Two Longtime Pittsburgh Bartenders Launch Consulting Company

Cat Cannon and Cecil Usher's Mindful Hospitality Group aims to elevate the Pittsburgh hospitality industry.

PHOTO BY MATT HUGGINS

Veteran Pittsburgh bartenders Cat Cannon and Cecil Usher have launched a hospitality and consulting company, Mindful Hospitality Group. The pair have been friends for five years, serving together on the council of the United States Bartenders Guild of Pittsburgh and most recently on staff at Lorelei in East Liberty.

Over the years, each has been integral in building and running important bar programs in Pittsburgh. As beverage director for The Richard DeShantz Restaurant Group, Usher was a driving force behind the company’s bar programs. Cannon worked at bars such as Harvard and Highland and Wallace’s Tap Room at Hotel Indigo prior to moving to Smallman Galley, and then into a management position at Federal Galley. Both pursued continuing education through cocktail conferences and competitions. Now, they’ve joined forces to help others in the restaurant industry elevate their skills and programs.

After years of late nights behind a bar, Usher was looking to remain in the hospitality industry but shift his workday to more family-friendly hours. “My son just turned 6, and now he’s got 9 a.m. soccer practice on Saturdays. I wanted more of a nine-to-five but still be in the industry I love,” he says.

At the same time, Cannon was becoming more interested in running events and educational programming. The two would often talk about how they could collaborate and, in May, decided to make the company their full-time work.

Mindful Hospitality Group focuses on three services: bar consulting, education and events. “It’s our negroni [a cocktail made of equal parts gin, Campari and sweet vermouth],” says Usher. “It’s three equal facets, all standing together to bring something forward that’s bold and dynamic.”

Usher and Cannon want to use their years of experience to help others in the service industry to hone their craft and avoid pitfalls. “We love this city and we love this industry, but we’ve started to see a plateau in growth,” says Cannon. “A lot of the people that built it up have now started moving on. We’re almost having a generational gap of people to train, educate and empower the next generation coming up. We should all be pushing each other to be better.”

Mindful is off to a busy start, with about a dozen events since it launched in September. Usher and Cannon have been catering cocktail programs for corporate events as well as private parties. “We did a ’90s-themed party the other week and made espresso martinis and cosmopolitans to keep it on-brand,” says Cannon. They’ve also been doing some consulting work for the restaurant group that owns Muddy Waters for its new bar project, Commerce Bar, as well as an event for Pittsburgh Fashion Week and an upcoming event for grl pwr pgh.

You can still occasionally find Cannon and Usher behind the stick at Muddy Waters and Smallman Galley, respectively. “We never want to get to a point where we lose touch with what’s going on in the industry,” says Cannon.

Categories: Eat Street