sercial Madeira in the cellar. The couple was earmarked for a pour of this special Madeira to be served alongside an especially prepared chocolate dessert that was dressed with gold leaf.

If we have wine VIPs noted this typically means that we are aware that the guest has a strong interest in wine and will likely be considering their wine options before they arrive at the restaurant. Often a team member or I will contact the guest in advance of the reservation to provide assistance in selecting wine for the evening or to learn about the guest’s preferences as to make suitable recommendations. We often end up customizing a menu for guests who are looking to enjoy a particular wine with their meal. Chef Tusk is incredibly open to working with wine and beverage in mind. After consulting with guests, I’ll usually begin bouncing ideas off of the chefs to see how we can best prepare the menu for the wine a guest has selected.

Cirne with Quince's bar cart
Cirne with Quince’s bar cart

Photo Credit: Isabel Baer

11:00 a.m. I take tasting appointments. There is an army of distributors, importers, and producers that have wine to sell. I could probably take six or seven appointments every day of the year if time permitted, of course, it doesn’t. I tend to be very selective about who I taste with. I often prefer to discover wines myself through researching producers and picking bottles off the shelves from favorite retailers or wine brokers. I always enjoy tasting with producers most of all—no one is more insightful about the wine than the person who crafted it. As for my tastes, they are pretty eclectic. While I like the classics and will always go back to them nothing excites me more than something I enjoy but have never tasted before. Over 12 years of working in wine and that still happens routinely.

12:00 p.m. I place orders and research products. I was tasting and ordering Spanish wine for our new concept which will feature a lot of new interesting things happening in Catalunya, Rioja, around Madrid and in the northwest of Spain. Today I was giddy when I was able to find a consistent source of the cult Belgian sour beer Cantillon. Often a lot of research goes into purchasing older wine. How was the wine stored? What is the bottle’s provenance? How are the vintages I’m interested in drinking today?

Cirne leading a meeting
Cirne leading a meeting

Photo Credit: Quince

1:00 p.m. I typically participate in various meetings regarding the financial performance of restaurants, upcoming events, and service initiatives. This frequently involves planning for certain purchases, reviewing menus to ensure that we posit appropriate wine selections to guests, and analyzing the financial performance of various aspects of the program.

3:30 p.m. I attend lineups for both restaurants where I inform teams of any change to the programs and provide educational materials on new items available. I review wine pairings for the evening and discuss any changes or edits with the wine team. It is imperative to get the team excited about what we are serving in the restaurant. We will talk about producers, vintages, geography, history, and the broader context of a wine. I like to hear feedback from the service staff as I’m not always the person serving the wine. Which pairings are guests excited about? What wines are guests curious about? Are there gaps in the list where people feel they need more selections or different price points?

A floral arrangement at the eatery
A floral arrangement at the eatery

Photo Credit: Quince

4:30 p.m. I attend to any unanswered emails and ensure that beverage teams are fully prepared for service at Quince and Cotogna.

5:00 p.m. I review all purchases for the day. Throughout the day we will receive lists of wines available for sale both here in the states as well as in Europe. There’s always diamonds in the rough and the more attention you can give to good sourcing of wine the more exciting the programs become.

An assortment of Quince dishes
An assortment of Quince dishes

Photo Credit: Kelly Puleio

6:00 p.m. I work the floor at Quince and check in with regular guests. I assist the sommelier teams with any wine service as needed and check that any private events are running appropriately. This is where I see the programs come to life. Interacting with all of our guests is great. Regarding interest in wine, our guests run the gamut of those with little interest or knowledge to those who are some of the most knowledgeable collectors in the world. Every night is different on the restaurant floor–you never know what bottles are going to be popped and who you are going to end up serving. Being able to forge wonderful relationships and provide people with incredibly memorable moments is without a doubt the most rewarding part of the job.

11:30 p.m. Before I leave the restaurant floor, I communicate any adjustments that need to be made for the following day to the beverage programs.

Cirne in his "office"
Cirne in his “office”

Photo Credit: Isabel Baer

12:00 a.m. I answer emails—I receive emails constantly throughout the day and during service. This is the time that any loose ends for the day get wrapped up. Often this is when we will follow up with guests. There is a lot of interest in the wine bar and the wine shop that we will be opening at the end of the year and a lot of the latter part of the evening is spent working on that.

1:30 a.m. I leave for the day. I always try and read an article about a product, region or producer that I am unfamiliar with before I head to bed.

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