Jim ‘N Nick’s Community Bar-BQ has created a new Managing Partner position to reward its top General Managers as it continues to grow in the Southeast.
The 38-unit casual dining chain has opened one new location so far this year, with two more on tap, and it has plans for seven more locations next year.
“We obviously have a real estate pipeline for beyond 2023, but a lot of that will depend on how things play out over the next 15 months, as well as the external environment,” Larry Ryback, CEO of Jim ‘N Nick’s, told the Nation’s Restaurant News.
One of the biggest challenges facing the company, along with the rest of the industry, is finding and retaining talent. It seeks to address this issue with highly competitive compensation packages, Ryback said. This includes the creation of a new Managing Partner position, which is essentially a promotion for the company’s top performing general managers.
Managing partners not only receive a higher base salary and car allowance, but they can also earn higher bonuses and a share of profit increases on their site. The company has so far elevated 11 of its chief executives to this new rank.
“There is no limit to the number of them we will have, but they must demonstrate the ability to manage the restaurant to a high standard, be a good steward in the community and live our core values, and to lead others,” Ryback said.
He said the company hopes the new position, which he says elevates unit managers to the highest paid in the industry, creates an incentive for other chief executives and acts as a retention tool. He said that the rate of executive turnover at Jim ‘N Nick’s – in the low 20% range – is already well below industry averages.
While the term “managing partner” often implies that the individual has taken a stake by investing in the business, that’s not the case at Jim ‘N Nick’s, Ryback explained.
“We thought about doing it, but the way I think about it is that they’ve already made the investment,” he said. “They made the investment through their hard work and ability to lead people, and they have a proven history. I think they’re paid in full.
In addition to labor issues, the company is also dealing with the current inflationary environment and supply chain disruptions as it seeks to expand its footprint by more than 25% over the next 15 coming months.
So far, the company has worked to minimize its price increases, despite cost pressures, which Ryback says has led to growth in sales and traffic. Same-store sales over the past year have been positive, he said.
During the pandemic, the company streamlined its menu, eliminating a few items, so it could focus on profitable execution, Ryback explained.
The company has opened one store so far this year — in Oxford, Alabama — that features what the company describes as its new “quick-casual plus” format, offering counter service and a full bar, as well as a drive-thru window. It also converted a handful of other locations to the new format.
It has another location planned for Foley, Ala., later this year, and one for the Atlanta market. Next year, the company plans to open one restaurant in Huntsville, Alabama, and six in Georgia, primarily in the Atlanta area. All new locations will feature the fast-casual plus format.
The company also has a presence in North Carolina and South Carolina, as well as Tennessee and Florida.
“Over the next couple of years, the majority of our growth will be kind of a filler strategy in markets where we already have a presence,” Ryback said.