Restaurant Growth Podcast

Going all in on restaurant culture with Chris Smith, CEO at Zunzi's + Zunzibar

August 02, 2022 Chris Smith Season 2 Episode 15
Restaurant Growth Podcast
Going all in on restaurant culture with Chris Smith, CEO at Zunzi's + Zunzibar
Show Notes Transcript

Zunzi’s has one promise: to make everyone walk away saying “Shit Yeah!” Chris Smith, alongside his role as CEO, is the protector of that promise. 

In this episode, we chat with Chris about the culture at Zunzi’s and Zunzibar: the why behind it, how they maintain it, and what they hope it will do for their guests, community, and most importantly, their team. 

The Restaurant Growth Podcast is presented by 7shifts and hosted by DJ Costantino.

About 7shifts
Since 2014, 7shifts has helped restaurant managers schedule, evaluate, and communicate with their workforce. Our team is comprised of people who live and breathe restaurant culture and strive to help our customers simplify team management, every single day.


D.J. Costantino:

Hey everybody, what is going on? Welcome back to the latest episode of the restaurant growth podcast by seven chips. I'm DJ your host. And on this show, we bring together the best minds in the restaurant industry to bring you big insights and new ideas to help your restaurant grow today on this show. We're welcome. Chris Smith. Chris is the founder and CEO of ZZI and Z Zabar, a south African inspired sandwich shop and bar with locations in Savannah and Atlanta, Georgia. Chris also has his title protector of the promise. What does that mean? Well, ZZI is unabashed about their strong culture, but the goal of not only making a great place to work, but improving the lives of people that work there, as well as the community around them, we get into just how they go about doing that and more in the latest episode, as always. We'd love to hear from you drop us a line at podcast at seven shifts dot. Tell us what you think, who you want to hear. And without further ado here is Chris.

Chris Smith:

Chris, how are you today? Living the dream, man? How are you?

D.J. Costantino:

I'm doing pretty good. Living the dream too. Welcome. And thank you for joining our podcast.

Chris Smith:

Excited to be here. Thanks for having me.

D.J. Costantino:

Awesome. Yeah, absolutely. So, um, let's just kick it right off. Tell us a little bit about, um, zis, how you started it and how you got your start in the restaurant hospitality industry. You got it.

Chris Smith:

So Zuzi is, uh, a south African inspired takeout delivery and sandwich shop. We started in Savannah, Georgia, 2005. It was started by our original founders, Johnny and Gabby. Debe. South African guy who married a Swiss, a Swiss gypsy kind of a crazy lady, kinda joke around. She's like the most interesting woman in the world. And then looking at a Greek restaurant on the river in Savannah. And, um, I found ZZI, it sounds like it's almost like a religion. I found Zi though when I was a five guys franchisee in Savannah. Oh, wow. So I got business. I was actually really had no intent of being in the restaurant business, had an intent. Own my own business someday. My plan was to, um, go to law school, went to the university of Florida. And while I was there around 2005, 2006, tried five guys burgers and fries. When I was in school there backed visiting with family and kinda long story short, it snowballed into, uh, conversation with my parents instead. Me making money, going to law school, them taking that money. They said would, they would pay for law school and buying five guys franchises in coastal, Georgia and South Carolina while I was in college. So massive leap of faith for them. Yeah. Um, which shows, you know, very good parents, probably, uh, believing a little bit too much in their son in doing that, but took that leap. And then, um, I actually worked Friday, Saturdays and Sundays, my senior year in 2000. To, um, train at five guys with a franchisee. I was their first mentor in their mentorship program. They were rolling out and then opened up about six months later. And, um, it was off to the races, baptism by fire, as they say.

D.J. Costantino:

Very cool. Uh, did they need any convincing really? Or they were just kind of down for it when, uh, when you pitched that

Chris Smith:

to them. Yeah. You know, we always grew up with my dad making super Dave burgers and it was like, you know, it was always the best burger that, that, that, that we would have. And, um, so we always enjoyed burgers and then, you know, we ate there and we're like, man, this is like the best burger out there. It's pretty bonafide fancy hamburger stand. And I was like, that's something I could actually do. And then it, you know, it snowballed into doing it.

