Restaurant Bytes: Bill Streitberger

restaurant bankruptcy webinar

Welcome back to Restaurant Bytes! This is a short, virtual program that asks restaurant executives questions about the issues they are facing today. Restaurant Bytes is hosted by Tom Spry (Principal of Tom Spry Executive Search) and Harri’s own Jacqueline Farmer (Enterprise Sales Executive). This segment caught up with Bill Streitberger, Former Chair People Officer of CraftWorks Holdings, to discuss what restaurant bankruptcy means for human capital.

CraftsWorks Holdings is a multi-brand restaurant operator located in Nashville, TN. The company owned over 390 restaurants including multiple casual dining chain restaurants. Bill explained how, in March when COVID-19 hit, entered a prepackaged bankruptcy plan.

The company was bought by SPB Hospitality for $93 million in June, which results in a lot of changes, both good and bad.The unavoidable truth was that ultimately some restaurants had to close, but the goal was to save as many jobs as possible while also being aware that not all of them can be saved.

He advised that the most important way to create and maintain efficient processes is to implement consistent, highly transparent communication. As Bill says, “transparency needs to have started before the bankruptcy because they need to trust you before if you want to maintain that moving forward.” Ultimately those high levels of communications benefit employees of all levels. 

CraftWorks Holdings offered severance packages to employees who wanted to leave while also urging people to look at what the company will look like after bankruptcy and decide from there if they want to stay. 

“Not everybody’s going to stick with you but most will if they believe it.”

Bill says they used a myriad of different tools and tactics in order to keep the constant flow of communication and transparency open. But because CraftsWorks Holdings operated out of 43 different states across the US, it meant communicating across multiple time zones. They had weekly calls with leaders & heads and the team avoided written updates, instead opting to use videos and webinars to clearly convey the situation at-hand — all of which were posted on the website in case an employee was unable to attend.

Leadership reacted as quickly as they could in order to avoid losing their most talented employees, but they also wanted to remain as human and approachable as possible throughout all of the confusion and uncertainty. 

“This communication had to be clear. They are going to be nervous. Bankruptcy is an ugly word and we had to qualm those fears and be very upfront and frank with them that this is what we’re doing, this is why we’re doing it (in terms of leases and contracts), and here is what we’re going to look on the backside which is gonna make an improvement of the company, improvement of your job and career and your income. You have to be very upfront and frank with them.”

Bill also touched on how to address the rumors that get started when people catch wind about the possibility of an upcoming bankruptcy. He opted to explain it directly to the employees with their supervisors, let them know the importance of its confidentiality, and to be transparent and let them know that “this is what’s best for the company and why [it’s best].”

While he wouldn’t wish bankruptcy on anyone, Bill said that by going through this process, you learn a lot about your business, your people and yourself. In the end, it does save the company and helps them reach a faster road to profitability. 

Bill’s closing tips and advice for how to navigate this difficult time include maintaining a positive attitude, staying patient, and keeping busy — because it will get better.

“Don’t give up on yourself and don’t give up on the process.

To watch the full episode, click here.

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