Richard Gonzmart

The fourth-generation, self-described “caretaker” of the Columbia Restaurant Group, Richard Gonzmart has been named—as part of more than 100 awards—a community hero by the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Boys and Girls Clubs, and Big Brothers and Big Sisters.

He also has been named a luminary, a visionary and a philanthropist of the year. That’s on top of Father of the Year, Hispanic Man of the Year, Businessman of the Year, Outstanding Citizen of the Year, Tampa Police Citizen of the Year and two-time Jesuit High School Alumnus of the Year.

Gonzmart serves, or has served, on dozens of nonprofit boards and organizations, including Tampa General Hospital’s governing board. Pope Francis even recognized Gonzmart in 2016 with the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice medal—the Catholic Church’s decoration of honor for distinguished service by laypeople and clergy.


College alma mater?
University of Denver School of Hotel and Restaurant Management, and the University of Madrid, Escuela de Hosteleria.

Last book you read?
I have dyslexia, so I start books but don’t finish them.

Last place you vacationed?
Germany and France

PC or Mac?
PC at work, Mac at home

Guilty-pleasure food?
Dark chocolate

Where will we find you on the weekends?
At home with my wife Melanie and my new dog, Quentin

Biggest fear?
My goal has always been to continuously raise the standards for all of our restaurants and to leave the next generation debt-free. I worry about failing, but I am confident I will succeed.

Proudest moment?
In the 1990s, I wanted the Columbia to win back the praise of food writers and our peers. In 1995, Robert Tolf called to tell me the Columbia had been selected for the Florida Trend Golden Spoon Hall of Fame. And this year, I was inducted into the Distinguished Restaurants of North America (DiRoNA) Hall of Fame, joining some of the biggest names in hospitality.

Dream dinner companions?
My late great-grandfather, and grandfather, joining Melanie and me. I’d like to learn more from them and also to show them what we have accomplished.

10 Any pets?
Until recently Rex and Rusty, and now Quentin

11 Who did you last text?
My wife and daughters

12 What is your cellphone wallpaper image?
Melanie and me on an anniversary vacation in the Seychelles Islands

13 What do you listen in the car?
Anything and everything that’s on my phone—classic rock, Broadway, jazz, opera, bubblegum pop

14 What is your go-to drink order?
Triple espresso latte

15 Favorite candy?
Three Musketeers

16 Do you suffer from Primesia*?
No, but I have a severe and apparently incurable case of “Online Auctionitis”

17 Pool or beach?

18 Charity you support? 
We support 146 charities, but principally Moffitt Cancer Center, Jesuit and Academy of the Holy Names.

19 Favorite childhood memory?
Getting my first haircut at age 4, with my father Cesar holding a marble ashtray to catch the curls as they fell, and him crying

20 Words of advice?
Always trust your instincts. My only regrets are when I didn’t follow my own advice.

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