D.J. Costantino:

Very cool. Um, so when did you make the jump from the five guys to

Chris Smith:

Zen's? Yeah, so the process was our, our development agreement with five guys, which we started in our first location open in 2007 was for seven locations. So ended up building three locations in the first two years. So it was a really quick startup, had three, the time I was 23 and, um, Almost an edge of burning out, uh, at that stage. But yeah, stop the growth hired a director of operations, hired an office manager and sort of scale up our, our small business. And then that's set to open up four more locations. Through 2000 and, uh, 15 did that, but, um, very cool. Tried ZZI in 2008, when I had moved to a, to Savannah to open our second location and fell in love with it, actually that first time I was there, everybody had said, go try this amazing hole on a wall dive sandwich shop. And I rolled up there and there was a line of 50 people and the patio had these janky, you know, old rainbow umbrellas with secondhand furniture, pieced together, and people eating on buckets next to a grease trap and a dumpster. And it was just had all of the character that you would imagine of a, you know, an old hole in a wall sandwich shop. And so in that moment, as I was eating Aquita door and drinking our south African. Um, I said, someday, I'm gonna buy this in franchises, franchises model. And so I kinda put that out in the ether and I would go at least once a month, talk to Johnny if Gabby was there and she was in the kitchen, say hi to her and always ask him, Hey, if you ever wanna seller franchise, let me know. And so I got a call, actually, my, my downtown five guys location. So happy. I had a good manager who was there at the time. Answer the phone. And it was, Johnny's trying to get ahold of saying he wants to sell his restaurant. And so immediately the manager called me and I'm happy. He didn't throw it in the red book or something and it just get lost And so, uh, got that phone call. And at that time I was looking at other franchises and nothing was getting me super excited. So it was the perfect timing. We were looking to diversified portfolio and I was like, man, I'm not 30 yet. I still got a little bit of energy in the tank. And, uh, let's go ahead and kind of get to the other side. And, uh, and so that's what set it off. Very cool.

D.J. Costantino:

And then, so now you have the second location in Atlanta, is that

Chris Smith:

correct? Yeah, so, uh, the process at that time, we bought it at the end of 2014 and immediately put a point of sales system in, got our sales mix, tried to do everything we could operationally to streamline operations, build sales, get our call, everything in line. Cause it was a mom and pop. You can kind of run that. Yeah. A little different, but with our goals, we had to put some systems in place. And so we did that for about two years. Got it. To where it needed to be almost doubled sales in that amount of time. And then we said, okay, let's, let's figure out what a prototypical location would be. And at that time, our model was looking to be like, what are Orlando location was? Which was just a fast casual takeout delivery sandwich shop and cap 2000 square. So we did that in 2018, opened that location and spent a lot of time on R and D to develop our menu. We opened the Atlanta location and we went there because we wanted to learn, uh, it wasn't a situation. Yeah. Let's open a restaurant and make some money. It was let's open a restaurant in a market where we don't have brand awareness and it really pressure test the model. And so we spent two years refining that, getting it to where it needed to be, then COVID hit. And so we got COVID two locations operating and I said, okay, Let's go back to our home base closed, you know, um, Atlanta had more challenges with COVID than Savannah did. So closed that for a few months. Yeah. And then focused on Savannah and doing that. And during that time, our lease ran out of that location. And so we were having to find a, find a spot after 15 years, the landlord didn't want a restaurant anymore. It was an old office building and really, it was a blessing in disguise. A, a fantastic piece of real estate became available. Two blocks away. We were able to pull the trigger on that. And that's what triggered us to create our new model, which is zis plus Zabar, which were our takeout delivery sandwich shop operating at 600 square feet. But we lead with the full beach bar experience. So full liquor beer line, and it's really transformed our entire operation to where we were, you know, a 1.6 million model. And, uh, which is great for a fast casual, and especially with what we do. And now our, our model's trending, uh, almost a 4 million. Wow.

D.J. Costantino:

That's amazing. Yeah. Those, uh, alcohol sales really, uh, give you a little boost. Yeah. So right now it's

Chris Smith:

about 5% of our sales. Really what it did for us is it, it, you know, it allowed us to operate in what, what we now consider the experience side of the business before we were just a good sandwich shop and food, a lot of takeout delivering catering. And so that bucket was convenience. And so now post COVID people are certainly, um, used to convenience, third party delivery, online, ordering all of the tech that's, that's really impacted the restaurant business. That's our core business. We've thrived through that, but now with the reopening of the economy, and if people are craving an experience, people really aren't anymore. Just, you know, leaving the house to go eat a meal to. Fill the hunger need that's there. They want to get up. They want to go out, have a good time, have a full experience. And so we've built that, that whole restaurant and really the bar to lead the, the experience, live music, um, experiential marketing in there. It just it's perfect for Instagram TikTok, everything that you want to be able to market your business. Absolutely.

