Gusto 54 (B): Relying on Organizational Culture in Crisis
Janet Zuccarini, the sole owner and visionary behind the Gusto 54 Restaurant Group (Gusto 54), had leveraged her industry experience to grow the restaurant group into a huge success story. Gusto 54 owned and operated nine restaurant concepts in Toronto and Los Angeles, and rapid expansion plans were underway. In a competitive, low-margin industry, where more than half of new restaurants failed, Gusto 54 had found a way to outperform its peers and consistently achieve its desired profit margins. Gusto 54's strategy was grounded in innovative growth, the use of technology, and empowerment of all employees to take an entrepreneurial approach to their roles. This two-part case allows students to examine in Case A how Zuccarini built an organizational culture that invested in employees and entrusted the leadership team with autonomy. The strategy had been effective in fuelling the company's present growth, but as Gusto 54 expanded, Zuccarini wanted to ensure that the growth plans did not compromise the family-style culture her employees valued. Case B picks up Gusto 54's story in September 2020, the restaurant having dealt with the challenges of the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic and a cultural self-examination amid the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. With Gusto 54's previous expansion plans placing the restaurant in a financially precarious position, could the restaurant's established culture help the restaurant survive the short- and long-term impacts of the pandemic and respond to the cultural crisis raised by the BLM movement?