One thing gusto! does is offer PTO for all employees in a shift leader position and above. Shift leaders receive five days per year, managers seven, assistant operators 10, and local operating partners 15. In regard to the latter role, there’s a designated path for every employee to become an operating partner if they so choose to chase it. Shift leaders and managers are eligible for health benefits after 60 days and all other employees can sign up a year in.
Dan Jones, in one example of gusto!’s potential track, started as a catering assistant in 2017 before being promoted to assistant catering manager, assistant operator, and, ultimately, local operating partner at gusto!’s original store. Operating partners participate in profit sharing and garner 15 percent of net profits for their location, a model similar to Texas Roadhouse and others. Dressed down, it’s a chance to run their own business without investing personal capital. gusto! leadership during COVID created a pandemic stipend for operating partners to help make up for lost profits and earnings.
In 2022, employees were earning $15–$16 per hour with tips included. Each employee receives free meals on work days (Hybl says this amounts to $2,600 worth of meals per year).
There are some more holistic approaches, too. gusto! rethinks employee reviews as “Heard Sessions.” Instead of dishing out critical feedback, managers sit back and listen. These served as check-ins amid COVID, going beyond evaluating performance to creating open dialogue to chat about growth potential, likes and dislikes, and anything leadership could do to improve life within restaurants. They’ve provided effective outlets over the years for gusto! to grow its organization organically and identify talent.
“There’s a reason why a lot of founders don’t end up running a company,” Hybl says. “It’s different skillsets. I tell people, ‘we’re constantly under construction.’ There’s very little relief. It never stops if you’re high growth and aggressive with what you want to achieve.”
Like Hybl’s original months on the line, he’s still enduring CEO crash courses. Of late, he’s leaned into professional coaching. “You don’t know what you don’t know,” Hybl says.
“I thought I was pretty self-aware,” he adds. “I thought I was pretty compassionate. And you get into professional coaching, and they give you these results and they’re like, you’re in the 99th percentile of being a control freak. You’re in the 99th percentile of being a perfectionist. You’re in the 99th percentile of being hyper critical. And so, after our first couple rounds of coaching, I came back to our leadership team and I said, ‘I’m sorry.’”
The key, he adds, namely in this industry, is to become less reactive as a leader.
One tip: every morning, Hybl takes a Sharpie and writes a pause button on his hand. “I go into rooms now saying, ‘how little can I talk?” Hybl says.
Today, it’s a matter of understanding the webs of organizational leadership. Structure is not one of Hybl’s strengths, for instance. He’s a big-picture guy who’s focused on getting the right people in the right seats to develop a brand that’s sturdy and repeatable. Once, in a phone conversation with Danny Meyer, Hybl told the hospitality maven he has a dream of gusto! becoming “an incredible communications company.”
“I think he looked at me like I was crazy, but at the end of the day, from the top all the way down to sideways, left, right, diagonal, it’s a massive game of telephone,” Hybl says. “And there’s nothing but red and yellow lights along the way. So this probably applies to any organization and I’m learning every step of the way, but trying to turn those red and yellow lights into green lights, and us being connected and saying the same things and moving the same ways and help each other succeed, is going to make all the difference.”