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Emerging Brands

The keys to becoming a top growth chain?

Build a foundation of people and culture, and success will follow, say emerging chain leaders.
Scott Mitchell

The entire universe has changed for operators of emerging chains in recent years. The little guys have access to capital and talent that would’ve been the stuff of dreams a generation ago.

“Twenty years ago, the idea that private equity would invest in any six-unit chain? It was just unheard of,” said David Birzon, CEO of Snooze, an A.M. Eatery, one of the country’s fastest-growing emerging chains, according to new Technomic data.

With that access to investors, however, comes great responsibility, said Birzon and other growth-chain leaders at a panel highlighting Restaurant Business’annual Future 50 list of emerging brands at this week’s Restaurant Directions conference in Nashville, presented by RB parent Winsight. 

For eatertainment chain Punch Bowl Social, that means half of all corporate spending goes toward training, said founder and CEO Robert Thompson. 

“If you hire people, you’ve got to train people,” Thompson said. “One of the biggest reasons restaurants fail is they dilute the brand.” In addition to training upon hiring, all Punch Bowl Social managers receive three additional hours of training each month—based off a schedule that’s set a year in advance. 

Training is also a key part of the culture at Snooze, Birzon said. The chain, which has 1,500 employees, has tasked 300 of them with becoming trainers, known within the company as “storytellers.” 

“Culture is part of our decision-making process on a daily basis,” he said. 

Having a rock-solid training program is especially vital during a brand’s sometimes-rocky growth phase. 

“Nothing will derail everything you’ve built faster than opening new restaurants,” said Birzon, who noted that at Snooze, the team responsible for opening a new unit is siloed from the rest of the organization to limit stealing focus. “It’s a huge distraction.”

Look for July’s issue of Restaurant Businessfor the full list of Future 50 chains

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