Fellow foodies can bite into more than Bravo Restaurants’ exceptional menu offering – its franchise concepts are just as enticing

Jordan Himmel is the third generation in his family’s hospitality business. Back in the 40s, when his grandfather served in the navy, he took the name Bravo from the naval alphabet. He fell in love with pizza-making and established his first restaurant: Gino’s East of Chicago.

Bravo Restaurants (Bravo) has grown tremendously since 1992, and introduced a range of concepts, from American-diner influences to Mexico-inspired pizza. “Our niche is deep-dish pizza, and, in Chicago, the market is about as dense as it gets. We do our best to ensure we offer the best quality product and service experience possible to continue to do what we love,” Jordan highlights. As the company’s CIO, Jordan is now able to pivot the business’ decision-making process easily, considering the restaurant industry is highly competitive and continually changing.

Positive difference

Although the group may be owners of concepts like Eduardos Enoteca, Ed Debevic’s, Edwardo’s Natural Pizza, as well as a licensor of Gotham Bagels, there’s more to the organization than just delicious food. In our conversation with Jordan, we discuss the business’ sustainability agenda, its charitable initiatives to support local communities, and its passion for the people that grow their careers in the business. “Let’s start with sustainability. Our materials are compostable or recyclable across all aspects of the operation because we’re on a mission to recycle the right way. Tying in with that, we take the time to ensure our staff are properly educated to prevent an excessive wastage of food.

“In terms of how we work with the community, we’ve partnered with different organizations, such as the Great Lakes Alliance, to help support biodiversity in the area. We’ve also teamed up with the greater Chicago food depository to help feed people in need, and we make a point to have group volunteer days throughout the year,” Jordan shares.

Bravo’s commitment to community says volumes about the sort of company culture it curates. “The folks here love getting involved in unique and impactful causes. I think it’s about being mindful, and working with businesses that care about sustainability, ensuring our vendors are proactive about their contribution. We try to leave our spaces as clean and organized as possible. Because we’re based in urban centers where potential customers live just across the street, we are meticulous about keeping those spaces clean and free of debris, and when we deal with more hazardous items, like grease, they are disposed of properly. Those are the small things that as an organization we do to make a positive difference.”

Empowering employees

Bravo boasts novel concepts that require specific operations to create the kind of atmosphere that is loved by all who visit, but Jordan shares that there are also universal

practices that help improve the patron experience. “I could go on about the numbers, menus and ideas. However, if the customer experience isn’t great, then what’s the point? The same is true for the employee experience. If the work environment isn’t fruitful, doesn’t provide support, or perpetuates actions that don’t retain good talent, then there’s a massive issue with our operation. We work in a very competitive market, so when we find good people, we need to do whatever we can to retain them. That is why it doesn’t matter what concept you visit, you can expect the same friendly service and welcoming environment,” he expresses.

To help improve efficiency, the business also utilizes technology, such as cloud-based systems, for a seamless operation. “If we have a project or idea, anybody involved can go and see it in one place and update it in real time. Those are the types of practices that really help drive our organization forward.

“On the flipside, collaboration and technology assistance would have no impact if we did not have a strong and supportive company culture. I like to encourage risk-taking within our team. It’s part of fostering a culture where people can be open about their creativity and their ideas. I have been a part of more failures than successes in my career – overwhelmingly more failures than successes – but I’ve learnt to grow within those failures, and I think nurturing a culture around risk-taking is important for employees to feel empowered to make decisions. We try to correct mistakes as quickly as possible, but we don’t want that to discourage our team from feeling safe to bring ideas forward,” he says.

New approaches

Looking to the future, Jordan is optimistic about how Bravo is ready to take on the challenges that lay ahead. “We put our boots on, powered through the pandemic, and came out the other side in a very good place. We have some expansions happening in new locations, we are also continually working to improve what we do and try to work with our suppliers on providing more sustainable ingredients, and produce. We are trying to work with our partners to find ways to get those brilliant products into our customers hands with as small a carbon footprint as possible.

“We were off to an excellent start this year. As most people are aware, Gino’s East is a staple in Chicago, and it will continue to be for the foreseeable future. It’s a cultural icon here. We actually did a pop up in London several years back with the owners of Pilgrim Pizza, and so we are always open to doing things like that.

“We also started selling pizza in Singapore this year. We worked with the online retailer Red Mart, to create something similar to the frozen process delivery. Additionally, Gotham Bagels has three locations with a fourth on the way so we have a lot of exciting opportunities for our employees. For me, it’s great to have something to look forward to, and for Bravo Restaurants, there is loads in store,” Jordan concludes.