Our Common Man team, now more than 650 members strong, is our most valued asset.
We’re proud to have with us a talented, loyal staff dedicated to providing our guests “wow” service and creating delicious and memorable cuisine that keeps guests coming back for more.
In an industry prone to high staff turnover, we’re pleased to say that more than 50% of our staff has been with us for 10 years or more. We even have staff on board who’ve been with us since we opened our first location in Ashland in 1971!
We’ve been named “Best Company to Work For in the Food Industry” by The Griffin Report of Food Marketing, and ranked among the Top 100 Private Companies in New Hampshire by Business NH Magazine!
Click here to see current opportunities to join our Common Man family.
Alex Ray is the owner and founder of The Common Man Family of Restaurants, and is known just as much for his family-style restaurants across New Hampshire as he is for his tireless philanthropic work in communities across the state.
Born on April 6, 1945, Alex moved to North Conway at the age of 14, where he attended Kennett High School. During high school, he worked as a cook at “The Eatery” at Cranmore Mountain Ski Area.
In 1970, four years after graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, Alex opened Pineshore, a little summer restaurant on Squam Lake in Holderness, NH. He opened the first Common Man in Ashland, NH in November of 1971, and since then has built a thriving hospitality business throughout New Hampshire including 15 restaurants, two Common Man Inns, a Spa, a Company Store and The Flying Monkey Movie House & Performance Center, employing more than 1,000 people.
Click here to read “The Common Man History” about the history and growth of The Common Man family in New Hampshire.
Alex’s mantra for The Common Man family has always been “Do Good,” and he encourages all employees to get involved with their local communities, through hosting fund-raisers at each location and volunteering their own personal time. He allows employees a paid day off to contribute to a charity important to them, and supports employee efforts to raise funds for local organizations, sometimes making his own personal contribution.
Alex has a passion for saving old buildings. Among his renovation and revitalization projects are The Common Man Inn & Spa in Plymouth, a former wood mill converted into an Inn, restaurant, Spa and event center. He partnered with long-time friend and Rusty McLear of Mill Falls at the lake to turn run-down textile mills into The Common Man Inn and The Common Man restaurant in Claremont, breathing new life into old mills that stood decrepit and defunct for decades. Alex also renovated the historic Daniel Webster homestead in Franklin, NH, preserving the historic structures and converting them into a non-profit drug and alcohol rehabilitation center called Webster Place Center. In 2016, he carefully removed the historic Peverly Barn, beam by beam and board by board, in Canterbury, NH, and revived the structure in Plymouth in 2018, opening as The Barn on The Pemi, an event space for up to 300 guests.
In March 2015, Alex again partnered with Rusty on a public-private partnership to breathe new life into the New Hampshire Welcome Centers on Interstate 93 north and south. The unique project resulted in the complete tear down and rebuild of the state welcome centers on both sides of the highway. The facilities now feature food courts comprised of all Common Man-made food, a 24-hour NH General Store, expanded New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlets, renovated bathrooms, 300 parking spots, Irving fuel pumps and Tesla electric car charging stations. The northbound building was named in honor of the late Executive Councilor Raymond S. Burton and also features a Merrimack County Savings Bank branch and a retail store for the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen.
It’s easy to see that the drive and creativity Alex had when he opened his first restaurant in 1971 has never diminished, and that he continues to inspire his staff and guests with his unending support of businesses and charities throughout New Hampshire. It’s never long before Alex comes up with a new project and declares, “Here we grow again!”
Diane Downing has been a part of the Common Man family since the 1970’s, when the first Common Man restaurant was opened in Ashland. With the possible exception of owner and founder Alex Ray, no one knows more about The Common Man family, or has been more involved, than Diane.
She has worked at every level, filling in for servers on the floor, managing individual locations and developing the company’s first wait staff training program. From the expansion of the original Common Man in Ashland to the construction of Airport Diner in Manchester, Diane has been involved in the development and building of all Common Man locations.
