When Clint Hughey returned to Snooze an a.m. Eatery in fall 2021, he had been away from the restaurant sector for nearly a decade. Although Hughey had spent years in foodservice, both as a general manager and a caterer, he’d pivoted to work at an organic produce distributor where he specialized in sustainability reporting and analyst work. So when the opportunity arose to rejoin Snooze’s team in the newly created role of director of impact, Hughey made the leap; the position was the perfect combination of his past restaurant experience and his food system knowledge base.
Snooze, a 54-unit breakfast chain based in Denver, endeavors to put its ESG (environmental, social, and governance) strategy front and center in its business. Although Hughey’s tenure has not been long, he’s already helped the brand move forward in these goals by empowering on-the-ground team members to combat food waste, improve recycling practices, and move their own careers forward.
As director of impact, what does your job entail?
The role is definitely focused on ESG, but there are many elements to it. The position itself is a bit of a restructure. In previous versions, we had two individual silos: one focused on community, and one focused on sustainability. As Snooze evolved, leaders had the idea to mirror what we’re seeing in the world: a shift away from just ‘save the planet’ to looking at a more holistic view of a people, planet, and profit mindset. The goal was to combine two of our core values—which are community and sustainability—into this broader impact role.
I joined the company in October 2021, and it has been really exciting to grow this position over the past year. We’re coming out of the pivots and changes we had to do during the pandemic to lay this new framework of how Snooze is going to show up, both in the restaurant industry and outside as a leader and a pioneer in how businesses can actually still work within a capitalistic mindset, but be mindful of their impact socially and environmentally.
Have you focused on anything in particular?
One of the biggest focuses last year was rolling out what we call our Snooze Change Maker program, which is a grassroots, boots-on-the-ground position we have in our restaurants. Each restaurant will have at least one ‘Change Maker.’ They take our initiatives, strategies, and goals and become the one responsible for implementing them in each of our restaurants. We’re about to launch a completely new training program for that position, which has been a large part of what I’ve been doing the past year. I’m working to create an updated version of our training and onboarding materials so our restaurants have the tools and resources they need to perform well in the ESG sector.
Tell me about this new program.
One of the main elements of this new program is the leadership development aspect of it. For most of our Change Makers, this is an additional passion part of their role beyond what they do day to day. They might be a busser, a line cook, a host, or one of our baristas. These are people we refer to as brand champions. We’ve identified them as future leaders who have the potential to grow and develop into managers for the organization, so we’re looking to bring in different leadership development skills into this program. One of the ways they’re currently showing up is that each restaurant has a collection of community nonprofit partners that we tend to work with; one of the responsibilities of the Change Maker is to be the bridge and the connection point for those partners.
How does sustainability come into play?
Our landfills are in trouble—the average landfill in the country is expected to fill up in the next five to 10 years, and these are big capital expenses for the infrastructure of cities. So I think a lot of people are starting to wake up to the fact that we have to do a better job with that. One of the challenges right now is consumer education, because a lot of people don’t know what to do with products, whether it’s recyclable or not recyclable. That is something we have put a lot of effort into. Recently, we completely revamped and did an audit for all 54 of our restaurants of what is and is not acceptable in each recycling stream. We implemented new waste posters, both in English and Spanish, and shared that with our restaurants to really push and help educate our teams on what is and isn’t recyclable or compostable.
What other ESG initiatives are happening at Snooze?
A lot of talk in our organization is around transparency; we’re trying to find ways to share this. A phrase that I like to use is, ‘There are no trade secrets in saving the planet.’ We are actively looking to share this with other organizations because it really is going to take a collective effort to move the needle to where we need to be to preserve our way of life for future generations.
Behind the scenes, we recently completed the B Impact Assessment, which is an assessment from B Lab [a global nonprofit that endows certification based on proprietary ESG standards].
We are now using that as a barometer to shape some of our strategies moving forward for 2025 and 2030. So we’re really looking at a holistic approach inside the company of all different elements.
We’re also exploring how we can quantify and measure impact, which is sometimes challenging when it comes to things like how something helps morale in your organization—it’s hard to quantify that. One of the things that we’re trying to do is find ways we can quantify intangible benefits from ESG.