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Austin’s ELM Restaurant Group Dishes on People and Growth

In 2009 after collaborating on multiple local restaurant and bar projects, Austin, Texas-based entrepreneurs Bob Gillett and Scott Hentschel decided it was time to make things official. They created the ELM Restaurant Group, which brings together committed and experienced restaurateurs to open and maintain unique concepts. Currently, they own and manage three successful concepts in […]

In 2009 after collaborating on multiple local restaurant and bar projects, Austin, Texas-based entrepreneurs Bob Gillett and Scott Hentschel decided it was time to make things official.

They created the ELM Restaurant Group, which brings together committed and experienced restaurateurs to open and maintain unique concepts. Currently, they own and manage three successful concepts in the capital city: 24 Diner, Easy Tiger Bake Shop & Beer Garden, and“Arro”:http://arroaustin.com/, which is their most recent addition.

The group uses HotSchedules across all three locations and relies on it for sales forecasting, labor projections as well as employee scheduling.

We recently caught up with Lindsey McCalmont, Director of Operations to find out: What the heck makes their service so awesome!

HotSchedules: When did you start working with ELM Restaurant Group?

LM: On my first day in Austin, I went to eat at 24 Diner and had a great experience. I decided I wanted to be a part of a restaurant that had a good vibe and good food and got hired as a server.

After several months, I started thinking about going back to school to get into health communications (my degree was in communication studies.) The GM wanted me to stick around and asked if I would be interested in a management role. I recognized the opportunity and nine months later became General Manager. Two years later, we expanded and that’s when I was brought up to Director of Operations.

HS: What exactly do you do as Director of Operations?

LM: I wear many hats, hah. It’s whatever is most important to the group at the time. Primarily that’s team building, training, management development and working really closely with the general and assistant managers to build the team. I’m also responsible for the financials on a weekly basis.

HS: Building a solid team is an important part of the culture.

LM: Yes. And that’s also under my umbrella – helping to maintain the culture at each location. No matter what store you work at, it’s run the same.

HS: Let’s talk about your management programs. What does it look like for someone going through it?

LM: Our goal is for it to be flexible. So at any point in your career as a manager we create a plan that fits you. Of course, all of our employees, including managers go through the basic management training.

HS: What does that look like?

LM: It’s a three-week training program where you’re working the floor and learning about the restaurant. We’re making sure they understand our focus, which are our guests, our employee satisfaction and the quality of our products and service.

HS: I have to say, 24 Diner has outstanding servers and service. What makes your training different?

LM: Whether they work at Arro, Easy Tiger or 24 Diner we have a consistent message that employees hear from the moment they start training. It’s loud and clear and is heard every day. And it is that our business is based on principles that guide us in our commitment to excellence, hospitality, sincerity and knowledge.

Everything we do is built around those ideas. You know, there are plenty of standard operating procedures and we train on those. But we don’t want someone to have to run back to the office to read a manual every time an issue comes up. And no one should feel like a robot.

We want everyone to be authentic in their service and to be themselves.

HS: With training comes experience and sometimes opportunity. How do you approach employee growth?

LM: We’ve set up a program where we are really committed to helping each individual grow and create an environment that fosters them. There are well-defined roles and ranking within the restaurant and then really clear paths to get there.

All of our GMs have been promoted up. In fact, our GM at Easy Tiger started at 24 Diner when I did. I’m really proud to say that our retention rate is very high.

HS: How do goals and accountability play into growth opportunities?

LM: We have monthly and quarterly goals that we go over with the managers and the managers go over with the assistant managers and so on. Managers love it. They love accountability and having that mentorship from our team. We have a lot of experience, especially at the top.

HS: Earlier, you mentioned that you carry culture under your umbrella. What do you do to keep people having fun?

LM: Once every six weeks we go out to eat with our GMs. It’s a fun night out! We’re trying different restaurants, talking about the food and the experience.

The GMs feel that camaraderie. They feel a part of a bigger community and we all look forward to it.

HS: Do you do anything for the staff?

LM: Yeah. So, we also have staff appreciation and recognize three staff members every month. There are ongoing brewery tours, employee parties, or we’ll buy tickets to a local cheese shop’s events. It’s also been great to have the sister restaurants. Employees can go have dinner there and see what’s happening across all of our locations.

I think they leave feeling really proud of the food they’re serving and that their job is a noble one.

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