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Eric GoodwinEric Goodwin is the Co-owner of The Friendly Toast Restaurants and President of Goodwin Recruiting. He is a serial entrepreneur, owning and overseeing numerous other businesses, such as NOBL Coffee. Eric Goodwin holds a bachelor’s of science in Business Administration.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • What is Goodwin Recruiting?
  • Eric Goodwin talks about what makes The Friendly Toast Restaurants unique
  • The challenges of changing The Friendly Toast Restaurant’s image
  • How Eric balances The Friendly Toast with the interests of Goodwin Recruiting’s other clients

In this episode…

In this episode of the SpotOn Series, Chad Franzen speaks with Eric Goodwin, Co-owner of The Friendly Toast Restaurant and President of Goodwin Recruiting, about what makes The Friendly Toast such a unique experience for patrons. With the help of his recruiting firm Goodwin Recruiting, Eric and his partner Scott Pulver have taken The Friendly Toast Restaurants from landmark, shabby tourist dives to a growing collection of indie brunch-all-day restaurants with great teams and charming atmospheres.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Sponsor for this episode

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Episode Transcript

Intro  0:04  

Welcome to the Top Business Leaders Show. Powered by Rise 25 Media. We featured top founders, executives and business leaders from all over the world

Chad Franzen  0:20  

Chad Franzen here co host for the show where we feature top restaurateurs, investors and business leaders. This is part of our SpotOn Series. SpotOn has a best in class payment platform for retail and they have a flagship solution called SpotOn Restaurant, where they combine marketing software and payments all in one. They’ve served everyone from larger chains like Dairy Queen and subway to small mom and pop restaurants. To learn more, go to spot on.com This episode is brought to you by Rise25. We help b2b businesses to get ROI clients referrals and strategic partnerships through done for you podcast. If you have a b2b business and want to build great relationships with clients, referral partners and thought leaders in your space, there’s no better way to do it than through podcasts and content marketing. To learn more, go to rise25.com or email us at [email protected] A serial entrepreneur Eric Goodwin is always looking for the next mountain to climb. He’s involved with a variety of successful businesses and investments including Goodwin Family Management, Goodwin Recruiting and The Friendly Toast Restaurants, which has five locations in Massachusetts, two in New Hampshire, and one location in Vermont. Hey, Eric, thanks for joining me today. How are you?

Eric Goodwin  1:23  

I’m fine. How are you? It’s great to be here.

Chad Franzen  1:25  

Yeah, thanks so much. Hey, tell me a little bit more about The Friendly Toasts and what a customer can expect when going there.

Eric Goodwin  1:32  

Sure. The Friendly Toast is a very unique concept. The decor and the vibe and the restaurant is very kitschy retro style. Some of the artists is you know, sort of out there a little bit. colors are vibrant. A certain music vibe when you come in sort of energy from the team when you go in. On the culinary side, we’re looking to push the envelope on the culinary side. So it’s not your traditional kind of mom and pop, you know, breakfast or brunch space. You know, we’re a All Day brunch and bar we have innovative cocktails, mimosa flights, Bloody Mary flights. And seasonally, for example, we would have some pretty cool iced coffee flights boozy iced coffee flights right now. And we’re always altering and updating our menu to be you know, culinarily innovative. So we change it every six months. And while we do have traditional, you know, items, you know, that you would you may expect in a in a classic brunch spot. Our menu is, you know, 72 items, it’s eclectic. And we put a lot of time into sourcing the right products, and especially the right ingredients and keeping that that creativity going so cool spot overall.

Chad Franzen  2:55  

Tell me how your involvement with The Friendly Toast came about?