Diane developed the concept for The Common Man Company Store, and was its original buyer selecting merchandise and buying antiques for the converted Ashland Post Office building. She recently moved some of The Company Store’s best sellers to an online store to make them available to guests near and far.
Her creative eye and flair for finding down-home Yankee decor is behind the distinct design of each Common Man location, and she never stops searching for those additional perfect pieces that make each Common Man location a home.
Her wine knowledge is behind the eclectic wine lists and the Common Man’s own private label wine, found by Diane and Alex on a trip to Northern California.
Her influence on The Common Man’s mantra of “doing good” has led to support of dozens of non-profit organizations over the years, including the American Cancer Society’s Breast Cancer Research and the NH Humane Society. Diane also organizes the annual Winnipesaukee Wine Festival each summer to benefit local charities, as well as the BAD Jam Family Fun and Music Festival to benefit music scholarships.
Prior to joining The Common Man, Diane worked in management at The Lakewood Summer Theatre in Skowhegan, ME, The Manor on Winnipesaukee and at the Lakeview Restaurant in Wolfeboro.
Vincent Vella is the chief executive officer for The Common Man family of restaurants in New Hampshire, leading the company in setting its strategy, direction and vision. He oversees the senior leadership team and works with the team to model and develop the company’s culture, values and behavior. He is also charged with driving business growth and allocating capital to the company’s priorities.
Vella came to The Common Man in 2014 and brings with him more than 30 years of experience in the restaurant and hospitality industry in both the United States and overseas. Vella began his career as a general manager with the Riese Organization in New York in 1983, and served in that same role for Bennigan’s Grill and Bar, Bertucci’s Brick Oven Pizza and Ground Round Restaurant over the course of 15 years.
In 1998, Vella became the food and beverage director for Dave & Buster’s in New York, until 2001 when he joined the Flat Out Crazy Restaurant Group out of Chicago as operating partner, overseeing the opening and entire operation of a $3 million+ restaurant in West Nyack, NY. Vella moved into various roles with Flat Out Crazy Restaurant Group over 12 years, including regional partner and vice president of operations, where he oversaw $80 million in annual sales and was responsible for all new unit expansions for Stir Crazy and Flat Top Grill concepts.
Vella became the chief operating officer for AFAB Group in Saudi Arabia in 2013, and was involved in the planning and development of corporate infrastructure to support current and future operations, as well as oversight of all operational functions of four franchise businesses totaling more than 200 units.
Vella is a graduate of De La Salle College in Cospicua, Malta and resides in Laconia with his wife. He is also the proud father of four children.
Sean Brown is the Chief Operating Officer for The Common Man restaurants in New Hampshire, overseeing the daily operations of the hospitality family’s 16 restaurants. He is also charged with implementing strategic initiatives, driving business growth, and leading the operations and management teams.
Brown most recently served as the District Operations Manager for The Common Man, overseeing all front of the house operations for The Common Man’s specialty brands, including all Meredith locations, and Foster’s Boiler Room and The Italian Farmhouse in Plymouth. Prior to that, he was general manager for Lago, Lakehouse and Camp Restaurants in Meredith.
For close to 20 years, Brown has worked for The Common Man in various positions, starting as a server at what was previously Boathouse Grille in Meredith, now Lago. The Common Man named him General Manager of the Year in 2007 and 2009, and he’s been nominated as General Manager of the year several times in his career.
Brown attended Plymouth State University and is active in the local community. He is on the board of directors of the New Hampshire Lodging and Restaurant Association (NHLRA) and volunteers at Hands Across the Table, which provides free meals to those in need in the Greater Laconia area. He has served on the board of directors for The Greater Meredith Program and on the board of the Lakes Region Association, and has led many fundraisers for local organizations within the Meredith restaurants. Brown leads The Common Man’s Apprentice Program with Plymouth State University students. He is a member of The Council of Hotel and Restaurant Trainers (CHART) and frequently attends national conferences on behalf of The Common Man.
