The SingleThread Story

with Katina and Kyle Connaughton, SingleThread

Together with

Today, we’re learning from Katina and Kyle Connaughton, the founders, owners, and leaders of SingleThread, the farm, restaurant, and inn that's received practically every top accolade a hospitality business could receive, including three Michelin Stars, three Michelin Keys, one of World's 50 Best Restaurants, #2 in the world on Le Liste, Five Diamonds by AAA, and Five Stars by Forbes Travel Guide.

Yesterday, in part one of our three-part mini-series with them, we heard about the life experiences that shaped their journey to their work today. Today, we’re learning all about their unique perspective on hospitality, which has led to their recognition as among the best in the business.

Read on to learn Katina and Kyle's thoughts and insights on the power of place, the link between farming and fine dining, innovation in the culinary world, the role of education and storytelling in heightening the guest experience, and more.

The SingleThread Story

Katina and Kyle Connaughton // Photo: Josiah Mackenzie

Today, Katina and Kyle Connaughton, founders, owners, and leaders of SingleThread, share their unique perspectives on hospitality, which have led to their recognition as among of the best in the business. You can listen to us here on the podcast, and I’ve summarized a few of my top takeaways below.

The Power of Place

From my conversations with people such as Blair Foster and Andy Chabot this year, I’ve been thinking a lot about the power of place and how location shapes us and our businesses. For Katina and Kyle, this was immediately obvious as they both described their deep connection to Healdsburg in California’s Sonoma County, emphasizing the community's passion and how it shapes SingleThread’s ethos.

Katina recalled early visits to the area before they started SingleThread:

“One of the big pivotal moments for me coming here was when Kyle and I would come to visit. We'd go to the farmer's market on the weekend and we would have conversations with the farmers and start to make those human connections. We could see just how passionate people were here, how they really threw themselves wholeheartedly into what it is that they do and what they believe in. And that was so infectious; it was something that we really just wanted to be a part of.”

Katina Connaughton

The people in the community create the context for providing unique hospitality.

"The agricultural community here, the makers, the crafts, and all of the people who create this beautifully textured and colorful community create this beautiful fabric that is the foundation of Healdsburg itself."

Katina Connaughton

Takeaway: Embrace your local community and culture to create a unique experience that resonates with guests.

Put this in action:

  1. Start by immersing yourself and participating! Go to your local farmer’s market, craft fairs, and other places where you can start getting to know makers.

  2. Engage with these local artisans and craftspeople to incorporate their work into your offerings.

  3. Encourage your teams to share stories about the local area and its significance with your guests.

  4. Promote what your place uniquely offers and provide your guests with curated experiences that highlight the uniqueness of your location.

SingleThread Farm Store // Photo: Josiah Mackenzie

The Evolution of Culinary Innovation

After roles at Spago Beverly Hills, The Dining Room at Ritz Carlton, Lucques, Hama Sushi, and A.O.C. Kyle spent several years cooking in Japan for the famed chef Michel Bras and in numerous traditional Japanese cuisine restaurants. In 2006, he joined Heston Blumenthal as the Head Chef of Research and Development for the Fat Duck Experimental Kitchen. Today, Kyle sees culinary innovation moving to a more integrated and narrative-driven approach and is putting this into practice at SingleThread.

“Every day, our menu is always changing. Every day, it’s a reflection of what Katina sees on the farm. What she's harvesting, what's ready, what she's excited about, what's happening. When I came here, and we started working together, I realized that now my role was to really follow Katina's lead [with the farm]. My role as a chef is really to take the hard work that Katina and her farmers do for months and months and months for the produce that I have for just a few hours.”

Kyle Connaughton

Takeaway: The opportunity now with innovation is less about novelty and more about integrating your business into its environment.

The Connection Between Farming and Fine Dining

Katina and Kyle repeatedly emphasized the importance of the relationship between the farm and the kitchen, ensuring that the produce guides the culinary experience.

“The farm is the start of the kitchen... They're thinking about, this is going to be cooked today, served today. Is this a reflection of what we want it to taste like?”

Kyle Connaughton

Takeaway: A strong connection between sourcing and service enhances the quality and authenticity of the guest experience.

Put this in action:

  1. If you don’t have your own farm, build relationships with local suppliers to ensure fresh and high-quality ingredients.

  2. Create a seasonal menu that reflects the best of what is available in your area.

  3. Involve kitchen staff in the sourcing process to deepen their understanding and appreciation of the ingredients.

Photo: Josiah Mackenzie

The Role of Storytelling

Kyle shared how integral storytelling is to the SingleThread experience and how it provides guests with a deeper connection to their food and its origins.

We tell the story of today to our guests. It's really an appreciation for creating a moment that cannot be replicated and making you feel it on a conscious and subconscious level.

Takeaway: Storytelling enhances the guest experience by creating a memorable and unique atmosphere.

Put this in action:

  1. Train staff to share stories about the history and significance of different aspects of your offerings.

  2. Use visual storytelling through décor and presentation to convey the narrative of your brand and location.

Photo: Josiah Mackenzie

Operating with Efficiency

The Connaughtons emphasized how the complete integration of all aspects of their business, from farming to the dining experience, ensures a seamless and world-class operation. Doing this involves many things: from physical proximity to how they work to technology:

“We do rely on technology. We do use Slack for [communication between teams]. We've got a lot of chefs who will come out every week [to the farm] and connect one-on-one with their product. We are offering information to the kitchen in real time each and every day so that they are completely aware of what is coming in, what is going out, what is at its peak. Because our farm and kitchen is only seven minutes apart, we're able to really just create a very strong connection amongst us. We've got a very strong dialogue that we've been honing for almost eight years now.”

Katina Connaughton

Takeaway: Integrating the various parts of your operation can enhance efficiency - and your ability to consistently provide quality hospitality.

Put this in action:

  1. Develop a clear communication system between your teams to ensure smooth operations.

  2. Implement a regular review process to assess and improve the integration of your various operational functions.

  3. Ensure that all team members understand your overall mission and how their role contributes to it.


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