Since its 2007 debut, The Smith, an American-style brasserie, has become a popular gathering spot, Burke says. The social nature of the restaurant has helped it separate during a time when dine-in traffic continues to cede ground to convenience. With bistro-style fare and craft cocktails, The Smith offers guests a place to enjoy happy hour, host a private event, or meet up with friends on the weekend.
“I think that for us as we have opened more locations or have moved into other cities we’ve tried to be really thoughtful of doing it in a way so that we can maintain that personal connection that we have with the restaurants,” Burke says.
That relationship starts at the top. Burke and other employees take time to work the floor when they can, he says. Without that hands-on experience, it’s hard to evaluate operations and solve problems, and leaders might lose touch with guests.
“I don’t know how it works in other bigger companies,” Burke says. “We might have to cross that bridge one day, but, for now, thankfully we’re really able to be hands on in terms of being there and working with everyone.”