Eric Goodwin  2:59  

Yeah, it’s a little bit of a story there. So I was at a restaurant. You know, guy growing up a restaurant brat, I say, you know, my dad owned the restaurant growing up, I spent my time with my dad and the restaurants that’s how we spend time together. He wasn’t home, you know, kind of guy. So you know, I started off as a dishwasher, I worked my way through all the cooking stations and all the stations and the restaurants. And as I got older graduated from school started to have a young family I left operations and started my staffing company which is what it is today exhibiting recruiting which was initially primarily focused and hospitality but we’ve expanded since then blessed a national firm, but I did that you know around quality of life goals and dad goals and involvement you know, based on my relationship with my dad kind of thing. So as that progressed and was successful, I am entrepreneurially minded, and I really didn’t see a cool hip brunch all day and bar kind of space out there. You had sort of your old school traditional chain kind of places and heavy a one off mom and pop but I thought there was an opportunity there. So you know, I learned about The Friendly Toast which was you know, you know, started by an artist, you know, it had a creative vibe to it that was cool, but lacked a lot of you know, structure systems, expectations, things along those lines. So I met with my partner now Scott Pulver, who was also kicking tires around restaurants. He really liked the concept. We thought we would do it together. And at the end of the day, I saw an opportunity I thought to fill you know what I thought was a gap in the market. I didn’t want to compete in the dining, you know, evening space or dinner space or burger space or something along those lines, I want to try to create a space that was, you know, untapped. So that was the goal. And that’s sort of where we started,

Chad Franzen  5:16  

how many? How many locations were there, when you when you got started with The Friendly Toast?

Eric Goodwin  5:21  

There are two, there’s one, the original in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. And then the second one was in Cambridge, Massachusetts at the time.

Chad Franzen  5:27  

And now you have several more than that, how did that kind of evolution, that kind of evolution come about?

Eric Goodwin  5:36  

Yeah. So we have eight operating now we have another six or seven in the hopper, and lots going on from a growth perspective, we’ll probably open four or five new restaurants in the next maybe six in the next 12 months or so. But the evolution around that was, you know, the first few years, that was a lot harder than I thought I was going to be initially. Yeah, a complete cultural change, establishing core values. You know, my people in their, you know, philosophy systems, you know, things on those lines, but all unbalanced or not losing that indie vibe, the cool indie vibe really represents the friendly toasts, when you walk into The Friendly Toast, you know you’re in The Friendly Toast. So I didn’t want to lose that. But it did need structure, and all of that. So that took a solid two or three years to really, you know, get that where I was really proud of the organization. And Scott and I felt like we could start to grow the organization. So probably, roughly three years into that we got our first new location, which was in Back Bay in Boston, and then you know, progressively, you know, bad locations, we’ve accelerated our growth a little bit over the last, you know, coming out of the pandemic, because we were stalled, we were poised for growth prior to the pandemic. So, you know, felt a little held up there. So, you know, we feel confident in our, our, our concept, our model, the design, the team, you know, our spirit, we feel confident enough to grow smartly, and pragmatically

Chad Franzen  7:11  

said, you know, when you first got involved, it was a lot harder than what you would have expected. Can you tell me maybe some of the primary differences between what it actually was and maybe what you thought, what you thought it was?

Unknown Speaker  7:23  

Yeah, I mean, I want to be respectful to the prior owners. But you know, there were no expectations of the team, there were no standards, there was no human resources, there was no handbook, there was no line checks, there was no receiving procedures, there was no food safety and sanitation protocols in place. There weren’t extensive training program, there was still handwritten tickets. So there was no data, you know, no point of sale systems, things along those lines, you know, the place, my opinion wasn’t really tight on the cleanliness standpoint, there was no sort of steps to service or expectations of the service staff or timing goals, you know, for the food, and training on the food and, you know, things along those lines, you know, cleaning checklist, you know, all those sorts of things, no mystery shopper program in plays, no performance appraisals for the team, no core values, but none of that was it was just kind of, you know, not an atypical in the no one offered to off play. So it took a long time to, you know, for the team to really believe in me, you know, those who are sort of into having a great place and wanting to be the best and establishing, you know, a culture of wanting to be better and improving all the time. So, you know, doing that while in motion, while operating is a challenge. So, you know, I have the benefit of having a staffing company. So, you know, we were able to have access to great talent and amazing talent, but really just, you know, putting a culture in place, even if it’s a sports organization, or a software company, or, you know, it doesn’t, you know, whatever it is, it doesn’t happen overnight. So, you know, and I’m very, sort of a proud business guy, and if my name is on it, it’s got to be right. So before we grew, you know, I wanted to have a certain level of performance and a certain standard of operation before we started to grow. So it took time to get there. But, you know, you know, we had to had to wait it out and make sure it was the right time to press go.