D.J. Costantino:

And another big piece of that marketing that I see is talking about your, your culture. I know you have a tagline, you know, and, and on the website as well. You, you know, you're listed as the protector of the promise. So tell me a little bit more about zis, um, culture.

Chris Smith:

Right. So, um, having been a franchisee, you know, I, I definitely have a, a strong feeling that culture is one of the big differentiators between, uh, the most successful brands and the, and the ones that aren't. And I think it's critically important as you go into franchising to have a super well defined culture that, uh, really on steroids, I joke around the first four letters of, of culturist cult. And so if it's not that draw. And you can't talk about it that way, then not in a negative way, but a franchisees is probably gonna water it down a little bit. So it's gotta be a hundred percent. So that way, if it's diluted a little bit, it's still gonna be there. And we spent a couple years really focusing on defining that I even took two years in that time where I had five guys and Zuzi to figure out my life purpose and said, if I'm gonna go, yeah. This business and go all in on this, I know it's gonna be really hard. I've already done it once as a franchisee. It's gonna be really hard as a franchisor to, to get to that stage. I need to align my life purpose with my business and purpose and figure that out. So I really took that to heart and it's, it's been very fulfilling in the process. Um, so going back to the title, um, you've got protector of the promise and what that is is that's our motto, which is shit. Yeah, shit. Yeah. It's our motto. Um, it. It started with Johnny at our original location. It was just kind of this, this fun thing with this south African accent, he would say shit. Yeah, baby. What I recognized when I thought was our team was saying it and more, and equally as important, our, our fans were saying it I'd walk down the street in a ZY shirt and you'd hear a, a shit yeah. From alley or something. And it's like, what's the value for a brand that your guests are actually saying your motto. There's just do it, you know, but I'm not sure many people see a pair of Nike shootings say, just do it. Or if they eat a McDonald's meal, right. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Loving it, you know, but is if they see it right now, they say shit. Yeah. And so there's a lot of equity in that, even in just the single location. Absolutely. And so I, you know, saw that and I said, okay, well that's gonna be our brand promise. So our it's our promise that whenever anybody engages with our business as a customer, we want them to leave saying shit. Nice. And so, and what is that? I'll go ahead. yeah. And so it's, it's different than being the best sandwich or the best product. It's a feeling that's associated with it. It means we connected with that fan, that guest, we turned them into a fan. And so even, you know, there's some reviews out there that they'll put an essay on Yelp or, or Google. And I'm standing it I'm like if they didn't say shit, yeah. We didn't check the box, maybe a five star review and it's a perfect review, but it's missing really that intangible that we didn't connect with the guests. And we're very focused on that. It's actually expanded as we've grown the business and we've seen the impact of all of the stakeholders. It's now our promise to our six stakeholders. And so in that order, we get our team is number one, our franchisees. Yeah. Number two. We've got our fans, number three, our communities, four vendors, and then investors. And so we want, as you make decisions, we wanna make decisions that we know our team is gonna say shit. Yeah. And then it moves all the way up in that our team franchisees, you've got your, your fans. And, um, a good example of that is I went into a very, very popular, fast casual chain. you know, there's a lot of things that are a lot of decisions that are made from the boardroom and there's a disconnect in the front line. And so there was a national chain that had rolled out a vegan option. I went in there, asked for the manager to get their feedback on it. It was a bunch of ads. I'm the super bowl. And I asked them yeah, about it and they go, don't get it. Get the other vegan option million. It's a dollars. Oh. And you go, there's a disconnect. Thousand a location. Yeah. And, and there's that issue. And so I think culture can really blows that gap.

D.J. Costantino:

Absolutely. And what did that process look like? You know, developing that culture and how did you really, you know, was there a moment that you knew you needed to develop it more? Um, you know, and then how do you go in and, and sit down and, and really kind of hammer it out, give yourself, you know, the language is important, how you present it is important. What was that process?

