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TaKorean CEO Talks Staff Retention Strategies
The Fast Casual Nation Podcast offers exclusive interviews with experts ranging from top chefs and brand makers to executives and restaurants who work in one of the fastest-growing segments of the restaurant industry. In this episode, I talk with Mike Lenard, founder and chief executive officer of TaKorean, a DC-based fast-casual restaurant chain serving Korean tacos and rice bowls.
After a career in the outdoor retail industry selling kayaks and hiking gear, Lenard wanted to get into food and follow his passion. He converted a police emergency response vehicle from the city of Philadelphia, an empty box truck, and started TaKorean. The brand has transformed from a food truck to a fast-casual concept; Lenard says, “the brand has remained the same the entire way. We've added a few things to the menu along the way. Two years out from the food truck, we opened in the acclaimed food hall Union Market, and then two years after that, we opened an online store in the Navy Yard neighborhood of Washington, D.C., which is close to the ballpark.”
TaKorean is hitting the current food trends, particularly with Gen Z with its Korean flavors and Latin American twist. Lenard shares that Mexican food and various types of Asian cuisine are at the top of the list for millennials and Gen Z.
Lenard and I talk about the importance of operating systems and the positive impact it can have on the day to day operations. He shares, “I've always been obsessive about the employee experience, and look, it's always going to be work, right? Restaurants are hard, I can't solve that for people. But, you know, when you think about the little things in the operation that make things easier for staff and managers, whether it be reducing the amount of paperwork through technology or just deciding that you don't need that paperwork. There are a lot of creative things that a lot of business owners don't do, and then even from the base level, just making sure that everything is staged correctly in bottles so there are just fewer obstacles during your peak service periods. Traditionally, restaurant workers have been kind of expected to have a heroic performance to get through a shift that's daily, right?”
Supply chain slowdowns and staff retention are topics that Lenard and I discuss along with the brands franchising program during the interview. To hear his top three strategies for staff retention and why you should have a solid base before growing your business, check out this episode of Fast Casual Nation or tune in on Apple Podcasts.
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