Chad Franzen  9:30  

So, you know, how do you do that you have kind of an existing staff in place, maybe they’re used to, they don’t know that they’re doing it wrong, necessarily. They just got kind of used to doing it a certain way. And then a new person comes in, how do you kind of changed all of that stuff on the fly while keeping the operation going?

Eric Goodwin  9:47  

Yeah, in hindsight, it you know, it was very challenging and I kind of put my head down, you know, kind of bang and blocked out the noise. You know, The Friendly Toast was sort of a landmark place in Portsmouth and Known for a little bit of his craziness and super edginess, and some of the things that weren’t so flattering, but, you know, the, you know, the press that we received originally in sort of the social media platform communications out there were around, oh, you know, he’s gonna change it, they’re gonna change it, and it’s gonna lose the essence of what The Friendly Toast says. So, but on the other hand, it didn’t have the greatest local reputation. So my goal was to really build it from the local guests out and not necessarily worry about tourists and things along those lines, just build the trust of the local community. So changing that was difficult, because we faced a little, you know, people don’t like change, even if it’s good change, you know, and, you know, the unknown sort of thing. And so I like to tell a funny, a little bit quick, funny story, which is, you know, we shut down the Portsmouth location, redid the whole redoing the whole kitchen, put a bar in, replace the floors, painted the walls, you know, new booths, cleaning everything up, you know, down for a couple of weeks, we’ve kept the door open for guests for coming in and peeking in, and everyone was kind of coming in, and like, you’re changing it. Yeah. I mean, I’m like, Yeah, and I kind of started to get a little frustrated about all this, you know, adversity, or everyone was allergic to change. And, you know, it just came in and said, I can’t believe it changing this place. And I said, just, you know, so do you want ship floors and rift booths, and unsanitary kitchen equipment and paint falling off the wall? And, you know, the way it took a step back and really thought about that? And she said, yeah, I really do. I’m like, okay, that we’re not going to be the place for you, I just had to sort of make that that was sort of like a check point, I had to make the decision, like, I’m just not going to please everyone, hopefully, in time, we can win everyone over. So that was kind of what what we faced, but from the team perspective, and really, that’s my, you know, thing as a leader is putting the right people in place and establishing a culture. So some people stay there wasn’t for some people, it was for some people, you know, I really latched on with people who believed in what the vision was, and sort of built around them while slowly but surely bringing people in that, you know, we’re, we’re all rowing in the same direction. So I mean, it was hard work a long, hard road. But you know, you reached an inflection point where suddenly the tipping point where, you know, start shift, realize, Okay, now we’re now regroup in our style, and then not, you know, not coincidentally, then your stale sales start to be more consistent, right, just to grow your sales, you start to get some positive press, you got some great reviews, your social media platforms start to blow up. So you just had to believe in the plan, be disciplined, stick with the plan. And really just believe in the team, you know, get the right team in there and support support the team and I spend my time with my team and I want to make it a great experience. So

Chad Franzen  13:02  

so you’re able to kind of maintain that, that unique vibe that you’ve that attracted you to it, how have you kind of kept that vibe consistent now with, you know, many more locations than what you started with?

