UCF Alumnus Rocks the Restaurant Business

Kris ‘Po’ Maronpot is warm and welcoming. He knows how to treat people, and after working in the restaurant business for over 20 years, it comes naturally. Maronpot graduated from UCF in 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. At the time, he chose UCF for the great scholarships he received and the fact that Orlando isn’t too far from his hometown of Tampa. Shortly after graduating, Maronpot realized becoming a marriage and family counselor wasn’t going to be a good fit. He stuck with what he knew: restaurant management.

“I had an opportunity to open up a new restaurant concept back in Tampa called Lee Roy Selman’s,” Maronpot said. “It’s the NFL player’s restaurant. I did that for 10 years then decided to try my hand at something different and worked for a smaller family run chain. That’s when I heard about Rock & Brews.”

Rock & Brews is a restaurant franchise started by Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons of the legendary rock band KISS and the Furano Brothers who made an empire by selling concert and band merchandise. Maronpot went out to California to explore opening a concept in Oviedo, Florida. When he came back, he was all in.

Rock & Brews Orlando

Maronpot didn’t just help open a restaurant – he opened a community center. Not only does Rock & Brews have local bands play at night, but the Oviedo location feeds the UCF football team and offers internship credit for Rosen College of Hospitality students. It also sponsors local Pop Warner football and hosts charity events like this fall’s backpack drive and a dog wash that raised money for a local rescue. When the restaurant opened it created over 700 jobs in Oviedo. Over 165 people were hired to start the business.

“Success is measured in sales and profits just like anywhere else, but at Rock & Brews it’s about putting our employees first.” Kris said. “Our employees feel a sense of connection and they love taking care of people. They also get to do it with fun music and TV’s.”

UCF Art students, Ericka Sobrack and Nicholas Kalemba painted the mural above the windows.

The restaurant industry can get a bad rap for having a high turnover rate and bad managers, but Rock & Brews feels like family. The art on the walls is from local artists, the Orlando location which just opened in April, features a mural painted by two UCF art students, Ericka Sobrack and Nicholas Kalemba. The way Maronpot interacts with his employees is genuine. He credits his ability to work with people to his degree in psychology.

“In the restaurant industry you have to figure out how to motivate and teach people from all walks of life,” Kris said. “The restaurant is a big melting pot of people from all different backgrounds. They all have to get their job done and they do it in a different way.”

The joys at his job come from learning how to mobilize a team for a common goal. Dealing with the public is different every day, Maronpot says. He finds his job adventurous and challenging. Maronpot now functions as the general manager of the Orlando location.

“Rock & Brews is like a hangout place where people can get together and be themselves,” Maronpot said. “We serve great food and build an experience for our customers they can’t get elsewhere. It’s a celebration of rock ‘n’ roll and local art.”

Inside the Rock & Brews Orlando, Florida, location.

During his time at UCF Maronpot played intramural sports and enjoyed watching UCF football star Daunte Culpepper walk around campus with his posse.

“That was before athletes having entourages was cool,” Maronpot said with a smile. “The football games were exciting because of him. One of my favorite memories was going to a Lenny Kravitz homecoming concert. It was amazing to see 25,000 students all together in one place.”

But there is one thing that hasn’t changed: UCF parking. Maronpot says he missed his first class as a freshman at UCF. He didn’t heed the parking warnings he received from friends. After driving around for 45 minutes he learned his lesson and came to campus sooner. Now he says he wouldn’t be able to find his way around campus.

His advice to UCF students is simple: Don’t be afraid to take risks.

Don’t be afraid to fail,” Maronpot said. “Failing can be looked at in two different ways. You can say, ‘Woe is me,’ or you can take a look at why something didn’t work and when you find what you want to do, you stick with it. Don’t be so quick to move on from a difficult task because the grass isn’t always greener.”

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