In this episode of Restaurants Reinvented, Jen Kern talks with Newton Hoang, the Head of IT and Marketing (can you say “unicorn”?) at 7 Leaves Café.
He’s all about building a culture of care for employees – which also pours over onto the guests. Your employees = brand ambassadors, and for that to come alive, you must build a culture of open communication to show appreciation to each team member.
From being active in the community and volunteering at local college colleges, to unique internal communications and learning development programs, Newton exemplifies the new era of restaurant management and cultural care, and he’s leading the fast growing “Asian Starbucks” into a very bright future.
Name: Newton Hoang, 7 Leaves Cafe
What he does: Newton is the Head of Marketing and IT at 7 Leaves Café; and also serves on the Board of Directors for the company.
Noteworthy: Newton is a self-made marketer. He thought his calling was biology, but life had different plans for him. Instead, he entered the hospitality industry and instantly fell in love. Today, Newton is an innovative and results-oriented marketing change agent and leader, driven to develop successful laser-focused campaigns that exceed company objectives and align with his moral compass.
Where to find Newton: LinkedIn
Employees want “straight talk” and to be heard.
7 Leaves Cafe differentiates itself from with its culture of care, which helps them build meaningful relationships with their staff and allows each employee to speak openly about their needs and professional preferences.
“It’s about listening to our team members and giving them something that perhaps isn’t compensatory. It’s not about an actual raise or money, but there are other things they want. And so, thats essentially been an initiative for us, and it’s worked out well. We’re doing a lot of ancillary things. We have a scholarship program — the first of its kind for our organization.”
Connecting with the Community
Newton believes that a company’s future and success depends on community involvement and paying it forward. He actively speaking at local college campuses and finds speaking engagements for store managers and other employees interested in public speaking.
A new version of marketing: Human Marketing
“Remember, customers don’t want to purchase from faceless companies; we all need that human touch to build trust. So here, we creatively embrace a new version of marketing —human marketing — in an elevated form. And, it resonates … because it is not like a digital thing. It’s not like an FSI or any of that. It’s just like. Let’s talk and get to know each other. And so, at its purest level, it embodies a lot of the things that we do here at 7 Leaves.”
The Culture of Care
The one thing I saw and focused on immediately when I came to 7 Leaves — was the employees’ thirst for knowledge, continued learning and education. And not education by the traditional standards of academia, but just folks who are of a teach me more type of mentality.
We create avenues for the team members to connect with all of us in different leadership and management roles at various parts of the year.
So, in terms of our retention strategies, coming up with these ‘sessions’ or opportunities for our team members to interface with us is all about our culture of care.
It’s Beneficial for the Restaurant Industry to Be Fluid
We don’t want to be put into a bucket. I’m more than just a barcode or a number, and I’m this, and I’m that. And so, as an organizational restaurant, if you can frame your experience around looking at it from multiple perspectives without overextending yourself, it is going to give you that competitive advantage.
The Importance of Connecting with the Community
Speaking engagements have been proliferating throughout our local area. I’m talking about guiding future marketers, students, or whomever and giving them a sneak peek into our industry. Let’s be frank. Our industry has gotten a bad rap for decades: slave labor, 15-hour, 16-hour workdays. That’s part of our company history — our industry history — but it doesn’t have to be that way in the future. And so, I shed light on a lot of things that are sort of ‘aha’ moments for the audiences that I talked too.
I’ve been corralling a lot of my fellow cohorts in our organization and saying, Hey, why don’t you go and do a speaking engagement at the local high school? Why don’t you do a quick mock interview session for the United Way, which we partner with all the time? And that has been a tremendous tsunami. Oh, hell yeah! Lets’ do that. Because a lot of times , organizations have a difficult time isolating or figuring out how to give back, or how to change the trajectory of the industry impactfully. I’m a big local store marketing guy. And so, a pseudo tactic we’ve had is that we present our organizational leaders right down to store managers and give them opportunities to connect with their community, and we have seen the dividends and the benefits of that tenfold by way of increased engagement in our stores.