Eric Goodwin  13:13  

Right? You know, it’s a stated goal of us to be you know, professionally organized and have a professional organization, you know, what I say in the non guest facing ways, right, so, that means 401Ks and health insurance and pay time offer are really is being an innovative employer, right. celebrating diversity, you know, really building culture. And, you know, having those infrastructure things in place where our team has a platform to communicate, you know, with each other, you know, we recognize great restaurants, you know, we recognize our team, we have, you know, training programs and we have opportunities for the team to grow from within you know, just a strong culture. And we have the infrastructure systems in place the human resources, you know, business office all the tools you know, that you may see in a classic you know, well operated Restaurant Group, we have those in place, but the balance is, you know, not to become a homogenous you know, certainly a classic loser vibe, energy spirit. So I always say like, behind the scenes, we’re always right, we’re running an organized you know, place with with vision and expectations and all that front, you know, we don’t micromanage. I don’t micromanage team uniforms. We don’t roboticized the steps to service we want to hit those steps to service but we don’t want someone to you go into a chain restaurant, and they you know, they’re like robots, right? So no personality. So we really encourage personality, we want to hit our points, but we want them to do it and their own way. You know, and from a sort of day Pour standpoint, design standpoint, we’ve tried to take, you know, what was cool about The Toaster and really, you know, take it to another level. So we keep the kitschy, you know, very eclectic vibe going. And we think we’ve actually taken, you know, made that a little bit better over time. But our locations are not because he kind of location to me, so we aren’t building cookie cutter, you know, locate, you know, buildings and the exact same prototype that again, you may see, so, everyone has their own nuance, you know, location has their own nuance to it. And, you know, we’re each restaurant has a little bit of a different, you know, within the context of our design, you know, expectations and goals, but each restaurant, and still has its own very much of an indie vibe, and, you know, our music is unique, you know, our style, our food presentations are unique. You know, we haven’t, we haven’t corporatized our food presentations, you know, we’re scratch kitchen, spend a lot of time doing that things along those lines, we really, you know, work to strike that what I feel like there’s a tightrope walk, you know, really a balance between guest spacing in the vibe. People surprised that we have other places and other locations, which I take that as an actual compliment. Because they don’t feel like this is a chain and I love and I don’t love, I don’t like the word chain, I don’t allow it. You know, we’re a curated in the restaurant group. So, you know, that’s sort of the approach, you know, that, that that tightrope walk between organize, clean, innovative culture team, all those systems that back that up, and then out front, hopefully, the guests, you know, that, you know, they know that they’re in a great place, and that there’s a certain vibe to it. But, you know, they don’t feel like it’s sort of they liked it that is organized, but they don’t feel like you know, we sold our soul. Yeah, yeah. And

Chad Franzen  17:03  

so what are some of your goals moving forward them with The Friendly Toast? As you said, you have a bunch of locations to come?

Unknown Speaker  17:09  

Work? Yeah, I mean, our goal now that we, you know, I mean, we have, you know, we haven’t arrived, and I’m always reminding our team, despite our, you know, success, and, you know, positive Mojo out there, you know, we’re not ready for the restaurant Hall of Fame, yet, we still have things to improve on continually. And so we’re always working to improve and really, that’s sort of part of our culture is that we’re never satisfied, we like the journey to the top of the mountain, rather than reaching the top of the mountain. So we’re continually challenging ourselves and raising the bar. So we have we have, you know, places to go and things to improve on. So, I mean, the overall goal is, you know, at this short term cough, and next 36 months or so, grow to 20 to 25, restaurants, and then then you’re asked sort of an inflection point about, you know, what we want to do as owners, you know, our team, you know, what their goals are, and things along those lines, if we, you know, we’ll see what our options are, at that point, whether we start to go more national and less regional, we do have a lot of interest, you know, we have people knocking on our door, obviously, all the time, sort of investor groups, or venture cap groups, or, you know, certain fun groups are always knocking on our door, which is I take that as a compliment. I think, you know, people are smart enough to see that we’ve got to like to see we’ve got a little bit of a lightning and lightning in a bottle here. But I think we have a way to go. Yeah, before we get to that, that sort of thing. So

Chad Franzen  18:42  

How was how was Goodwin Recruiting involved with restaurants and hospitality?

