Get All Access for $5/mo

Sara Finnegan of Edley's Restaurant Group Shares the Key Ingredient for Restaurant Success Edley's Restaurant Group's Chief of Staff Sara Finnegan discusses the power of giving back, the value of user-generated content, and her passion for advocating for women in the hospitality industry.

By Shawn P. Walchef Edited by Dan Bova

Key Takeaways

  • Finding your voice: Sara Finnegan found her voice in the hospitality industry by not being afraid to ask questions.
  • Supporting others: Sara makes it a point to help others succeed in the industry.
  • Embracing the community: The name Edley's is an ode to the founder Will Newman's grandfather. For Chief of Staff Sara Finnegan, the name has always had a special meaning in the community and continues to play a role in their mission of giving back.
  • Being a woman in hospitality: Sara understands the experience is often different than that of a man and created a support group for women within the business with hopes of growing it to other restaurant companies.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Sara Finnegan, chief of staff at Edley's Restaurant Group, has an inspiring recipe for growth. And the main ingredient is a Southern Soul.

The restaurant industry leader has emerged with a strong and empowered voice to help others succeed. For her, Edley's Restaurant Group represents more than just a company; it embodies a commitment to giving back to the community.

The hospitality company owns and operates the Edley's Bar-B-Que restaurant chain. Edley's Bar-B-Que was founded in 2011 by Will and Catharine Newman in Nashville, TN.

Related: Gregg Majewski of Craveworthy Brands on the Advantages of Being #2

The name Edley's pays homage to Will's grandfather George Edley Newman, Jr., who left behind a legacy of "generosity, hard work and Southern hospitality."

When Sara Finnegan joined the Edley's team she was asked one important question by the founder Will Newman: "How do we grow and keep our Southern Soul?"

The answer, always it almost always does, circles around humanity.

"It really comes down to people," Sara Finnegan told Restaurant Influencers host Shawn Walchef of Cali BBQ Media. "Even if you have 1,000 locations, as long as each location has the right people, and they're authentic about it, then you keep your soul."

The values of treating people right and fostering a positive work environment have become integral to Edley's Restaurant Group's success. That exceptional workplace culture and active engagement with the community are essential components of their recipe for growth, alongside offering great food and restaurant service.

"If you provide a great place for people to work, if you're part of the community…people are going to come to you," says Sara Finnegan.

She recalls the transformative feeling of being in rooms with other leaders of Edley's. It was a place where she could openly seek clarification without fear of judgment. This empowerment has been instrumental in Sara's professional growth and contributions to Edley's success.

Related: Jon Taffer of 'Bar Rescue' on Succeeding in the Reaction Business

"I don't remember a specific time, but I do remember that feeling of being in a meeting with the owner of the company, the president of the company. These people that, in previous lives, I never would have been in the room with. And just knowing that I could say something dumb and they wouldn't judge me for it," she recalls about working for Edley's Restaurant Group.

Being a woman in the hospitality industry, Finnegan understands the unique challenges that women can face in the workforce. She recognizes that the experience can differ significantly from that of their male counterparts.

To address these challenges, the leader is actively working on creating a support group for women in hospitality with the goal of providing a platform where people can advocate for each other, share experiences, and receive the coaching and development they need to thrive in management roles.

"I think it's really important that women advocate for each other and support each other," she says.

Sara Finnegan's journey at Edley's Restaurant Group is a testament to her resilience and determination to break through industry norms.

And her dedication to supporting others demonstrates her commitment to creating a more inclusive and empowering environment in the hospitality industry.

Subscribe to Restaurant Influencers: Entrepreneur | Spotify | Apple

About Restaurant Influencers

Restaurant Influencers is brought to you by Toast, the powerful restaurant point of sale and management system that helps restaurants improve operations, increase sales and create a better guest experience.

Toast — Powering Successful Restaurants. Learn more about 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.

More from Restaurant Influencers

How Do You Start a Successful Restaurant? Obsess Over the Tiniest Details, Says This Entrepreneurial Chef.

The Scrappy Origin Story of Toast, the Game-Changing Restaurant Tech Company

If You Want to Make Millions, Ditch Your Polished Pitch and 'Own Your Crazy' Says This Legendary Branding Guru

This Chef Fled a War-Torn Country as a Child. Now She's Helping Other Refugees Rebuild Their Lives.

Editor's Pick

Business Solutions

Increase Productivity with This Microsoft 365 Subscription, Now $25 Off

It can make the entrepreneur life a lot easier.

Business News

Apple Pay Later Is Ending. Here's What's Taking Its Place.

The program was available for less than a year.


This Artist Answered a Businessman's 'Powerful' Question — Then His Work Became 'the Poster Child for Juneteenth': 'Your Network Really Becomes Your Net Worth'

Reginald Adams was the executive director of a Houston-based art museum for more than a decade before he decided to launch his own public art and design firm.


Harvard Business School Professor Says 65% of Startups Fail for One Reason. Here's How to Avoid It.

Team alignment isn't nice to have -- it's critical for running a successful business.

Business News

Here's What Companies Are Open and Closed on Juneteenth 2024

Since it became a holiday in 2021, Juneteenth has been recognized by some major corporations as a paid day off.

Growing a Business

I Hit $100 Million in Annual Revenue by Being More Transparent — Here Are the 3 Strategies That Helped Me Succeed

Three road-tested ways to be more transparent and build relationships that can transform your business — without leaving you feeling nightmarishly over-exposed.