February 18, 2021

USHG President shares advice on how to succeed in business

Wade advises people of color and women in this industry to know their jobs, roles, what's expected from them, and deliver on the stated expectations at the highest level.

About 25 years ago, Gerry Fernandez, co-founder of the Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance gave Chip Wade some great advice. “Get really good at your job, know your business and know your numbers,” he told him.

He also said, "You can't help to advance diversity and inclusion if you're not employed."

Those were two of the best pieces of advice that Wade, president of Union Square Hospitality Group, said he’s ever received.

“My advice to people of color in this industry, and to young women, is to know your job, know your role, know what's expected from you, and deliver on the stated expectations at the highest level. You have to prove your competence and your capabilities in the role,” he says.

Join the MFHA Feb. 24 for its next Black History Month webinar on advancing your career to the executive level. Register now

How can an up-and-coming executive get ahead of the competition?
Be remarkably curious. Be curious about your career, about the skills, capabilities, and what's needed to advance to the next job. Again, be very curious about the numbers, and, in general, stay curious about the world of business. I know this seems like a very simple statement, but it’s essential to expand your knowledge, especially around finance and strategy. You’ve got to be willing and able to expand your brain. Read books and concepts on leadership and leadership habits that drive success by authors like Max De Pree and Stephen Covey.

How can a young, Black entrepreneur build a restaurant enterprise?
You have to start with a product or service, in this case a restaurant, that meets or exceeds the needs and expectations of what consumers want. You create the concept, and then prove it works via demand. But it has to start with the product, service, food, or menu, and then you have to prove the demand is there.

Danny [Meyer] started with one restaurant and ran, managed, and owned that restaurant for nine years before he opened a second one. Plenty of Black entrepreneurs own single-unit businesses. It could be a food truck; it could be a 2,000-square-foot pastry or donut shop. There's no shortage of single-unit, minority-owned, or women-owned businesses here in New York, and across the country. But that, in and of itself, isn’t enough to build an enterprise.

Once you have a proven concept, the next step is to prove you can replicate it at another location. To me, the second location or second food truck represents building on a proven model. But, after the second unit, that’s where the really hard work is—building the business model, the business plan, and trying to get the funding to expand from either private equity or a bank.

Expansion really is the key. There’s a lot of entrepreneurs—I talked to one recently who had an idea, but I thought his financial modeling was insufficient, and the narrative to tell the story of the brand was insufficient.

Present a comprehensive business plan that also gives a true picture of the current financial health of the first two units, including the revenue, operating profit, and cash flow. Also, tell a wonderful narrative about the first two stores, and why you want to grow to three, five, 10. The combination of a compelling narrative and strong financial modeling gives a bank or a private-equity firm confidence in you, convinces them you have something that can be successfully replicated three, four, and five times.

Who have you encountered that could be the next Black restaurant industry titan?
There’s a gentleman in Ocala, Fla., Rashad Jones, who owns a barbecue food truck called Big Lee’s. His barbecue is some of the best I’ve ever had. He’s passionate about food and hospitality, and he excels at it! There are individuals like that all over the country, people who have aspirational dreams to grow their independent business or food truck. The product and demand might be there, but it’s really about learning the business side, or maybe finding the right mentor. That is critical.