For most Americans, the significance of Memorial Day and its accompanying long weekend is twofold. On one hand, the holiday is–or at least should be– a time to honor our fallen soldiers. On the other hand, it’s one that Americans have come to define as an extended opportunity to celebrate friends, family and food. Memorial Day weekend 2012 and the entire preceding week was just that for me, as having my Floridian family in town required a “perfect” celebratory itinerary. Yet, when you’re catering to relatives who were once Chicago locals, the standard fare doesn’t cut it. Showing them the wonders of deep dish pizza is preaching to the choir, traveling to the top of the Willis (Sears) Tower is going to a place some of them used to call “work,” and sitting through yet another Cubs loss is inflicting unnecessary heartache. My challenge was to find the completely new, and one of those things was waiting in Chicago’s restaurant scene.

Open in February 2012, RPM Italian has been dubbed by restaurant aficionados and reviewers as one of Chicago’s hottest new locales–and the length of its reservation list shows it. The food–small plate Italian that both tastes good and prevents patrons from barreling themselves out the door–is one reason. However, the restaurant’s creative, down-to-earth service and management style are more notable ones.

RPM’s environment aptly shows what can happen when reality television is brought down from the airwaves and given a home in local, everyday person-accessible, businesses. The newest restaurant in the Lettuce Entertain You enterprise, RPM is a joint venture between Lettuce’s Melman family, Chef Doug Psaltis, and TV stars Bill and Giuliana Rancic–he, Donald Trump’s first winning Apprentice (NBC), and she an E! News anchor. They offer a classy dining experience during which waitstaff is decked out in white tie formal apparel–not unlike the restaurant’s simple decor–but these partners also give guests the opportunity to take a place on a celebrity playing field, or at least realize that celebrities’ playing field doesn’t have to be too unlike their own.

What RPM Tells us About Successful Restaurant Management

To date, the Rancic duo’s approach to restaurant management has been to make their presence known at RPM, and not as owners on high who are sealed off from adoring patrons. Instead, it’s not uncommon to see things such as Bill sitting at the restaurants’ tables or walking the floor to talk (and photo-op) with guests, or Bill and Giuliana “guest” bartending. Some would say things like this smell of celebrity gone to the head, and maybe it does a little bit–in the sense that they acknowledge the public’s perception that celebrities are in a class of their own, and one that the “normal” people among us sometimes wish they could reach out and touch. Regardless, it’s an approach from which other celebrity owners could stand to learn.

Two Mintel Inspire trends–Celebs & Social Engineering and Cult of the Celebrity–discuss the influence of celebrity star power. The RPM model shows, though, that the best way for stars to exercise their power–and further increase their own popularity–may be to show not only that they’re capable of interacting with everyday people, but also that it’s exactly what they want to be doing. They have–and should take–the opportunities they have to show that celebrity is a state of mind that can really become everybody’s reality.

For more information about the restaurant industry, check out Mintel’s latest report on the subject here.