We had the good fortune of connecting with Hannah Kuehl and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Hannah, Let’s talk about principles and values – what matters to you most?
For me this is very simple, I believe that treating people with respect is the single biggest impact I can make professionally. You will not always be universally loved or even liked, but mutual respect helps us to do great work together as a team. I’ve discovered that if you want to achieve your business and personal goals that respect helps create an environment of collaboration. I accept that hard conversations have to happen and I will have to hold people accountable. Knowing all of this, you can choose to treat everyone you meet with a friendly, open and professional manner. I always greet our staff, smile, laugh, and share from my own professional experiences. I do not make leadership about me, so I share very little about myself. Instead, I focus on staff safety and wellbeing. Your staff must trust you to pay them on time and correctly, that you will respect and use correct pronouns, that pressure will not be put on a staff member to educate other staff at large. Leadership must insist on training and finding resources outside of the workplace to facilitate this. Creating a safe and inclusive environment with space for staff to share feedback, thoughts, grievances, etc will ensure the longevity of your business and will certainly retain staff. As a result, we’ve been able to build a team that has been able to really push the boundaries of our craft. We have a staff that has been able to push the boundaries of vegan dining as well as holding ourselves mutually accountable to always serve the best food we can every day.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My career path has been paved with hard work, every role I have held over the years has taken focus, attention, and drive. In 2017, I was working as the Chief Program Officer for Girl Scouts of Colorado and my mom and sister invited me to help with running HR at City O’ City, Watercourse Foods, and Make Believe bakery. That quickly shifted to my role expanding outside of HR to management, and eventually to an ownership stake in the businesses. Joining the family business was a whole new challenge and certainly took me outside of my comfort zone. I have worked in many different careers but owning and operating a restaurant is unique. I still grapple with the idea that all roads lead back to me and my decisions over my lifetime and I am excited to be where I am today.
That being said, as challenging as I thought running a restaurant was, I was in for a surprise. Last year was especially eye opening for most business owners and we were no exception. Not knowing what is coming, how to best support our employees, keep them safe and employed has been present in my mind and firmly centered in my life for almost 12 months. Nothing can be taken for granted, and everything seems to change moment to moment. I am the most proud of the dedication of our staff, they have taken caring for our community and feeding those that need us to a whole new level. I am truly inspired by them.
Watercourse isn’t just a restaurant – we seek out opportunities to support those we are connected to, and uplift the voices that make our city exceptional. Our true passion is what we serve and how we serve it to all those that come to eat with us. Watercourse Foods is a scratch kitchen, which means that we make EVERYTHING fresh in house from scratch. We focus on utilizing local vendors, sustainable business practices, and seek to give more than we take. We offer a wide variety of menu items that are accessible to many dietary restrictions, and we cultivate an environment of inclusivity. Our menu items are free of artificial flavors and colors, preservatives, and hydrogenated fats. We make food to nourish our community with fresh ingredients, and we like to think it shows with what you taste on your plate. Thanks to the tireless work of our chefs and staff; we have become not only a neighborhood gathering place, but also a world-wide destination.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I am very lucky as our Director of Finance, Sam is my closest friend so I can easily conjure a true “Treat Yourself Day” Long before we both joined the Watercourse Foods/City O’ City team our day would start at Watercourse, because there is no better vegan lunch spot for us. Tattoo’s at Lucky 13, Shopping at I Heart Denver, Snacks at NOOCH Vegan Market, A movie in the theater (As the pandemic rages on I miss this the most), Dinner at Go Fish (The vegan Sushi will change your life) Drinks at Star Bar. To be honest, I work full time and have two great kids, so just planning this was fun! In reality we would choose two of the awesome things listed so I could be home in time to pick up the girls from school.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I am so lucky to have the unending support from my Husband Cody Kuehl. Additionally, I could not do my job without my family and business partners Lauren Roberts (Sister) and Jennifer Byers (Mother). These wonderful, smart, caring, badass women are why I am here. They motivate me to be the best leader in our field, they push me and let me be myself. It is a relief to work in an environment where who I am is wholly accepted, trusted, and my vision is not only received but respected. I am forever grateful to the three of them for helping me achieve my dreams, and I am more then happy to shout it out from the rooftops of Denver.
D. Fritz Pronouns