Undergraduate Blog

A Seat at the Table with Tiffany Daniele (McIntire ’04), CFO of Union Square Hospitality Group

Food may be her lifelong focus, but Daniele also has a love for fashion. And she hasn’t left it completely.

Tiffany Daniele

If you’re looking for a theme running through Tiffany Daniele’s life, restaurants may be your best bet.

As the CFO of Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG), the brainchild of legendary New York City restaurateur Danny Meyer, Daniele has made the finer fiscal points of fine dining ventures her business. Yet despite spending years working as a financial executive in fashion-related roles, she says that eateries in the city that she calls home have figured prominently since she was young.

Raised in Marlboro, NJ, she spent her weekends trekking into Manhattan, frequenting Jing Fong, which was the largest restaurant in Chinatown, where her grandfather was part owner.

“That’s basically my childhood,” Daniele says.

Those experiences eventually developed into an enduring passion for dining out, no doubt fueled by the roughly 25,000 restaurants located throughout New York’s five boroughs.

“I have always had such a strong love for food, hospitality, and restaurants that I’d call that my hobby up until I had children,” says the mother of two young boys. “It was what my husband and I did every single weekend living in New York. I kept a running list in Excel of all of the restaurants that I wanted to try and ranked them. I knew the average price point. It was a super-nerdy thing, but that was what we did on the weekends. Food has always just made me happy.”

No surprise then, that when a headhunter reached out about an opportunity and asked her if she was familiar with USHG’s Founder, she was dumbfounded. Of course she knew who he was. “Danny’s restaurants are classic New York places: Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, Shake Shack, and so many amazing restaurants that I had been such a fan of my entire adult life. I’ve always had specific memories at USHG restaurants, but I didn’t anticipate ending up in the industry.”

It turned out that USHG was on the search for a strategic CFO. Daniele fit the bill—and USHG turned out to be just what she was looking for in her career.

From the Lawn to the C-Suite

While restaurants were part of Daniele’s life early on, business proved to be an important concern, too. Completing a specialized program in high school that had her studying subjects such as accounting and economics, she had designs on attending a university with a strong business program. When it came time to visit schools, she visited Grounds with her parents, and on a rainy day tour, she fell in love with UVA.

She relished the chance to study diverse liberal arts courses like Greek Mythology and History of Jazz and was equally thrilled to have the second half of her University experience focus squarely on McIntire coursework.

“Comm School was such an important experience for me,” she says, mentioning that her closest friendship grew from a random pairing from her Integrated Core group and that the camaraderie originated from being a part of the McIntire community.

Academically, her coursework made it clear to her that she didn’t want to become an accountant, but the irony, she says, is that there is a great deal of accounting knowledge needed as a CFO.

She credits McIntire with the entire process of finding her first role and kick-starting her career. “Graduating from Comm School, I had my job set. What McIntire does to prepare, recruit, and ensure that people are ready to go through the job interview process is amazing, and I felt very lucky that a lot of the investment banks recruited at the Comm School,” she says.

Daniele jumped into investment banking straight out of UVA, joining Citigroup for a couple of years before moving into private equity with Bruckmann, Rosser, Sherrill & Co. for close to four years.

“When I went into private equity, the 2008 financial crisis hit, and it became more difficult for my firm to raise its next fund,” she recalls. “We were focused on consumer and retail, and that was when I decided to take a step back and ask myself what I really wanted to do. I ended up resetting. I moved into an M&A and business development role with what was then Liz Claiborne.”

That role proved transformative. Daniele was energized by the chance to get involved in so many aspects of the business. And while ownership changed hands—as did the company name—Liz Claiborne became Kate Spade, which got acquired by Coach and then later became the largest holding company of global luxury fashion parent company Tapestry, her first responsibility in strategy, business development, and M&A was just the beginning. “I ended up doing corporate finance for two months, filling in for somebody who was on maternity leave, and learned all of the accounting stuff I never wanted to know,” she says half-jokingly.

“I may not be a CPA, but I know accounting really well because of the practical knowledge that I gained in my time at Liz Claiborne and Kate Spade. I got to lead international finance, work on different joint ventures and licensing agreements, and work with Investor Relations. Being part of a large public company for 10 years at Liz/Kate/Tapestry and building teams taught me how to be a people manager. So much of what I got out of my time there allowed me to move from being a Vice President of Corporate Financial Planning & Analysis to stepping into my role as the CFO here with USHG.”

Beautiful Achievements

When Daniele was ready to make her next move after leaving Tapestry, she was looking for a CFO role and thought it would be with a similar company involved in retail and fashion. It was where her expertise was. But after that recruiter contacted her, it led to her joining USHG in October 2020—“which, let me tell you,” she points out, “was not an ideal time to join a fine dining full-service company, when no one could have restaurants open.”

Her approach to the position differed from her predecessors who had more traditional accounting backgrounds in hospitality. “USHG wasn’t focused just on someone who came from the industry; they were looking for someone who would be familiar, but had the right passion, culture, values, as well as a strategic mindset. So for me, making the shift out of retail and fashion into hospitality and restaurants was something that I was excited about.”

She also had experience investing in restaurants during her private equity period, and in a way, she sees many aspects that were coming full circle with her move to USHG.

When pressed, she admits that she couldn’t be a finance executive at just any organization. “It is the company, the people, and loving what you’re what you’re trying to do.”

Food may be her lifelong focus, but Daniele still has a love for fashion. And she hasn’t left it completely.

She serves as a board member of e.l.f. Beauty, applying her finance expertise and title as CFO to assist the eco-minded cosmetics company. She’s part of their audit committee, and as it’s a public company, she’s involved with their public filings and reviewing all that goes with it. While she wasn’t actively seeking a board position, they approached her through a board recruiting company.

“They’re only one of four public companies that have a board that is two-thirds women, and a third that is racially diverse. They are very intentional about how they look for board members, and so when they were looking to fill that open position on the board, I think they were looking for another ideally woman of color who could serve on the audit committee and understood the SEC rules in order to be classified a financial expert. It kind of perfectly worked out for me. I wasn’t really looking to take on board work just yet at this point in my career. But the opportunity availed itself.

“I feel really strongly about e.l.f. as a company, just their values. It is extra work, but I love being a part of helping to drive that company strategy. It’s just such a wonderful management team, and they’re just a rocket ship of growth. It’s amazing to be a part of it. Beauty is fun,” she says.

Pausing to think, she doesn’t want to give the wrong impression about her main gig: “Food is very fun, too.”

It ought to be for her. When asked what she’s most proud of having accomplished, Daniele finds the question tough. After mulling it over for a moment, she decides that it’s being CFO for a company that she’s long admired, being on the board of a public company before turning 40. “And then being a mom that’s getting to watch and help raise little human beings,” she says with a smile. “That’s a pretty big one.”

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