Eric Goodwin  18:48  

Yeah. So Goodwin Recruiting and The Friendly Toast have a symbiotic relationship, obviously. And, you know, my daughter was a recruiter for a while at Goodwin Recruiting, so it was that was sort of, in her DNA of The Friendly Toast it was a natural place for her to recommend candidates. The Friendly Toast in general, represents a great opportunity for managers we have we’re a little different because, you know, we offer day hours, right. So, you know, were only open till eight o’clock on Friday and Saturdays and three o’clock all the other days. So, you know, it’s a natural draw for people who are looking to, you know, kind of be out to late nights in the weekend sort of thing. But in terms of Goodwin Recruiting, you know, we have our great relationships, you know, we’re treated like, you know, a regular client. So and it’s been important to me to draw a line of distinction because I don’t want my Goodwin Recruiting clients, the things that I know Eric, I’ve had a little bit of this I are getting all the good candidates for kind of thing. You know, our team, you know, they run their businesses and they’re gonna make smart recommendations to our candidates, and what is the best fit for them? And sometimes The Friendly Toast is sometimes isn’t that sort of thing. I mean, it’s nice, obviously, in some ways, but you know, Goodwin Recruiting is a separate entity and I want to run has its own goals and its own objectives at the end of the day. But, you know, I try to, you know, going back to the idea of The Friendly Toast for me, it was not just the brainchild of the concept chat, it was, it was really about talent, attraction, right. So that was really the primary reason for it. So you know, we have 45 hour work weeks, you know, more days off more vacation, we do things I don’t, those hours, and all that are all about my approach to business and life, meaning all going back to my dad not being home, right, and my parents being divorced, no record and all that, and my dad goals of wanting to be an amazing dad. That’s why I started Goodwin Recruiting. So that philosophy weaves its way through Goodwin Recruiting, weaves its way through The Friendly Toast, and I’m all about balance, all about the team, not being burnt out, no grind, none of that bring energy, bring passion, when you’re here, you’re here, but I really want the team to have great balance. I think they’re more effective. Leaders, I think, you know, when you go in teams happy, we don’t lose people, that sort of thing. So that was really the idea of the concept. I thought it could be a magnet really hurt talent, who, you know, started, like, I was a little bit like, I wanted to coach Little League, I wanted to walk my daughter into school, you know, as long as that was cool, and, you know, things along those lines. So that’s really the whole the whole life here and The Friendly Toast. But you know, to answer your long winded answer to your question, you know, Goodwin Recruiting and The Friendly Toast have a close relationship. But it’s not at the expense of our other client relationship.

Chad Franzen  21:57  

So other clients, other restaurant clients would hire a Goodwin Recruiting to help them find staff. Right. Is that is do I have that right?

Eric Goodwin  22:05  

Right. Yeah, we have. I mean, we’re in a national firm, you know, we have close to 300 recruiters around the country. So, you know, you could probably name a restaurant concept, and there are clients. Yeah. So yeah, we have, you know, hundreds and hundreds of clients.

Chad Franzen  22:20  

What, what would you say are the advantages of using a recruiting a service like yours, rather than just, you know, posting a help wanted sign out? Or, you know, doing it on your own?

Eric Goodwin  22:31  

Yeah, from a from a client perspective, or run a restaurant? Yeah, we do things other than hospitality. But if we’re focused on having a restaurant. So first of all, you’re casting a wider net, right? Then you could ever cash on your own right? So we have access to candidates that restaurant companies just don’t have. And we have people who are building relationships and acquiring candidates as their full time job. Right. So we, you know, 23 years of this, we have a very extensive database. And we’re aggressive, we’re out there getting great candidates. And, you know, we’re representing that brand out there, right. So we’re directing cam, and we’re, we’re, you know, sizing Apple candidates wants and needs, right, and kind of matching them to what the best concept is for that. And we’re directing candidates who might otherwise not have any idea, oh, I didn’t even think of that concept. And then No, I hit my goals, that sort of thing. So it’s, you know, access to more candidates. It’s it’s a more thorough process. So when a candidate gets presented to a client, they know why they’re there, they’re prepared, they’ve had access to their benefit information, their concept, right, they, they’re there, and it’s not a big time saver for them. So generally speaking, they’re getting a higher level candidate. And really, depending on the size of a client, you know, with our national scope, you know, we have candidates that are moving from California to New Hampshire to here to there. And so we’re just, you know, we’re out advocating and directing candidates to our clients, and particularly in this time, you know, there’s a incredible shortage in the industry, for managers. I looked at it, you know, it’s contingency, contingency based mostly, which means you don’t pay Goodwin Recruiting unless you hire someone from us. So in that case, there’s really no downside to it. And at that point, you know, with the way the shortages are, you know, they’re sort of, you know, you’re able to hopefully expand your reach in terms of candidate access, and sometimes we’re a part of someone’s, you know, overall recruiting plan, sometimes where they’re exclusive. Yeah, I mean, they were like an extension of someone’s company, like, loss of trust. We know and believe in them. We know the relationship the communications there were really there. I mean, then some plans were just, you know, like a piece of the pie kind of thing. So it’s all different based on size and scope and scale. But you know, it’s all about, I’ve always said that it’s never the competition is never for the guests. It’s always for the right team. Right? Plenty of guests out there just like once a concept. So, for me, you know, we like to align ourselves with companies who are after great people. Yeah.

