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Why Lilia owner Sean Feeney moved from finance to the restaurant industry: 'The margins in pasta are incredible'

Sara Dramer
Associate Producer

Making the move from the trading floor to the dining floor could not have been an easier decision for restauranteur Sean Feeney. The co-founder of Grovehouse and owner of Brooklyn restaurants Lilia and Mis, recently joined Yahoo Finance’s The Final Round to discuss his switch.

“My thirteen years in finance, from 2003 until 2016, I measured my professional success base on a finite set of goals I set myself...and sometimes if I didn’t hit those goals I would reflect and I would always come to the same conclusion of you’re in this too deep you can’t get out. And even if you wanted to try to start over, what could you possibly do. And finally when the restaurant did open up I realized that ‘well I can do something else actually,’” Feeney said.

A photo of the Sheeps Milk Cheese Filled Agnolotti at Lilia in Brooklyn

Before working full time at Lilia and Misi, Feeney worked on Wall Street at big firms including Cantor Fitzgerald, Goldman Sachs, and Anchorage Capital. He said he credits his career change to a belief in his business partner Missy Robbins.

“When I decided to do this restaurant thing it started with a belief in somebody else, my partner Missy Robbins. I did not think at that time when she finally said yes to become my partner that it was going change my life the way it did,” Feeney said.

Feeney said his goal in the industry has always been to find the perfect balance between art and commerce. Feeney said finding the balance “is not necessarily to eek out the most profit margins — it’s essentially to make it as efficient an operation as possible and [Missy Robbins] has the greatest canvas in front of her to paint on.”

Reservations for Lilia and Misi are able to be made on the restaurant reservation site, Resy. But, tables at these spots are in high demand so expect to wait up to a month to feast on Feeney and Robbins’ pasta.

For everyone that asks Feeney why anyone would leave finance for the unpredictable work of restaurants, he simply says, “the margins in pasta are incredible.”

Sara Dramer is an associate producer at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @saradramer

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