Chris Smith:

Yeah. So in that process of figuring out my life purpose and trying to figure out what I really enjoy about the business, I really enjoyed my time at five guys, where I was able to see our team members start off, drink the company Kool-Aid and just work with us and be promoted from within and watch their life change in the process, go from being a fry, cook all the way up to being a GM benefits and making money. And they're buying a car in a house and having a family and kids. It's and, you know, they, they really took the opportunity by, by the horns and ran with it. And that was extremely fulfilling, especially as a hands on franchisee, but there, you know, for as many of those cases, as, as there, there were. There were also these situations, which if you're a restaurant operator, you fully understand this, you'll invest all of this time in these team. And some of the team members it's high risk human capital, meaning you can invest three years. Yeah. To get someone over be that they're about to be a GM to open your next location. And two weeks before opening, they're like, sorry, Chris, I gotta move to, you know, Tennessee. For whatever reason. And you're like, but we've spent three years and bad about it. And it's almost like Houdini is, you know, they just disappear and it wasn't the things necessarily that we were doing in the business to cause it, it was always things in their life. It could be an addiction that we don't know about. It could be a bad relationship. It could be, yeah. They made more money and now they're spending too much and they're in over their head. They don't know how to manage. It could be just the stress of now this new role. And they, the things in their life are making that it's kind of overwhelming them. Their life isn't able to support the new responsibilities and the, the time associated with it. So I said, man, we gotta figure out something that can really be focused on the team member and improving their life. So, and it kind of have a pulse on it and I think great managers. They do that. They know what's going on in, in, in their team members' lives. They're having those, you know, one minute conversations a day, you know, to have a pulse. Yeah. Yeah. I really wanted to make that the key is, is that our team, isn't just becoming a better sandwich maker or bartender or whatever, but they're actually, their life is getting better in the process. And it's an aspirational goal of the company. I think goal of be aspirational. They should pull you towards where you're trying to. And, um, and so from a, a business standpoint, you say we have some things we've got big, bright rainbow umbrellas that are pretty cool. We've got a motto that shit. Yeah. You've got an interesting menu. The name ZZI, you know, a lot of things to work with. And I said, yeah, you know, this rainbow umbrella is, is kind of ending up to be a symbol of the company. And I said, you know what, if that could represent a team member's. So you'd say there's eight areas of your life. So there's different areas that we just talked about, that the rainbow umbrella represents your team member's life or, or, or anybody's life for that eight areas of your life. You've got your body, your health, you've got your mind, your emotions, your mental state. You've got your relationships that you have. Um, you've got your time. You have your career. You've got your finances, your money. You've got a sense of giving and celebrating your life and you have your spiritual and life purpose. Yeah. What we would like to have in our life is to where each of those areas, we feel really good about it when you really analyze your life and you look at 'em in different areas and you rate 'em from one to 10 and say, physically, I feel like I'm a four and well, then why? Right? And then mentally, I feel like I, and financially I'm a three. If you add all that together and divide it by eight, you now have a life. And then, so it's a quick way to say, Hey, you know, how are you doing in life? And then how can you, you know, make some changes in that. And as a company, when I was developing all of that, I was like, man, a way to, to really prove this out is what if we got to, you know, a hundred, 200, 300 locations and we had life scores on every team. Yeah. Great businesses measure all sorts of KPIs. Well, what if you knew how your team felt about their life, right? And then you could see this stores sales are down and turnovers high. Well, cuz their life score is low, you know? Right. Yeah. And so's going on? What can you do as a company about that? And so as we grow the company, I really wanna focus on the more we grow, the more we can give. And in that process, we can create resources for our team. It's really tough when someone just breaks up with their boyfriend, girlfriends, significant other, and you're at, it's a busy Friday shift and they're walking in managers in the weeds and, and the person's crying and they're like, I'm so sorry to hear about that, but, uh, can you clock in we're understand, right. Be a lot if they called eight by five shit. Yeah. And there was someone to talk to em, so yeah,

D.J. Costantino:

Absolutely coming up with the culture, um, is a huge portion of it and really sitting down and kind of distill. and making that promise, but I think kind of executing on it is another, of course, huge part of it. Um, you know, what are some of the kind of tactical ways that you're able to keep and make sure that people's life scores are up or what are the ways you're going in talking to staff and, and figuring out and just making sure that that promise is actually being kept.

