Innovation keeps Nick Cianfaglione on the move. A serial entrepreneur and member of Bryant’s Class of 2021, Cianfaglione is currently traveling the country growing his newest company, Restaurent — and working to revolutionize how we plan the events that matter to us the most.
The germ of the idea for the company — a one-stop online platform that allows individuals to connect with a wide range of venues for any occasion — came to Cianfaglione in May of 2022, when he was given the responsibility of organizing multiple receptions after his grandparents’ passings.
“It made me realize how hard it was to handle all of those details, or even connect with the venues, on such short notice — especially in a stressful time,” says Cianfaglione, who was recently named to Boston Inno’s 25 under 25 list. “From graduations to funeral receptions to family reunions to corporate gatherings, people book hundreds of thousands of events a year, and there's really no easy way to do it."
Convinced there must be a better path, Cianfaglione developed Restaurent and began a journey that was by now familiar to him: bringing an intriguing idea into the real world. “The first thing we did was take the time to understand how restaurants worked, how the booking process worked, how to best automate that through a web platform, and how someone who's booking an event wants to experience it all,” he says.
Armed with that knowledge, he formed a company that helped him design and build out the Restaurent platform and bring in participating venues. Since its launch in April, Restaurent currently represents more than 140 venues along the East Coast, and Cianfaglione is working on expanding its reach across the country. “We want Restaurent to be the Airbnb for private events,” he explains. “Our goal is to help people book a space at their favorite bars, restaurants, breweries, and beyond in the easiest way possible — nationwide.”
Restaurent, he says, is a project he can sink his teeth into. “I think the biggest thing that gets me up every morning is the idea that I’m building something that has never existed before and using it to create a solution that makes people's lives easier,” notes Cianfaglione, who had already developed two successful business ventures before the age of 25.
Igniting the spark
Cianfaglione’s team at Restaurent is largely made up of Bryant alumni, from Anne Marie Harrington ’86, a member of the Bryant Board of Trustees and a longtime mentor for Cianfaglione, to Kacie Galligan ’20, who recently joined Restaurent as head of partnerships and community. Cianfaglione also found support from other Bryant entrepreneurs, including Bradley Adams ’17, co-founder of the Aerogami software development company, Will Tondo ’19; co-founder of the House Enterprise entertainment media group; and Ed Brady ’06, co-owner of The Thirsty Beaver Pub and Grub, with whom he consulted in developing the idea for Restaurent.
Cianfaglione’s businesses — including event management and marketing company Northeastern Entertainment Solutions, LLC, and Artist Republik, a decentralized networking platform that allowed independent music artists to manage, market, and book themselves — have spanned several industries but determination will always be the hallmark of any successful entrepreneurial endeavor, he states.
“I think entrepreneurs have to be a little crazy to do what we do: to wake up every day and spend every bit of energy you have trying to convince the world that something new — something you built — has value,” he says. “You face a lot of rejection and a lot of obstacles, and then you wake up the next morning with a smile on your face as you get ready to do it again.”
Ambition, and the grit to keep on going, Cianfaglione says, unites Bryant’s entrepreneurial community. “We’re not seen as this big Ivy League entrepreneurship powerhouse, but there are hundreds of entrepreneurial and leading business ventures that have come out of Bryant,” he says. “We have the skillset to succeed, but we also see ourselves as underdogs, which makes us work all that much harder.”
His own spark of determination was fanned by his time as a member, and eventual president, of Bryant Ventures, Bryant University’s start-up incubator. In Ventures, student entrepreneurs work to create and grow their businesses, pooling their knowledge, offering support, and inspiring one another. “One of the most important things you get from a program like Ventures is that, when you're surrounded by other people who are also hustling to make their ideas come true, it makes you want to hustle even harder,” he states.
Cianfaglione vividly remembers his introduction to that community. “When I came to Bryant out of high school, I thought I was successful because I was running my own event company making about $30,000 a year and I didn’t see anyone else my age doing that. But then I met Ryan Buonaugurio, who was running Ventures at the time — as well as a boat customization business that brought in between $200,000 and $300,000 a year. It made me realize, ‘Man, I have to step up my game,’” he laughs.
“Having that experience helps to break down the barriers you put on yourself. When you’re seeing other people your age build successful companies, it helps you realize everything you can do,” Cianfaglione reflects, noting that Buonaugurio became a trusted friend and mentor.
Since then, Cianfaglione has sought to take his ideas as far as they can go, and Restaurent is no exception. “Right now, I am focused for the next five to 10 years of my life on making Restaurent as successful as I know it can be,” he states firmly.
That doesn’t mean he’s done innovating, though. “Entrepreneurs always have an itch to try new things, and I have so many ideas regarding things that I would do later in life,” he admits. “But for now, they just go on a notepad until I’m ready to work on them.”