One of my earliest examples of what a passionate and determined work ethic looks like occurred when I was just 10 years old. Around this time, I began helping my father with his small business — a manufacturing facility specializing in tool and die in my hometown of Rockford, Illinois. At that impressionable age, each step of business ownership seemed foreign and yet absolutely thrilling. I took in every second and kept a careful eye on my father’s behavior, like the respect with which he treated each customer or the graciousness he wasn’t afraid to verbalize to his employees.
Watching him, I learned the true meaning of entrepreneurship. He ingrained in me the need to demonstrate a dedication to one’s craft, the importance of putting forth your most diligent effort, and the perseverance, honesty, and integrity it takes to own a successful business. From that day on, I just knew that I would follow in his footsteps, forever chasing that euphoric sense of accomplishment, birthing new ideas, and molding them together into flowing processes.
Dairy Queen, Side Hustles, and Potbelly
And so it began. At age 15, I took my first paid position working at the local Dairy Queen. Even though the work was often hot, sticky, and just plain messy, it felt like I had found my place. The management team there had a lasting and significant impact on me, and ultimately, the trajectory of my life and career. This is where the seeds of love for the restaurant industry were planted and where I witnessed how being a truly effective leader and a genuine, caring human being can resonate with a team of employees, regardless of their diverse backgrounds.
Throughout my teens and early twenties, I continued to work in various restaurants and positions, learning a lot about their inner workings, the business side of things, and loads about how to effectively manage people. In addition to those jobs, I continued to “side hustle” for most of my youth and early adulthood. Nothing illegal though! ;) But I began testing the entrepreneurial waters, stretching my wings and forming small business ventures. From cleaning windows for local restaurants to designing balloon arches for Home Depot to coordinating job fair events to opening a flower shop, I had my share of hits and misses.
In 1997, I moved from my little hometown to Chicago. Wow! What a difference! Thankfully, I quickly found my way, landing positions in the city’s bustling restaurants and nightclubs. Within a year, fate intervened when I crossed paths with Bryant Keil, the visionary behind Potbelly Sandwich Works. At that time, Potbelly had three locations, but Bryant had exciting plans for the company’s future. And needless to say, I wanted in. So in June of 1999, I was brought on as Potbelly’s Director of Human Resources.
For more than a decade, I worked in this amazing role, surrounded by talented teammates and doing the work I love. Through the development and restructuring of Potbelly’s recruiting process and HR functions, those three restaurants bloomed into more than 200 restaurants in ten markets. It was a ridiculously fun adventure.
But after an incredible career with Potbelly, I had a vision of my own — to help restaurateurs learn how to better manage their people, HR systems, and processes. And with that, I founded Restaurant HR Group in 2010.
Restaurant HR Group
What exactly does Restaurant HR Group do?
Restaurant HR Group handles HR, payroll, and benefits administration and compliance for restaurants. Essentially, we do the “heavy lifting.” We support restaurants from around the country and manage their HR administration. To see exactly what this entails, see our list of services. Have questions or interested in a Proposal Questionnaire? Please send us an email.
My Mission With CarrieLuxem.com
While Restaurant HR Group provides the opportunity to partner with owners and operators to handle their day-to-day HR administrative needs, I found there was still something missing. Restaurateurs were looking for guidance on hot topics such as recruiting crew and managers, creating HR systems, compliance requirements, leadership, and developing a magnetic and lasting company culture.
After hearing about this need for years, CarrieLuxem.com was born. Through this website and my speaking and advising services, I am on a renewed mission to better inform and educate the restaurant industry in all areas of HR including:
- Recruiting, hiring, and onboarding;
- Culture development and sustainability;
- Safety and loss prevention;
- Payroll and benefits;
- Employee performance management; and
- Termination procedures.
Current and prospective restaurateurs will be able to gain the insights needed to operate a prosperous and thriving business. Education and training will take place through the use of workshops, webinars, articles, videos, and books. And with a new, exclusive membership model under development, templates, forms, and other pertinent HR documents will be available here soon too.
Why I Do What I Do
Everyone gets into this industry for different reasons. But for me, the entire reason I’m in the restaurant HR business — and now branching out into advising and training — comes down to three simple reasons:
- To make the world a happier place. Yes, I know. It sounds terribly cliche, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Not only do I want to create a happier workplace for my own team, but I also want to extend that to each and every restaurant out there.
- Because great leadership matters. I believe that effective leadership comes down to building emotional connections with your team, customers, and community. By simply being a stand-up human being, many people find out that they have what it takes to be a great leader. I help employees uncover their leadership traits so they can guide the next generation of restaurants.
- To create more restaurant success stories. Once you have leadership and systems in place, and a well-planned and unique concept, your odds of success rise exponentially. And with consumers spending nearly half of their food dollars in restaurants, the demand is absolutely there. Together, we can create even more restaurant success stories.
On a Personal Level
While I still have you here, let me tell you about life outside of HR. I am a mom of two amazing boys and married to an incredible man — who happens to be a fabulous restaurant operator to boot! In my spare time, I love to travel the world, pick the brains of successful entrepreneurs and business people, and go to as many Pitbull shows as possible. Yep, total Pitbull fangirl here!
Follow me on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube for more HR and leadership insights. For speaking engagements and training services, visit me here. Or check out my company, Restaurant HR Group, to learn how we help restaurants manage their HR, payroll and benefits administration.