Cindy Bates, PHR, CHT, is the Chief People Officer for The Common Man and has spent more than 29 years in various roles with the independent hospitality family in New Hampshire.
Bates manages the strategy and process of recruitment and retention of employees, designs policies that support The Common Man’s culture, works as an advocate and mentor for employees, and optimizes training and professional development to support the mission and goals of staff and the organization.
Bates was promoted to Chief People Officer in 2020. Previously, she served as The Common Man’s first director of training. Promoted to that role in 2006, she led training initiatives for more than 1,000 employees, developed a management mentor program, and conducted training seminars across the company. She has long advised on human resources policies and procedures and recruitment of new talent.
Bates began her career with The Common Man family as a server at Tilt’n Diner in Tilton in 1992, was promoted into the management program, and was then named general manager of the diner in 1998.
Bates earned the Professional Human Resource (PHR) designation from the Society of Human Resources in 2014, and has devoted her time over the past 11 years as a member of the national Council of Hotel & Restaurant Trainers (CHART). Her hospitality peers from across the country elected her to the organization’s board of directors three times. Bates’ responsibilities with CHART included heading Regional Training Forums, serving as secretary of the board, leading initiatives to increase membership, and planning national conferences.
As part of The Common Man’s mantra to DO GOOD, Bates has always been involved in giving back to the community. In her time at the Tilt’n Diner, she led many fundraising efforts for local organizations including hosting benefit dinners and providing food and support for Cash N Cans and the Greater Lakes Region Children’s Auction. She has participated in the Made in NH Expo at The Common Man’s table, selling crab cakes to benefit CASA of NH, and contributes to numerous other Common Man charitable events each year.
Bates represents The Common Man family as a member of the educational board of directors of the New Hampshire Lodging and Restaurant Association (NHLRA), and serves as an advisory board member for the NH Technical College culinary program as well as the Huot Technical Center in Laconia. She also serves on the Plymouth High School educational advisory committee, and conducts job interview and resume writing training sessions for clients of The Bridge House in Plymouth.
In 2021, Cindy received the Lifetime Achievement in Hospitality Award from the NHLRA.
She is a graduate of Colby Sawyer College and resides in Belmont with her husband. She is the proud mother of three daughters and grandmother to five granddaughters.
Erica Auciello Murphy
Erica Auciello Murphy is the Director of Communications and Community Relations for the Common Man Family of Restaurants.
Erica joined the Common Man family in 2005 and leads all marketing, public relations, social media, branding, advertising, and media relations efforts for The Common Man. She also manages all charitable programs and contributions made by the family of 15 restaurants, two Common Man Inns, a Spa, Company Store and Flying Monkey Movie House and Performance Center.
In 2011, Erica was named a Woman of Influence in the Food Industry by The Griffin Report and in 2010 was selected as one of The New Hampshire Union Leader’s Forty Under 40. Erica received the Media & Public Relations Award from the New Hampshire Travel Council in 2008 for her work with the Common Man and contributions to the travel industry in New Hampshire.
Prior to joining The Common Man, Erica worked for eight years as director of media relations and account director at High Point Communications Group, Inc. in Bow, NH, developing and implementing public and media relations strategies for more than a dozen of the firm’s major accounts in health care, retail, hospitality, finance and other sectors.
Before joining High Point, Erica worked for WMUR-TV as a news producer and freelance reporter. She has also worked as a staff writer for Neighborhood Publications and as a reporter for WZID-FM.
Erica graduated cum laude from the University of New Hampshire in Durham in 1995 with a BA in Communications. She is also a graduate of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce Leadership Manchester 2000 program, and served for 10 years as a member of the Leadership Manchester steering committee, organizing Media and Communications Day.
