Karim Webb and Edward Barnett have always loved Los Angeles. As kids growing up east of the city, they were pals. As adults, they’ve become prominent employers in South L.A., founding PCF Restaurant Management 10 years ago, which owns three Buffalo Wild Wings franchise locations and is preparing to open a fourth this summer.
South Los Angeles contains none of the glitz the city is known for. It’s a largely working- and lower- class area that struggles with gang crime, often perpetrated by teenagers. And yet, to date, Webb and Barnett have hired more than 200 local residents to staff their restaurants, with a special commitment to hiring teens. Many of those locals have been promoted to management positions. The duo say they want to help empower their neighbors with good jobs and good careers — because doing so will only help their restaurants, too.
What are some of the ways you work with the local community?
Edward Barnett: In 2014, Karim reached out to the administration at Dorsey High School — a local school with a program dedicated to business and entrepreneurship — about partnering on a practical, hands-on restaurant experience. We developed a 16-week program in which students created a real restaurant from beginning to end. It focused on everything from operations to marketing, menu design to finance and it culminated in a student-run pop-up restaurant. Afterward, a number of those kids came to work for us. We also find employees through local agencies like the Boys & Girls Clubs and college fairs.
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Why is hiring local kids so important to you?
Karim Webb: Kids here might not have grown up understanding the possibilities that can come with life. But when you work with us, we’re about developing people’s abilities, exercising their own excellence. We know we’re going to come across a lot of young people who haven’t been asked to embrace that idea, so we create a culture that rewards execution and starts with the notion that our employees can be outstanding. At Buffalo Wild Wings and beyond, you can do what’s necessary to create the reality you want for yourself and for your family.
What has this approach done for your business?
Webb: We are a destination of choice for employees. We get referred to a lot of young people. The food business is one where turnover is inherent, but our specific employee turnover is actually lower than most, and we develop a lot of our own people into management. At the same time, customers are deciding that they want to spend their hard-earned dollars with us because of the difference we make in our community.
Barnett: To look at it straight from a dollars-and-cents standpoint, if you hire people in the communities that you serve and give them jobs, they’re going to be your biggest supporters. They’re going to spread the word about the business. They’re going to let the community know that you’re not just coming into a neighborhood and taking; you’re giving back. And when your community feels that you are a partner, they’re going to want you to succeed.