February 28, 2023

Balance Grille Conquers the Talent Challenge


Employee turnover is perhaps the most difficult challenge facing the restaurant industry today— but Balance Grille, the rising leader in Asian Fast-casual, has turned the industry’s talent challenge into a key differentiator for the brand. With 75% of its employees trained as shift leaders, an average employee tenure of 2.46 years, and an almost unheard-of waitlist for employment in its home market of Ohio, the fast-casual business seems to have defied all odds.

Living by “People-first”

Balance values a “people-first” approach to business, and that applies equally to employees as much as it does to customers. By offering well-paying work with well-rounded training, we emphasize autonomy for our tight-knit, top-notch team.

Since our inception in 2010, our co-founders Prakash Karamchandani (PK) and HoChan Jang (CJ) have always held a deep appreciation for those who are enjoying, but also serving Balance’s feel-good Asian-fusion food, adopting practices and policies that positively impact our employees and the communities we serve.

A common challenge in most restaurant settings lies in the very way its operations management is structured – employees serving in distinct roles—customer service, chefs, managers, etc.—who often receive drastically different incomes and have little room for advancement. Alternately, you often may also see a crew-member system utilized – where everyone is paid the same, regardless of tenure, skill, or performance. These disparities in pay, along with a lack of advancement opportunities and transparency from management, contribute to job dissatisfaction and unbelievably high turnover rates. Hiring and training workers who only stay with the business for a short amount of time means losing time and money for the franchise owner.

With an approach to labor focused on three key elements – autonomy, versatility, and inclusivity – PK and CJ pioneered an employee-centered peer-to-peer management system based on transparency, continuous learning and self-driven advancement. Since then, they’ve turned the fast-casual labor market upside down.

Redefining Traditional Restaurant Management

Balance Grille’s peer-to-peer management philosophy is designed around a technologically-based badge system. Not only does it halt high employee turnover, but also adds value for our franchise owners and sets up employees for long-term success and satisfaction.

“As business owners, we strive to make an offering to employees with an understanding of what they want while asking for genuine feedback,” says co-founder PK. “We approach them with the same mindset we use when thinking about our customers.”

Our founders have approached the creation and continued expansion of their business with the knowledge that restaurants can do everything right, but in order to meet their true potential, they need a strong team of employees. It’s important to create operational systems where everyone feels respected, cared for and valued in ways that positively impact them both personally and professionally.

“Our model allows employees the opportunity to develop horizontally and vertically, personalizing the process for advancement. They are paid for their accumulated knowledge, applying it by cross-training in other areas of the business operation that interest them,” PK adds. “Everyone knows how the day will go and what the pay rates are.”

Every new employee begins as a “Brand Advocate,” placing importance on brand-centric, customer-facing skills. Pay rates for this role are the same across the board and are communicated transparently to everyone. Once hired and initial training is completed, employees receive a badge that certifies competency. This allows them to cross-train into additional roles and receive increased pay as they move up.

This means that anyone can train for as many badges in other positions as they are interested in. Whether it’s working the bubble tea station, preparing food, or serving as a Shift Lead, employees can request to work in any of the roles they’re badge-qualified for.

This system not only allows for increased income for employees but offers more flexibility in scheduling to best suit each individual’s lifestyle or goals.

Implementing a system that offers individualized career progression has led to successful employee retention. “Other restaurant chains measure a 150-200% employee turnover rate, meaning they are hiring and retraining for the same positions multiple times in a short amount of time. Due to this, tenure in the restaurant industry is typically measured in months, while Balance Grille’s tenure has been measured at 2.46 years after the first 60 days of employment,” PK notes.

Franchise Value

The technology behind the Balance Grille operating system also provides added benefit to franchisees. Maximized efficiency through technology allows for a Balance Operational Leadership role, which ranks above that of a Shift Lead, to maintain multi-unit oversight without having to always physically be in the store. Our technology systems also simplify much of the decision-making process for franchise owners. The app-based system tracks task completion rates, or how often someone is early or late to a shift. The data collected offers all the information necessary to make would-be challenging decisions simplified, subtracting any subjective feelings from the situation. It’s a transparent and data-driven strategy owners and employees all appreciate.

PK and CJ reject a “cracking the whip” mentality, encouraging franchise partners to have a “leaders over managers” approach to their businesses. With these operational and value-based structures in place, franchise partners can feel confident in Balance Grille’s tried-and-tested management model, one that doesn’t just care about customers, but the people who serve them.

Balance Grille is looking for experienced multi-unit operators in select markets across the US. If you’re interested in adding the rising leader in Asian-Fast Casual to your portfolio or learning more about our cutting-edge operational model with proven results, find out more by visiting our franchise page.