Daniel M. McGowan
DAMEN AWARD - INSTITUTE OF ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY
Daniel McGowan (BS ’88) is a progressive and visionary advisor in the restaurant business with a commitment and passion that has led to industry milestones. His influence is especially visible in his expansion and rebranding of Big Bowl, where he strengthened the company into a profitable $31 million operation while maintaining a stronger focus on sustainability and quality improvement.
McGowan’s involvement with the restaurant industry began in 1985 at Chicago’s Ed Debevic’s restaurant, where he was a part-time host and office clerk while also earning his BS in psychology from Loyola University Chicago.
During his time in the industry, McGowan has been involved in many different culinary establishments in the Greater Chicago Area, New York, and Minneapolis. These include Tucci Benucch and Tucci Pronto, L. Woods Tap & Pine Lodge, and ‘Wichcraft among others. He was also a partner with Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises (LEYE) for over 20 years. During his time with LEYE, his division encompassed a $50 million portfolio and formed the Green Committee for LEYE before sustainability became an industry buzzword. He got rid of bottled water, redesigned eco-friendly staff uniforms, and invested in local farms, including one owned by the executive chef. In 2010, McGowan was recognized by Chicago Magazine as one of "five eco-minded innovators who aren’t afraid to shake up the system" by advancing sustainability in restaurants.
After nearly 30 years in the business, his experience serves him well as an industry advisor and the president of Dan McGowan Consulting, through which he mentors local upstarts and longtime restaurateurs in creating and growing their concepts into more successful and profitable businesses.
McGowan has also been an active member of the Chicago Green Restaurant Coalition, served on the board of Bernie’s Book Bank, and served as an advisory board member for the Gene Siskel Film Center. Currently, he is an adjunct professor at Roosevelt University, where he instructs graduate students in a course called Leadership in Hospitality.