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A Loyal Brand Attracts Loyal People Interview with Fresh & Co. CEO George Tenedios about the importance of mentorship, building a dedicated team, and how hospitality is a labor of love.

By Shawn P. Walchef

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Takeaways from this episode:

Promote Within — The best way to build company culture is to promote within. By creating an ecosystem where upward mobility is attainable, every employee at fresh&co is encouraged to take pride in their work. Just the same, leadership can better relate to the rest of the team if they've already thrived in the same position.

Have a Mentor — No one can do it on their own. Having a mentor – within your business or outside of it – provides the perspective and encouragement to overcome obstacles. Experience remains the best teacher, but the second best teacher is learning from the experience of someone close who's already lived more life.

Hospitality is a Labor of Love — Running a restaurant is not for the faint of heart. In order to thrive in the hospitality business, you have to love serving others. How much do you have to love serving others? To the point where you could be working 14-hour days. Do it only if you love it and hire people with the same passion.


Since starting in 2010, George Tenedios has taken Fresh & Co. to all corners of the East Coast.

With 12 locations in New York and spots in the likes of Connecticut and Florida, the lifestyle brand has made a name for itself by providing clean ingredients over a diverse menu that's approachable to all.

"You can shop with us five or six days a week and have a different meal experience each time," smiles George Tenedios on the Restaurant Influencers podcast with host Shawn P. Walchef of Cali BBQ Media. "Whether it's breakfast, lunch or dinner, we have a diverse menu and we appeal to the masses."

While George's customers had become accustomed to clean ingredients and diverse options, no one was prepared for what March 2020 had coming: a global pandemic.

Due to COVID-19, George and his Fresh & Co. company are still recovering from the labor shortage that's attacked the hospitality industry hard.

"It's been tough getting our workers and new staff members to show up and return back to work," admits George. "So, we're back on our regrowth path. We're trying to really move forward."

While the lingering effects of the pandemic have hurt staffing, George Tenedios has kept his Fresh & Co. business on the ascent by using restaurant technology like Toast POS.

By switching to the Toast point of sale system, Fresh & Co. has been able to quickly capture data and better serve a growing customer base.

"Toast checks all the boxes," said George Tenedios while talking to fellow Toaster Shawn Walchef. "Being in New York City, speed is the number one priority, especially during a busy lunch rush. But the data part was very important for us. Just being able to extract that data to pass it on to our store managers, unit managers and our team members to grow on and to further improve our operations."

The Importance of Mentorship:

New age innovations like Toast keep Fresh & Co. running and excelling.

Conversely, old school advice is also a piece of the puzzle as George's trusted mentor is actually his father.

"He's still involved," shares George. "He's my location scout, my lease negotiator, but he's always been my mentor. He's been in the restaurant business for about 45 years now. He's my rock."

The family element of Fresh & Co. runs through the entire company.

Even employees that aren't part of the Tenedios bloodline are treated as such, rewarded for their hard work through amazing access to upward mobility.

"We're probably one of the more loyal brands in New York City," George says. "I have team members that are district managers now that have started in our company as dishwashers. I have general managers that have started in the company as cashiers. I believe very much in growing within and spending the time, energy and our resources to train our own staff members. And as long as they want it and they're willing to learn and to grow, then we're willing to take the time and energy to get them there."

So, after absorbing a pandemic in a New York based restaurant with employees that exist as family, how does George continue to push in 2022 and beyond?

"It's a tough business," acknowledges George Tenedios. "You've really got to love the business. You've got to love what you do. You've got to love serving people. It really comes down to hospitality. If you love hospitality and you love what you do, then by all means go for it. Run with it, you know, take a chance. Roll the dice. But if you're not into working 10, 12, 14 hours a day and rolling up your sleeves, then you know it's not the business for you."



NOMINATE A RESTAURANT INFLUENCER — Do you know someone who is killing it on social media? Let us know by emailing or sending the @calibbqmedia team a DM on social media.


Are you SICK and TIRED of scrolling through your social media feeds and not seeing your business anywhere?
Welcome to the Restaurant Influencers podcast series, sponsored by Toast.

Shawn P. Walchef

Founder of Cali BBQ Media

“Be the show, not the commercial.”

Cali BBQ Media Founder Shawn Walchef helps brands and leaders leverage the new Business Creator Economy with strategic Smartphone Storytelling and Digital Hospitality.

His Cali BBQ restaurant company has generated more than $35 million since opening in 2008. They operate numerous locations in San Diego and beyond.

Shawn’s weekly video series Restaurant Influencers (published by Entrepreneur Media and produced by Cali BBQ Media) has been seen by over 25 million people.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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