Chris Smith:

Yeah. So, you know, so ex explaining what, what, what, we just went over our mission as a company. Is to inspire others to become the best version of themselves. You have that umbrella, that's the representation of it. Um, the idea is the more full your umbrella is the more people you can fit under it. Right? So if you're, if your life is really full, then it's in, then you're able to help people under it. If you're struggling an area it's hard to help somebody. And so that's kind of the whole premise of it. And as a company, as we grow, we can do the same thing, uh, the stakeholders of our life. One of the things we do on a daily basis that I think. Really really strong. And it helps us on, on just managing and it helps young managers is we'll have our team meeting each shift and we don't ask our team how they're doing. We ask what their number is. Cause if you ask how you're doing, you usually get a BS answer. Right. It's I'm good. Yeah. I'm good. You know exactly. Yeah. Dog could have been hit by. still good. Cause that's just how John is, but he's having a day cause he just doesn't wear it on his shoulder. Well, When you ask 'em what their number is. And what we say is zero. I can't be doing any worse. 10 I'm peaked out in life. I'm maxed out. Like I'm never gonna do any better. Five is just kinda Luke warm. I'm I'm living in life where you want to be is I'm a seven to eight is I know where I am. Right. I'm kind of, I, I have an idea of my life score of my umbrella. I know where I wanna be. And I'm actively working towards. Right. Yeah. And so that's the sweet spot and we, and we talk about that. And so it's like rapid fire. Everybody knows how it works. What's your number? What's your number? What's your number? And some days it's like, everyone's, it's like the average is a three. And on those days, right. Manager just gotta be like, all right guys, well, we all just, can't close up and go to the beach to have a better day. You know, let's all decide to be a seven or an eight, the next six hours. Let's just, you know, choose to have a great day. There's no reason to, just, to, to bring it down other days. Yeah, everybody's really good. And it's, it's exciting. And then there's some days where one or two people are, are struggling and they're having a rough. and everybody knows that we're all gonna have a rough day sometimes. So it could be that yeah, it allows, especially helps young managers, right? Young manager, emotional intelligence. They don't really know how to gauge all that stuff, but this it's like, all right, well, John came in today and he's always a seven. Well, now he's a five. Now I can talk to John, pull him aside. Maybe John needs a break. Yeah, go ahead and, and, and take a, take an employee meal and, and take a break first. Or maybe we don't put John on the front lines, um, where he is on the register or in a very high customer of service position. Maybe they're doing prep or doing project cleaning or something else that they're not having to engage at that high level that's needed. Um, maybe they they're the first ones to be cut just so they can go ahead and have some extra. Allows you to manage a shift much better, and also gives you a pulse as a manager. Absolutely. It's probably the best day to day tool that we use that ties to our mission. Yeah. And it's one of those things.

D.J. Costantino:

It it's, you know, someone will come in and, and if you don't really ask, you don't ever know, right. Someone could need that extra attention. You can't really rely on people to guess based on kind of body language. I think sometimes people just. They'll come into work and they'll just try to put their best foot forward, even if they're having a really rough day for something other reason. So it kind of gives managers say, oh, well, maybe I need to pay attention to Chris today. A little extra, instead of just kind of assuming everything is good.

Chris Smith:

So you got it. Exactly. And do you

D.J. Costantino:

track kind of those scores anyway? Like do you record them anywhere? Just kind of see how people are over time or

Chris Smith:

yeah. So pre you know, for, for that, on those, on, on the daily basis, that's actually a, a great idea. It would be just nice to be able to take a note and, and then do an average. We perform, which is like our, our wheel of life or our, our, uh, umbrella of life that we've, we built out as a spreadsheet and, and it can be done during COVID. It was just a wild west for us. And, you know, having that, yeah. The fundamentals of the culture, we all know, know why the company exists, what we're working towards, but it's kind of like when the worlds on fire, it's tough to like, do those kind of evaluations. Yeah. So

D.J. Costantino:

we're, we're how you feeling today? zero. A lot of zeros,

Chris Smith:

right? Yeah. So past two and a half years, um, the culture was able to get through it and really pressure tested it, which was good. That's awesome. So we're gonna get back to it and I think long term, I'd love to get an app that that would be in place. And it's just as you clock in, go ahead and knock it out and it would be a great way to do it. Yeah. And on a monthly or quarterly basis, the same thing. And then you could have all of the data and, uh, and resource would be pretty.

D.J. Costantino:

Absolutely. I think, uh, I think we can probably help out with that. Uh, so

Chris Smith:

