That a strong company culture goes a long way in ensuring the success of a quick serve is no secret, but few brands cultivate that culture with employees’ personal interests and hobbies in mind. At Luke’s Lobster, a New York City–based fast casual with locations in Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, corporate leadership invests in staff by supporting and promoting creative endeavors in a homemade literary magazine.
“The idea originated with a couple of our teammates who had formerly worked as interns for different publications. They came up with the idea to put together a zine to showcase the talents of all the folks that are working with us,” says Luke Holden, founder and president of the brand.
Launched in 2009, Luke’s Lobster was built on the cornerstones of simplicity, sustainability, and a supportive company culture, Holden says. He adds the culture is energetic and fun, and fostering that begins with hiring the right people.
Matt Villaverde, creative director and one of the designers of the zine, started at Luke’s in the restaurant, making the brands’ signature lobster rolls. He says Holden and vice president Ben Conniff recognized his talents as he was graduating film school and brought him on to do marketing artwork.
“They notice these things going on, and they understand that the most important thing is that these people are other people outside of making lobster rolls,” Villaverde says of Holden and Conniff. “That’s what the zine is for. It’s to showcase the people behind the counter in a different way.”
Holden says the brand attracts many employees who are actors, writers, and artists. “There’s a handful of folks that work with us to pay the bills so that they can work to achieve aspirations outside the fast-casual industry,” he says.
Villaverde, along with former employee Nicodemus Nicoludis and part-time employee Chris Molnar, complied submissions ranging from photographs, illustrations, poetry, and prose into a full-size, full-color magazine that Luke’s funded to print for employees and customers to have.
“It’s great for the people at the store who get to say to customers, ‘Check out my stuff in this magazine,’” Villaverde says. “It's a different sort of thing for a restaurant to put out, so in that way, it’s totally unique.”
The second issue of the zine is set to release in May, and Villaverde says more employees are showing interest and submitting this time around. The second issue will incorporate explanations of what the project is and who its contributors are, he adds.
“We dedicate a lot of time and resources to fostering company culture,” Holden says. “Doing things like the zine and doing quarterly 360 [reviews] makes sure everyone in the company is being heard and that they’re initiatives and issues are all responded to.” He says these practices are the reason the brand has a low turnover rate compared to industry norms.
By Tamara Omazic