Erica volunteers her time and public relations experience as a marketing advisor to Safe Sports Network in Manchester and as a volunteer for the Booster Club of her child’s school. She is a past member of the Brian C. Stone Memorial Hockey Tournament Committee, and served for years as team captain for The Common Man’s Rafting for Wishes team for Make-A-Wish NH. She is a past member of the New Hampshire Lodging & Restaurant Association’s events committee, past board member for the Greater Lakes Region Children’s Auction and served on the New Hampshire Food Bank’s marketing committee. She is a past President and board member of Noahs’ Ark Child Care Center in Manchester, a former board member of The New Hampshire Travel Council, The Cinderella Project of New Hampshire and the Greater Manchester Chapter of the American Red Cross.
Jennifer Tower Whitfield is the Director of Sales for The Common Man family, overseeing events teams at The Barn on the Pemi, The Common Man Inn & Spa in Plymouth, The Common Man Inn & Restaurant in Claremont and the company’s other event spaces and off-site catering program.
Jennifer has been a part of The Common Man family since 2000, starting as a waitress at The Common Man in Lincoln while in college.
When The Common Man Inn & Spa opened in 2002, Jennifer became the Sales and Events Manager, and was promoted to Innkeeper and Director of Sales in 2006. She was promoted to her current position in August of 2015.
Jennifer is heavily-involved with the Plymouth-area community, hosting events and offering in-kind donations to many non-profit organizations. She is a board member of the New England Inns & Resorts Association (NEIRA), a member of The Council of Hospitality and Restaurant Trainers (CHART), a national industry group, and a board member for the Lakes Region Tourism Association.
In 2007, Jennifer was nominated as Innkeeper of the Year by the New Hampshire Lodging and Restaurant Association (NHLRA), and as employee of the year by The Common Man family. In 2014, Jennifer received the Innkeeper of the Year award from the New Hampshire Lodging and Restaurant Association.
Kory Brunell is a District Operations Manager overseeing our Diner Division of Airport Diner, Tilt’n Diner and Route 104 Diner, as well as operations at our Lakes Region specialty restaurants Town Docks, Lago, Lakehouse and Camp.
Ken Woodrow is the District Operations Manager for the six Common Man restaurants spanning from Lincoln to Windham.
A native of Marblehead, MA, Ken graduated from UMass Amherst’s Hotel, Restaurant and Travel Administration (HRTA) program in 1992.
His career in restaurants and hospitality began as a dishwasher at age 13 and his passion for great food followed shortly after, when he began his cooking career. Ken served in many roles with the Ruby Tuesday restaurant chain for more than 20 years, assisting the company in opening new restaurants and training management throughout New England. He was awarded partner of the year during his tenure with the business.
Ken’s additional restaurant experience includes working for Not Your Average Joe’s as a regional director, where he worked on the opening of a New Hampshire location and he received the President’s Award for top performance. He also worked for Stones Hospitality Group as Head of Operations for the small but growing independent restaurant group, developing and opening a new high-end tapas concept in Nashua, NH.
Over the course of his restaurant career, Ken has led his restaurants and staff in community efforts including fundraisers for No Kid Hungry and local non-profit organizations.
Ken joined The Common Man family in 2021 and served as manager on duty at Tilt’n Diner in Tilton and as interim General Manager of Italian Farmhouse in Plymouth before being named to the leadership team in October 2021.
Ken lives in Bedford with his wife and four children.
Dan St. Jean is the Executive Chef of The Common Man Family of Restaurants, overseeing all kitchen operations, chefs, menu creation and food events for the six Common Man-named locations.
Dan began with The Common Man as the Kitchen Manager for the newly-opened Lakehouse Grille in Meredith in 2004. He left to pursue other job opportunities, and re-joined the company in April 2014 as the Kitchen Manager at The Common Man in Windham. Dan was promoted into his current role in the fall of 2014.
