The much-publicized sexual harassment charges against celebrity chef John Besh and his restaurant group underscored many serious industry issues, not least among them that Besh Restaurant Group—a company with more than 1,000 employees—did not have a dedicated human resources director.
The motivation behind BRG’s lack of a full-time HR chief is unknown. But what is known is that many emerging chains and restaurant groups struggle with how (and when) to add operational layers to their organization—and how to make those additions cost-effective for the brand.
Tender Greens recently used of some of the capital it received from an investment by Union Square Hospitality Group to hire experienced executives familiar with adding layers of complexity to growing companies.
“Someone needs to know what a vice president of real estate or marketing or a chief financial officer does,” says Erik Oberholtzer, CEO of the fast-casual salad chain. “Me and my partners, this is the first time we’re doing this and we’re way outside of our comfort zone.”
But not all emerging chains have the budget to recruit industry vets to the c-suite. As it has grown, Goodcents Deli Fresh Subs sought creative ways to fill out its org chart without breaking the payroll budget. Here are some tips from the 80-unit quick-service concept, which currently has 15 full-time corporate employees.
1. Find overlaps in tasks
Goodcents’ President Scott Ford has applied lessons he learned while working in the corporate offices of Boston Market and Applebee’s. “We had close to 700 people in the office at Applebee’s,” Ford says. “I’ve utilized that organizational chart to almost replicate what job functions need to be done to successfully operate a chain of restaurants. … As we scale, where can I have some cross-functional personnel who can wear more than one hat and allow us to do more than one thing?” At Goodcents, for example, the operations development department handles a wide range of tasks, from research and development to information technology.
2. Build relationships with vendors
If Goodcents wants to, say, develop a panini LTO, the research and development group is encouraged to enlist the help of corporate chefs on its vendors’ payroll. And if the chain is considering implementing new technology, the IT department might request that one of its current vendors be on the conference call to make sure everything is compatible. By nurturing those vendor partnerships, Ford says, the chain gets skilled help for little to no financial cost.
3. Lean on part-time contractors
“I don’t need sales analysis on a daily basis,” Ford says, so he reached out to an analyst he knew from his Applebee’s days to do occasional work for Goodcents, such as determining whether a new product is attracting new customers or cannibalizing sales of its other sandwiches. The quick-service chain also brings on interns during their junior year of college to manage the brand’s Twitter feed on an hourly basis. In the past year, the chain has worked with about 45 people on a contract basis. “I treat every one of them like they’re part of the team,” Ford says. “They all get invited to the Christmas party.”