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Chain LeaderEditorial Archives2005April 15 — Best Places To Work

Cause and Effect
Eat’n Park’s community efforts build morale and life balance among its hourly employees.

By Charles Bernstein

Eat’n Park team members volunteered more than 1,000 hours to community causes last year.

Last September, when flooding destroyed thousands of homes and businesses in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, Eat’n Park team members and customers raised more than $300,000 in cash and product donations to help local relief efforts. Just a few months later, the company raised $25,000 for the Brother’s Brother Foundation to help purchase medical supplies for those affected by the South Asian tsunami.

Hourly employees have helped the company enhance literacy opportunities for children. They donated time to causes such as Eat’n Park’s Read Around Pittsburgh partnership with the United Way as well as a summer reading passport program that encourages children to read more.

Giving back to the community is a top priority at Pittsburgh-based Eat’n Park, which has 79 family-dining restaurants in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio. “The work we conduct for our neighborhoods is driven both top-down and bottom-up,” says Chairman and CEO Jim Broadhurst. “We are all a family, and we listen to our team members and guests to ensure our efforts align with what is important in their lives.”

Winning Strategy
Last year Eat’n Park team members volunteered more than 1,000 hours of their own time to causes such as the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, the Rainbow Babies Kids Fest in Cleveland and the Special Olympics Pennsylvania Summer Games. The company recently won the National Restaurant Association’s Good Neighbor Award for its community efforts on improving neighborhoods through economic vitality and employee involvement. The chain also received the Points of Light Foundation Award, founded by former President George Bush.

Eat’n Park
2004 Systemwide Sales
$185 million*
Average Check
Expansion Plans

3 in 2005, 3 in 2006

*Chain Leader estimate

The company says this helps build morale and makes Eat’n Park a valued place to work. Over the last 10 years, the chain’s hourly turnover rate has run at a healthy 70 percent, and management turnover has remained under 24 percent.

“Our high retention rate is due to many factors,” says Human Resources Vice President Karen Bolden. Beyond the company’s philanthropic efforts, she cites Eat’n Park’s Team Member Appreciation Day, when corporate staff works in the units; a strong benefits program; leadership development at all levels of the organization; and a policy of promoting from within.

Eat’n Park surveys team members annually and creates action plans based upon the results. “Recent surveys show a clear connection between management satisfaction and work-life balance,” Bolden says. “And we are always looking for ways to improve.”

Broadhurst says that listening to team members has resulted in unique partnerships with organizations that provide resources for the disabled in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Community Marketing Manager Colleen Coll helps spearhead the company’s volunteer network including Team Smiley, a group of specially trained ambassadors that drive around in a refurbished antique dairy truck to hand out thousands of free cookies to area residents.

“Whenever I tell someone I work for Eat’n Park, they always have a story about Smiley” says Community Marketing Director Deb Malley. “It makes me proud to know I work for a company that cares about the community.” She says that this camaraderie and culture of volunteerism has a direct impact on recruitment and retention of top talent.

A Good Neighbor
Each year Eat’n Park selects a team member as Volunteer of the Year. Regis Holden, the company’s product-development director, won the award in 2004. He has been involved with numerous community groups including the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank, Children’s Hospital Telethon and the Hope Network Hoops Tournament. Holden also is on the board of Meals on Wheels, Boy Scouts of America and a church-endowment committee that funds African mission work.

“We literally have hundreds, if not thousands, of team members who contribute their time and talent to communities,” declares Eat’n Park President and COO Basil Cox. “We’re more than just a business, we’re a neighbor, and as such we are dedicated to making the communities we serve as strong and vital as possible.”

According to Cox, much of the company’s success comes from “meaningful relationships with community partners including hospitals, food banks, shelters and libraries.” In addition, he emphasizes that many senior managers serve on the boards of its nonprofit partners.

“All 8,000 team members work hard to deliver a great experience for our customers each and every day, both within our restaurants and in the neighborhoods we serve,” says Senior Vice President Kevin O’Connell.

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