Chad Franzen  25:23  

I have one final question for you. But first, tell me how people can find out more about both The Friendly Toast and then the other things you have going on with good luck, Goodwin Family Management,

Unknown Speaker  25:33  

Recruiting are Goodwin Family Management.

Chad Franzen  25:36  

Either way, either one.

Eric Goodwin  25:37  

Yeah. So The Friendly Toast, thefriendlytoast.com is a great place to start. You can check us out on the social media platforms, Facebook, or Instagram, we’ve got some pretty cool things going on there. You can #TheFriendlyToast. And for Goodwin Recruiting that’s goodwinrecruiting.com. And Good Family Management really is a company that is the Finance and Business Office for some of my other entities and investments. So that really is you know, my CFO, the CFO of Goodwin family Management, my son, Tyler. And we have about a team of 14 or 15 people there who are human resources, and the accounting, business office functions and finance function. So all the business side of stuff into the banking relationships, benefits and sounds, receivable and payroll and all of our financial statements and accounting, relationship, investments, things like that.

Chad Franzen  26:34  

Okay, last question for you, if you were to go to The Friendly Toast as a customer, what would be kind of your go to item of choice? Yeah,

Unknown Speaker  26:43  

that’s the 72 menu item menu, but I tend to lean towards our, we call them Friends with Benedicts or Benedict’s section. You know, we have some really cool options there. And I think that’s a great product. One of our best sellers is hash quiche, you know, with with as a cool item. We have some cool appetizers as well, you know, we have sort of a sampler platter of all sorts of different things with churro bites, egg rolls, and things along those lines, breakfast, egg rolls, and things like that. So it’s hard for me because when someone said what they ordered, if they order a traditional item, like there’s like so many other cool things on there. But we always encourage people to take a tour through the menu and check out different sections of it.

Chad Franzen  27:35  

There’s a lot of creativity. I thought the name The Friendly Toast was cool. I didn’t know how that came about. And then you know who comes up with all these, these names for these menu items?

Unknown Speaker  27:44  

Yeah. So the original owner, Melissa, you know, named it The Friendly Toast, which is, you know, an amazing name, so I’ll credit to her. And the menu item names. Really? A lot of them come from the team. Yeah, I mean, so the sandwich Donut Stop Believing from the journey song was from our VP of Operations, Stacy, and Diana Frederica, who’s our director of training. She’s the creative, artsy type. She comes up with a lot of fun, funky names, and the team does too. So really collective, you know, we survey our team, our servers, our cooks. Every menu cycle for their best ideas, what are the guests telling you? What’s cool, what do you what are we hearing out there and so very much a collaborative process. And, you know, a lot of a lot of it comes from the team.

Chad Franzen  28:34  

Sounds good. Sounds like a great, great place. Hey, Eric. It’s been great talking to you today. I really appreciate. Appreciate your time. Thanks so much,

Unknown Speaker  28:41  

Same. Thank you Chad. So long, so long, everybody.

Outro  28:44  

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