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At Zingerman’s, everyone’s an owner

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in Leaders & Managers,People Management

At Zingerman’s Roadhouse, a popular Michigan restaurant, the weekly sales figures are not a big secret. All 50 em­­ployees gather to discuss the results—and brainstorm on how they can help each other exceed those numbers in the week ahead.

During one of the meetings, Alex Young, the restaurant’s longtime chef, pointed out that the eatery did $165,256 in sales the week before: $13,000 more than projected.  Employees, from busboys to servers, congratulated each other. But Young didn’t stop there.

“I think we could get that number up to $180,000 next week with the start of graduation ceremonies,” Young told the group. “How do you think we might get to that goal?”

The restaurant is in the college town of Ann Arbor, so he figured the Uni­versity of Michigan’s festivities would attract more diners. He sought to prod his team to think like entrepreneurs.

Staffers suggested promoting products from one of Zingerman’s sister businesses. Examples included cross-selling cakes from its bakery or books written by the company’s co-owner, Ari Weinzweig.

After the meeting, a line cook, Leo Chen, alerted his boss that four of the cocktails they made at the restaurant used egg whites. That meant 30 yolks a week were discarded. Chen proposed saving the yolks for puddings and other items.

By treating employees like owners, Weinzweig and Young turn them into smarter, more motivated contributors.

— Adapted from “At Zingerman’s, Pastrami and Partnership to Go,” Jennifer Conlin,

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