I'll let you know. So, um, so another thing that we do tie to our culture is, uh, we do a monthly event called ZZI Fest. Oh, cool. Um, and so what this is, it's our way to say thank you to our six stakeholders for being a part of our business and helping us grow to this point and to the future. So it's the second Tuesday of every month. And it allows us to have touch points with our six stakeholders. So we've got our fans, we give away through our community app, a text messaging app. You can join that and then we'll send out a code for you to bring in you get a free chicken sandwich or can keys to door or a vegan option, the rising sun, a six inch. And then, um, and so you can come in and get that you can buy chips, drinks, cookies, any extra stuff. And, uh, 26% of the sales goes to a local nonprofit. So we partner with a nonprofit that would, uh, be aligned with our mission. And, uh, we partner with them, do the press release, create the awareness. Um, they usually come and, you know, set up a booth so they can share what they do with, with the fans popping in. And then we also close early and have a team party for our team. So from six to eight, on that day, we close a five close up from six to eight we'll order, some food. Um, everybody can have two drinks at the bar and it's a chance for us to all get together and just kind of hang. Be thankful for the success of the business. Maybe talk a little bit about why we're in business, the culture and all those sort of things. Nice. You know, we, aren't trying to be too heavy during that time after we just of course put thousand sandwiches and six hours, you know, it's just a, a fun day for us. So you've got our fans taken care of, you've got our team taken care of, uh, the community we're engaging with. Sponsored by our vendors. So it's one of those things that we want our vendors to be a part of, all of our agreements that we put in place they'll be discounting or providing product for us. So we can, um, basically the goal of it's a break even day in doing it. Yeah. Our vendors, I'm sorry, our investors and our franchisees win because it's this really atomic bomb. I, I say of marketing of Goodwill in the community, spreading awareness of why we're in business. Hitting a lot of people engaged in our business that haven't heard about us. We, you know, sponsored ADSS through social media to join the community and then they can opt in and it's been unbelievable, almost 80% of the, of the people that come our first time. Um, our local bands don't wanna wait in line for an hour to get a free sandwich. Those come in. They, they love our business. Um, but it's a great way to get people in the door.

D.J. Costantino:

Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. It's a great, you know, I think that's like, it is pretty genius. It hits pretty much every box. Right? Of course. You're, you know, doing something for your team, doing something for your guests. It's customer acquisition, it's marketing content, it's vendor relations. It's investor relations. So yeah, it it's, uh, that's a great, really awesome idea that just, I. Really is one, one day a month where you get to kind of hit on all those notes.

Chris Smith:

Yeah. And you know, we wanted to plant that flag before we franchised. It's tough to roll something in I've talked to a bunch of founders, CEOs of, of larger chain. And the one thing they say is absolutely love the idea of it. We can never do it because our franchisees wouldn't buy into it at this stage. And so, right. You know, we want a very polarizing culture. We want franchisees that are a hundred percent sold on the culture. I always tell people, you know, the, the first step of our franchise process is, uh, intro call with our director of franchising. If it checks that box, fill the application out. The, the third step is to, is an hour call with. And I taught culture. Like I am on this call for about an hour and, uh, yeah. Talk about cost of goods or labor or profitability. I tell you to go buy penny Johns. So yeah, I was just, we aren't looking for a thousand franchisees. We get, you know, the right franchisees that, that understand the culture. Uh, we know we're gonna be successful with that. And, um, absolutely was zoom de Fest. One of the reasons we wanted to do it as well, we wanted a KPI of our business. So we wanted to align our growth with something that was unlimited. And there's, there's always the question. How big do you wanna grow your brand? Right. And for some people, right. I talk to inspire brand CEO. They're like, oh, you can open a 500 in a couple years and then right. Talk to independent operator. And you're like, I wanna open, you know, three in Florida. They're like three in the next two years. What, and there's this. Right. Doesn't make sense. And so I said, what's one thing that's unlimited that we could do it. And that's giving there's no matter how big you get, there's always be a need to give to the stakeholders, open up a location in a community that's underserved. That's not operating up, you know, a great restaurant that can serve at stakeholders. And so with that DY Fest as a KPI, our target giving per location is $26,000. And, um, and so that's 12 months a year that we're doing that. So you're looking just over $2,000 per you Fest Don into a local nonprofit. And so that way we can show just like you would have sales, you would have labor cost of goods, your, you know, average review score, NPS different things that you're looking for for us, we have giving on there so we can say, okay, we now open a new location. There's there should be another $26,000 minimum, a. And then as that grows, you can see the impact you have as a company just built in it's just into your DNA.