A New Hampshire native, Dan’s love for the restaurant business started at age 13. He worked in several local restaurants throughout high school, until he enrolled as a student at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. After graduation in 1994, Dan was hired as a sous chef at The Boar’s Head Inn in Charlottesville, VA.
Dan moved back to the Granite State in 1996, landing a job at one of the state’s only Four Diamond properties, The Bedford Village Inn. Over the course of eight years, Dan worked his way through the ranks from line cook to sous chef to special events chef before joining The Common Man to assist in opening Lakehouse Grille.
Beyond his Executive Chef duties, Dan is also committed to The Common Man’s mantra to “DO GOOD” and is often seen representing the company at community events and fundraisers. He has also competed in (and won) The Common Man’s Iron Chef competition.
Tony Bomba, Executive Chef of The Common Man’s specialty restaurants in Meredith, got his passion for the food business after watching the hustle, bustle and clockwork it took for his parents to prepare dinner each night for a family of eight.
His first job was as a dishwasher at a local resort, and at age 14, he was propelled into the restaurant business learning prep and spinning pizzas at a local pizzeria. By the time he reached high school, Chef Bomba knew this business was for him, and he considers himself fortunate to have had the opportunity to work under local chefs in a ground-breaking school-to-career program. He attended Lakes Region Community College, studying culinary, but gravitated back to the restaurant business and took his first position running a kitchen at age 19.
Chef Bomba now oversees kitchen operations for Lakehouse, Camp and Lago restaurants, all in New Hampshire’s Lakes Region. He rose to that position after serving for several years as Kitchen Manager of Lago, where his unwavering creativity in the kitchen transformed Lago into an innovative Mediterranean Restaurant. His newly-coined phrase “culinarchy,” defined by him as a culinary anarchy, is the mantra Chef Bomba cooks, creates, and leads by. His varied menu creations in The Common Man’s specialty restaurants use culinary trends from around the world to make the ordinary, extraordinary.
Always eager to represent The Common Man outside of the kitchen, Chef Bomba has been a frequent guest on WMUR-TV’s “Cook’s Corner.” He’s also competed in, and won, The Common Man’s Iron Chef contests, and he was crowned winner of the Steel Chef Challenge, hosted by the NH Food Bank, in 2017. Chef Bomba broke onto the national media scene in 2018, showing his fierce competition skills on Guy Fieri’s “Guy’s Grocery Games” on the Food Network, working with a partner in a game show competition to come up with dishes on the fly.
Chef Bomba also embraces The Common Man’s “Do Good” mantra, volunteering his time at local charitable events. He went beyond New Hampshire’s borders in 2017 to assist victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. He and Common Man owner Alex Ray spent several days working in pop-up kitchens, preparing and delivering hot meals to residents who were without food, power or vital supplies.
Bobby Welch is the Executive Chef of The Common Man family’s Diner Division, overseeing all kitchen operations, chefs and menu planning at The Common Man’s three 50’s style diners, Airport Diner in Manchester, Tilt’n Diner in Tilton and Route 104 Diner in New Hampton.
Bobby began his culinary career at age 15, as a summer dishwasher at a local restaurant. He then moved to Tilt’n Diner as a dishwasher, where he worked his way up the ranks to lead cook before exploring other restaurant opportunities both in and out of The Common Man family.
In 1996, Bobby became Kitchen Manager of “Bobby’s Girl” diner in New Hampton under its original owners. When the owners sold in 2003, Bobby returned to Tilt’n Diner as Lead Line Cook and Assistant KM, until The Common Man owner Alex Ray purchased “Bobby’s Girl” at auction and Bobby returned to what was now called Route 104 Diner as Kitchen Manager, assisting with opening and contributing to a successful first year. After some time back at Tilt’n Diner as Kitchen Manager, Bobby was promoted to Executive Chef of the Diner Division.
Bobby calls the diners his passion, and he is dedicated to cooking and serving home-cooked meals, just like he enjoyed growing up.