SEASON 1: EPISODE NUMBER: 17

EPISODE GUEST: Jon Dressler

Dressler’s is the go-to spot for celebratory dinners in Charlotte, NC and a lot of that has to do with the owner, Jon Dressler’s, employee-focused management style. 

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Dressler’s is the go-to spot in Charlotte, N.C. for celebratory meals, date nights, and just a nice dinner out. And it all began at a Denny’s.

When Dressler’s owner, John Dressler, was 16, he got his start in the restaurant industry washing dishes at a Denny’s. Eventually, he took a job as a busboy and then waiter in Atlantic City.

He’s always been a fan of the restaurant industry’s non-regular hours. So when a friend talked him into a restaurant management position, he said yes. He had the option to be transferred to Beverly Hills or Charlotte so he chose Beverly Hills.

He ended up in Charlotte.

The first lesson he learned as a manager is to learn from other managers. He would drop behaviors he didn’t like and pick up the ‘good’ behaviors he observed. “It’s free to pay attention,” Dressler says.

And he had to soak up as much information as possible because when it came down to it, ‘My decision-making team is comprised of me.”

His decisions have proven to be good ones. The first people he hired in 1996 still work with him. Longevity is a hallmark of his management style, putting faith and trust in the employees he hires and their skillsets. He believes in giving his employees opportunities to prove they are trustworthy and takes pride in being responsible for 250 families on his payroll.

When he opened his first restaurant in 2003, he had $0 in the bank. Initially, he was surprised by fewer customers than anticipated, yet these patrons were spending more money than he projected.

He took a leap on a second concept that eventually failed. But he learned more from his failure than his successes and moved forward to open a third restaurant in 2010, Dressler’s in the Metropolitan.

He adapts his restaurants for what his clients enjoy. People like hanging out in the bars area, so he’s made his bars bigger. And he added a focus on shareable meals.

He says a key to his managerial success is identifying the fact that you’re not the smartest person in the room. Lean on others’ strengths to build up the company as a whole.

In the midst of the COVID pandemic he promised his staff going into the shutdown, “I will feed you and your family, and I will reopen these restaurants” urging other entrepreneurs in the restaurant industry to be well-capitalized in case of emergency. Despite dropping sales due to his concepts not working well for carryout, Dressler has stayed true to his vision: Establish a culture and maintain that culture, treat your people well and they’ll be loyal.

“It’s free to pay attention.”

– Jon Dressler, Dressler’s Restaurant

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