There is no specific initiative around hiring veterans at O’Charley’s, Barber adds, but there are not shortage of them working throughout the system, either. He believes that stems from the company’s values and atmosphere toward veterans. In other terms, O’Charley’s doesn’t need to seek veterans out—they come to the restaurant.
“I couldn’t tell you specifically how many veterans we have employed, but honestly we have a lot of veterans employed,” he says. “Our teams love that.”
Another angle of this is the fact that O’Charley’s isn’t typically found in dense urban markets. It’s a brand that serves as a destination in many of the smaller towns it operates in. Barber says a core element of O’Charley’s model is to embed into each community. Embracing and honoring veterans around the clock is part of that.
The famous Watkins quote, displayed on the wall, reads: “Everyone who walks through this door is a friend of mine.” Barber says they’ve used the notion to evolve O’Charley’s from the foundation up.
“That’s the spirit of it,” he says. “You embrace your community, be a friend to the community. Whether that’s military or the local football team. We make sure we’re connect to the communities in every restaurant.”
“As a brand we’re really small in comparison to a lot of brands that are out there,” Barber adds. “A big part of how we can connect and engage is to be involved in the community. And [the military initiative] is one of them. But it’s imperative that we know the high school football coach and the principal and director and police chief and fire chief, and we’re connected so that when things happen, we’re able to respond.”
Internally, O’Charley’s talks about culture and values as a “three-legged stool,” Barber says.
The shorthand boils down to people, profits, and personal fulfillment.
Barber says O’Charley’s talks about all of these targets frequently in training and makes sure to celebrate employees who personify those values. Local initiatives and other programs are showcased across the brand. Over time, Barber says, employees and operators who work in the O’Charley’s system come to see the commitment as second nature. They understand the case-by-case pushes, like The Folded Flag, as well as the overarching military commitment that’s a 365-day directive. “They see that,” Barber says of employees. “They see us not just talk about it, but actually live it out. So the authenticity of us not just saying we want to be part of the community to do good, but we actually do good, not just talk about doing good is what people see. And it’s the standard of leadership always to model out and be an example for what you expect other people to do.”