Humble beginnings to limitless opportunities: SSCP Management attributes its growth to people.

As an award winning, family-owned restaurant leader and real estate company, SSCP Management (SSCP) is a multi-faceted enterprise with over 400 locations across the US. These include the 300-unit Cicis Pizza chain, the fine-dining concept Roy’s, 80 Applebee’s Grill and Bar, and 43 Sonic Drive-Ins. In terms of its commercial real estate, SSCP’s portfolio boasts a collection of raw land, industrial, multifamily, and retail properties. Today, Sunil is head of the company alongside his son, Chris Dharod, SSCP President, and his daughter, Puja Dharod, Vice President of Investments at SSCP, who are both determined to continue the legacy started and continued by their father. Food Chain sits down with Chris to learn more about the secrets to overseeing such a successful family-driven operation in this day and age.

“My father joined the restaurant industry as a dishwasher, and it’s his passion and work ethic that has defined our working culture from the very beginning,” Chris opens. “Still to this day, it’s instilled in the essence of everything we do, and flows down from the top through everybody at each level of each of the companies we own. Our belief in people and providing them with limitless opportunities has always contributed to the success of SSCP, and ensured the continued excellence in tenure that our teams demonstrate.

“We are unique in that we have an incredibly diverse range of offerings under our brands, from fine dining to casual and quick service restaurants. Many think it’s a complicated business, but it really isn’t. When it comes down to it, it’s just a case of taking care of our guests and team members. Across all our restaurants we have a strong focus on serving delicious food the right way, in an enjoyable and comfortable environment. This is regardless of whether a guest is opting for an Hawaiian-fusion experience at Roy’s or a classic cheeseburger from a Sonic Drive-In (Sonic). As long as we continue to focus on people and the quality of our food and experience, we will always have hungry customers wanting to dine with us.

Guest satisfaction

“That’s not to say we completely align our operations across all locations,” he continues. “Speed is a big selling point for Sonic as a business-model, for example. With fast food, people are usually in a time crunch and want to be in and out quickly. Roy’s, on the other hand, is the kind of place where people want to share their special occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries, which places a different kind of responsibility on our shoulders. In Applebee’s, guests expect speed when ordering to-go and an enjoyable family-friendly experience when in our dining rooms. We need to ensure customers enjoy differing experiences, whilst still fantastic regardless, and it all really boils down to guest satisfaction. Each brand has its own individual brand promise to uphold, and we strive to ensure that we do so consistently.”

People potential

During the pandemic, the Cicis Pizza brand fell under severe hardship, given the restrictions imposed for society’s safety. It was during this time that SSCP stepped in and purchased the company to turn it around. “We bought the debt for Cicis Pizza in 2020, as it was in a tough position amidst the Covid lockdowns. We then took over the business in 2021 and got to work. Since then, we have increased sales by over 50 percent, and it’s continuing to grow.

The brand has a fantastic business model when you consider its lack of competition and ease of execution, which in turn makes it a highly desirable option for potential franchisees.

“Our Cicis Team has done an amazing job with supporting the franchisees and taking care of its customers, and has achieved so much in such a short period of time,” Chris adds. “We took the business back to the airwaves in 2022, by getting it on TV for the first time in many years. We used the opportunity to remind people who we are, how great our pizza is, and ultimately the value proposition that we have to offer. It has done wonders for brand awareness. Prior to this, I think the brand had slipped to the back of consumers’ minds, and folks had begun to think of Cicis as being more of a buffet-food establishment.”

Chris cites SSCP as taking great pride in being in ‘the people business,’ as he details: “One of the unique aspects of the restaurant industry that I have always loved, is the potential it offers anyone and everyone for lifelong fulfilling career paths. You don’t need a master’s degree to be successful, my father is a great example. From his humble beginnings, he has maintained a strong commitment to the brand promises everywhere he has been throughout his career, and look where he is today! Similarly, of the 12 area directors we employ under Applebee’s, eight of them started out as hourly team members. These people, who have walked into a restaurant and filled out a paper application form to be a server, bartender, or cook, are now responsible for running segments of the business doing between $20 million and $30 million in revenue. In this day aSSCP Managementnd age, our industry offers people so many opportunities to grow if they have the passion, work ethic and commitment to the work and the people they impact every day.

“This is a message that we’re always keen to share, as unfortunately our industry has been in a constant state of change since Covid. It’s been a really tough staffing environment, which is slowly getting better, but still isn’t ideal. We have seen the costs of our ingredients hit the roof as well, which has been an additional challenge to keep us all on our toes. However, at the same time, challenging is fun right? We love to fix problems and figure out solutions that enable us to continue taking care of our customers and employees in the ways for which we’re known.

“Luckily, we have no issues when it comes to retaining our employees, and their impressive tenure is testament to this,” he explains. “We offer leadership training to encourage the personal growth of our team members. Last year we sent a large number of our office staff on a program, which gave them an opportunity to further develop their time-management, organization, and communication skills. It sounds like basic stuff, but it’s always good to touch base and refresh. Around 100 of our folks went to those workshops, as well as some other more specialized programs.

“I myself have recently graduated from a year-long executive leadership training course from Stagen, where I was in a group with 20 other CEOs and residents,” Chris concludes. “It really speaks for how we are all striving to better ourselves every day, and I am excited to be a part of an organization that invests in itself, its people and its future growth. Just last year, we acquired 12 additional Applebee’s in Virginia, and we’re aiming to be a $2 billion revenue enterprise from our restaurant brands and real estate in five years’ time.”