There was a time when the restaurant industry could pretty much count on success by following Ray Kroc’s mantra: Provide QSCV (Quality, Service, Cleanliness, and Value) to the customer. But the world’s gotten a whole lot more complicated since McDonald’s was the defining restaurant brand.
For today’s customers, QSCV is a given; so are qualities like inviting décor, menu customization and a positive overall experience. In fact, it could be argued that nowadays customers also expect brands to do good. Whether that means sustainability initiatives like responsible sourcing and reducing environmental impact, or making a commitment to giving back to the local community, it all points toward a more ethical, conscientious and transparent way of doing business.
Proponents of what’s come to be known as CSR, or corporate social responsibility, believe that their success is only possible through a commitment to all stakeholders, including not only their customers but also their suppliers, their employees and the community at large. And according to numerous studies, consumers are looking for the same thing: In the United States, says a 2014 study by Nielsen, 42% of consumers prefer to do business with brands that are committed to positive social and environmental impact.
Many of Synergy’s clients are already on board with this trend. LYFE Kitchen offers more than just healthy, flavorful fast-casual food; it means having a Sixth Sense, making a commitment “to look out for the well-being of our customers, our employees and our communities” in the words of its founders. Burgerville is also known by the company it keeps, partnering with local farms and businesses that share the concept’s commitment to quality food and regional vitality. Ignite Bistro & Wine Bar set an intention for a new menu that would offer “fresh, approachable and sustainable food that has a local connection and means something to…the locals, the community, and the people who have made us love being in Carlsbad.”
Now, after 28 years in business, Synergy Restaurant Consultants is ready to give back to its community in a significant way. Synergy Managing Partners Dean Small and Danny Bendas both met while studying at the Culinary Institute of America, which opened many doors to them as they began pursuing their restaurant industry careers.
“The CIA gave me and Danny the foundation and confidence to pursue our dreams and help others along the way,” says Small. “We have always wanted to make a difference in this amazing industry and to create new opportunities for others to evolve.”
To that end, Synergy is working with the CIA to establish a five-year, $50,000 fund that will provide a series of scholarships within the school’s new “Intrapreneurship” degree concentration. Launched in 2015, the concentration is designed to provide students with the financial literacy and resources to innovate, create, learn how to run a business and overcome adversity in a real-word setting, according to the CIA.
The Synergy Restaurant Consultants fund will provide four $2,500 scholarships per year for the next five years to students within the program, and will also establish the Synergy team as mentors in both formal and informal ways to student entrepreneurs.
“Contributing to the advancement of the entrepreneurial-based CIA program is a very exciting step for us, because entrepreneurship is deeply rooted in our own company DNA,” explains Dean Small. “We have always embraced the entrepreneurial spirit of operators throughout the world who have put it all on the line to build something they are proud of, and now the scholarship fund brings that full circle for Synergy.”