D.J. Costantino:

Absolutely. And it's kind of like putting a KPI on culture, which is very tough to do, cuz it's such a, you know, a thing that just, it has so many things, but I think if you're not, if you're solid, If your culture's not solid at that location, if you're franchisee, you're probably not gonna hit that number because you're unorganized or people aren't really down to do it, or, you know, the relationships are strained and I, I think that's a, a great way of, of tracking

Chris Smith:

it. Yeah. And, and, you know, I think that's a good, a good point during COVID. It was just, you know, it's a hard time. And we had been doing zoom Fest for a while. We had probably almost two years until COVID hit. We talked to our team and there was just like, man, we're worn out. It's been busy with busy restaurant, you know, top, top rated takeout, catering sandwich shop in Savannah, Atlanta, same thing. And I said, Hey, our team, isn't saying, you know, shit. Yeah. About this. Let's pause it. And I put that out on social. I said, our team just isn't ready. Just. To do zoo Z Fest. They're just burning the can at both ends. And we're gonna pause it for a few. So we, and we did that a few times and our, our fans really appreciated that. And I think that's part of the social media. It's really designed to be a relationship. It's not supposed to be the brand talking totally what it's supposed to be a conversation.

D.J. Costantino:

Yeah, absolutely. If you're not able, if you don't have like, is it kind of like put your mask on before you put the other mask on? Like, if you're not there and you're not feeling good, you can't really give to other people or else it's just not gonna. You're gonna take away from it, you know, at the end of the day, so, correct. Um,

Chris Smith:

so that's zoomies, um, and it drives a lot of what we do. Yeah. Zoom. So that's, that's how it started zooms a bar is what we're, you know, now super excited about. Yeah. We've been a, a fast casual takeout, takeout delivery catering shop for a long time. Now we lead with this full bar experience and we did that because there was really franchisees in our own corporate locations to have the, the best opportunity to succeed. So we're taking best of fast, casual, limited menu QSR marry that with the best of full service, having high profit bar, we've got frozen drinks so we can, you know, move, move those quickly. And then you've got a tip wage model. So you've got labor savings and a tip wage model. You've got, um, experience and that's, what's, what's really been amazing watching all that come together. And then we've leveraged. Yeah. With toast as our partner with pay at the table with unique QR code ordering, we have three kiosks in the operation around our hundred seat. Patio is 60 seats inside, and then we have handhelds. Um, so we really want guests. Now, some guests want full, a full experience. They want to sit at a table and be left alone and they're on the QR code and the food comes to them and it's great. And they got their headphones on there's others that don't wanna place their order on a QR code. And we've got a server there able to do. But it's allowed our service now to take twice the amount of sections they can make more money. And, uh, that combination just been amazing over the past year. That's incredible. And

D.J. Costantino:

that's the, is that what you're franchising is the Zs of bar.

Chris Smith:

We are, so it's, it's both it's Zs of bar plus zoom like this dual branded concept. Very cool. And so that's been. It's been a lot of fun with that, with the mission and culture and how it ties to Zuzi. So you've got the rainbow umbrella and it represents your life. Yeah. Thing we just talked about our logo for SZA bar is that rainbow umbrella sitting in a cocktail. And so our mission of ZZA bar is to inspire you to celebrate your life. And so everything we do, we want to own the place in our, our fans' mind that when something great happens in. Let's go celebrate at zones of bar. Uh, life's too short to just grind the whole time, uh, take that light absolutely a while, throw that umbrella in a cocktail and then throw it back. And so everything we do is design from live music, experiential marketing, neon signs, uh, the waste designed to really, you know, we've got shot skis. You've got beer shot combos, reasonably priced spot on li mimosa, uh, really fun, happy hour, uh, two hours a day, half off the entire bar, seven days a. We do these things. If you really wanna just be a place where people can always have a good time and, and know that.

D.J. Costantino:

Yeah. And, and with that culture, I think, you know, it's also ensuring that that's not at the expense of the people that work there too. It's um, you know, everyone's having a good time, including, including the employees,

Chris Smith:

correct? Yeah. And, and, you know, I think from a fast casual standpoint, fast, casual and QSR, fast food can be a grind. And so taking our model. That is, you know, we're a high volume sandwich shop. We're pushing out hundreds and hundreds of sandwiches a day in this operation. They're allowed to kind of be a part of a really fun atmosphere and bar because of that, it's not just a sandwich shop, pushing out sandwiches. You've got live music, you've got the music playing, you've got this, this whole interaction going. And, uh, that's really helped us in regards to attracting our team members as. Yeah, absolutely.

D.J. Costantino:

On top of that amazing culture. And with that, I guess, you know, my last question is really like, kind of directed at, you know, listeners and people that wanna improve their restaurant culture, you know, where should people start if they, if they kind of identify, you know, maybe my culture could use some work, you know, what's the most important, important place to, to kind of start that conversation.

