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How TaKorean Creates a Culture that Retains Talent

As concerns about labor continue, many food service concepts are struggling. TaKorean’s streamlined systems and person-first attitude, on the other hand, have created an environment that employees are excited to be in.

By Morgan Wood1851 Franchise Contributor
SPONSORED 3:15PM 09/15/22

As of this summer, over 50% of restauranteurs said their businesses were not adequately staffed to meet on-site dining demand. Labor costs and employee turnover are restaurant owners' biggest issues in the current market. While budget is an important consideration, Mike Lenard, founder of TaKorean, says it runs deeper than that for everyone involved.

“People want to get paid. It’s no secret. But they also want to be respected and feel a sense of gratitude. We’re competing for that labor, so we have to have a good compensation package, but also, our employees don’t dread coming to work. That’s how you compete,” he explained.

Along those same lines, Lenard says TaKorean views their employees as an asset, not a renewable resource. By investing in the people who work for them, TaKorean is able to not only build a strong tenure with many of its employees, but it has avoided a labor crisis within its stores despite the dramatic shifts in the industry as a whole.

Cultivating this company culture and school of thought around labor runs deep, and many smaller processes within store-level operations come together to create an ideal environment.

“There’s the actual physical system, and that includes the food, and then there’s the ownership and leadership mindset,” Lenard said. “Both of those things are important.”

Operational Simplicity Contributes to Culture

TaKorean’s logistical systems and food preparation standards are recognized as some of the concept’s key attributes that make it unique and stand out among prospective franchisees. While these practices are “good for business” in an overarching sense, they also contribute to the strong company culture in their own unique ways.

“The TaKorean system itself is simple to execute, and therefore, a lot of people who have already worked in quick service restaurants find the job to be more rewarding,” Lenard explained. “They can focus on more things… That allows employees to focus more on the culture and more on the customers, and it allows leadership to focus more on effectively leading the team.”

This includes the food itself as well as the tech stack that TaKorean offers to manage administrative duties. Lenard explained that administrative work for leadership is whittled down to scheduling, meaning managers spend an hour or two per week in the office and might take a few 15-minute pauses to answer some emails.

“The administrative process is simplified to the extent that the leaders are on the floor, working shoulder-to-shoulder with the team during all peak periods and preparation periods,” he said. “It makes the labor more efficient, and it gives people a sense of camaraderie and community.”

The TaKorean Mindset Shines Through

“To be a good leader, you have to be a good person. No one can change that,” he added. “But in this industry, for so long, labor was a resource that was supposed to be extracted. Big-name restaurants tried to simplify their process so much that they felt like labor was a renewable resource, and people could come and go as long as there was someone to pull those levers. Not only is that morally wrong, but labor isn’t a given — especially not in this market.”

Lenard said that viewing labor as an asset that can be invested in through leadership and coaching is a key way to be successful in the current labor market.

“We need people to be effective and efficient; that’s the only way the business can run. A lot of things are expectations-driven, and sometimes it takes some time, but everyone’s coming from a different part of their lives,” he said. “But you can give people a lot. The general managers at our stores were hired as team members.”

As TaKorean continues to grow, Lenard says the culture will remain a crucial aspect of the company’s strategy. Happy employees give great customer service, and satisfied customers are likely to return. Rather than trying to squeeze each employee for every single penny of labor they can offer, TaKorean works to establish and maintain a workplace that employees are satisfied with being in.

“Ultimately, the customer service is about the employees not looking like they’re having a bad time,” he said. “Our philosophy has always been to provide that ‘customer service’ to the team, and we don’t have to focus tremendously on customer service because it kind of happens naturally.”

The total investment necessary to open a TaKorean franchise ranges from $337,000 to $781,500 for a TaKorean full restaurant or $215,500 to $561,000 for a TaKorean Food Court/Hall outlet. This includes a $40,000 franchise fee.