Chris Smith:

Um, I think if you're the, the owner of the founder of the business, I think you gotta start with yourself and say, why are you really in the. You know, I think that's, that's critically important. Um, for me, it's not just to make money. There's so many better ways to make money than the restaurant business. And, um, so, you know, really focus on trying to figure out why you exist, sort to align that with the business and that way, when you have those tough days, you at least know you're working towards that. For me, our vision statement in the company is the restaurant business sucks. We're here to change it. So we tell our team, you know, we, we lead with that. The restaurant business sucks. Our franchise sales process, the restaurant business sucks. We're here to change it. what we say is when you change those things in the restaurant business, um, you create value for stakeholders. When you improve scheduling, ordering R and M facilities, you've got HR, all these things, there's death by a thousand cuts that you can complain about. Yeah. Uh, we joke around, you gotta learn to eat shit and like it in this business. and so, you know, you you'll create value for the stakeholders in, in, in doing that. And one of the ways we're doing it. So you at ZY Fest is one way. We're super excited. August. We're about to launch a program. Restaurant employees have just been devastated over the past couple years with COVID. Now you've got inflation going on. Gas prices. There are some of the people that eat at restaurants and bars the most. And so we're launching something called 86, 26 from two to six. Okay. I've mentioned number 26 throughout it for the letter Z Zi ZZA bar, but it's, if you're in the restaurant business, you're an employee hospitality bar. If you come into Zi between two to six, every single day will 86, 20 6% of your. Okay. and so it's when very cool ship change. It's usually the slower time of the restaurant. And so, yeah, I look at that and I say, what if every restaurant did that? What if every restaurant yeah. Took care of O other restaurant employees from two to six, usually the slowest time of the business you're still paying for over. You got people there. There's food being. It would decrease the cost of living of restaurant employees across the board, just from them dining out from, from, you know, two to six at that time by 26%. Right. Absolutely. Just makes sense. Yeah. And, uh, and you know, I think that the way to do those sort of things is, you know, we're gonna do those things like a ZZI Fest that are very aggressive. We're gonna do 86, 26 from two to six, very aggressive. And my goal is through growing our business, doing things our way, and what we believe is the right way we can create influence in the business, get on podcast. Like you shifts, tell our story and, uh, yeah. And hopefully inspire other people to think outside the box and, uh, align their growth with giving.

D.J. Costantino:

Absolutely. And I think it is just so important to acknowledge, I think the industry's, uh, shortcomings, cuz you could easily just say yeah, this industry sucks. Like you're saying that's just what it is. get over it, hear it all the time. But I think what you're saying is it does suck and we need to change that. And let's, you know, you see the opportunity in it. I think there's a lot of great restaurant owners that are beginning to see that opportunity saying, you know, this can be a great industry to work in, to work for hat's off to you and, and the team for, for kind of recognizing that and, and looking to make those changes.

Chris Smith:

Well, thank you. It's, uh, change is hard when you're trying to do things that people don't understand. Yes. It'll get them kinda scratch their head and sometimes your team members. Or like, huh? Why are you doing that? And I think it's why having culture from the start of why you're in business and having that well defined, it kind of gives you permission to do things outside the box. Absolutely.

D.J. Costantino:

And with that, um, where can folks find you?

Chris Smith:

Yeah, so right now we've got our ZZI zooms of our location is in downtown Savannah. Uh, we have our fast casual model and that is in Atlanta. We are, uh, in the process, we're keeping the whole Florida market for corporate locations. So we're working on a joint venture deal. Right now, goal is to open three locations in the next 24 months. Very good. We got some franchise deals pending right now in North Carolina and Tennessee. We're selling franchises differently. I think that part of the franchise business is the way franchises are sold. I've never seen more people get into my pocket with our brand than, than announcing franchising. And so we're taking all that in house. We wanna do a different, and, um, we're really excited to see where it's gonna take us.

D.J. Costantino:

Absolutely. So Atlanta, Savannah now, and soon to be, you know, all across the Southeast. So got it. Um, very exciting. And thank you so much again for coming on the show today.

Chris Smith:

Shit. Yeah. DJ. I'm excited. Appreciate your time.

D.J. Costantino:

Shit. Yeah, Chris. Thank you. Thank you. Thanks again for checking out the restaurant growth podcast presented by seven shifts. We're so grateful to our listeners and we'd love to hear from all of you. Send us an email to podcast seven shift.com and check us out on social we're at seven shifts on all. Don't forget to hit that subscribe button and we'll see you next week.