Tupelo Honey Cafe Knoxville

Tupelo Honey Cafe Knoxville, from BrownieBites.net


Andrew Freeman & Co’s 2017 Trends Report cited the ‘Business Trend of the Year’ as retaining staff:

“This year, more than ever before, restaurateurs are caring about the quality of life of their team members. The cynic in us knows that it’s out of necessity – labor shortages have made the best people more valuable and that means those team members can demand better compensation and benefits. But the optimist sees a shift in the way we are treating each other. From Danny Meyer’s announcement of his groundbreaking parental leave program to Ryan Cole’s (from Hi Neighbor groups) ‘build your own benefits program’, complete with commuter reimbursement checks and wines classes, this year we’ll see a lot more creative solutions to keeping people happy and healthy. (Creativity will be key, as the failure of the no tipping/built in service charges have shown us that the guests won’t cover these costs directly…but more on that!).”

In a restaurant environment, team members who aren’t team players are obvious from Day 1, as are managers who can’t manage. How do you find the tested & proven Chefs, General Managers and Managers? A great solution is TalentServed, a boutique recruiting firm for the hospitality industry. Not only do they vet their applicants, they have a test kitchen so you can vet them too.

Recently, we spoke with Joe Kelly, VP of Recruiting and he shared this case study of Tupelo Honey Cafe. If you’re not familiar with it, if you ever took a trip to Asheville back when there was only one Tupelo Honey, it was the kind of place that made people say, “You must eat at Tupelo Honey!” Now, they are all over the South with 13 locations.

Here’s a synopsis of their TalentServed success story and for even more info, you can find a pdf here.



Reflecting the independent and creative spirit of the New South, Tupelo Honey Café dishes up Southern comfort with innovative flavor pairings that guests can’t resist. As an early pioneer in the farm-to-fork movement, the restaurant has been creating delicious dishes in downtown Asheville, North Carolina, since it first opened in 2000. From that point on, Tupelo’s food has been consistently fresh, made from scratch, sassy, and scrumptious.

Just as heralded as the recipes, Tupelo Honey Café’s longtime service staff greets customers with the same amazing enthusiasm day after day. From its original location, the Tupelo Honey brand has grown to 8 locations in several states. The business employs over 800 people and serves over 50,000 guests each week. Even with this explosive growth, more is on the way.

The booming success of the business is due largely to the vision, leadership, and business savvy of one man: CEO Steve Frabitore. An accomplished executive from the commercial packaged goods industry and serial entrepreneur, in 2008 he recognized a brand and a product that had unlimited potential. Over six short years, he has applied focused financial analytics and powerful market research to grow the brand. He has surrounded himself with an executive team based on hiring only the best candidates, and is passionate about creating opportunity for his employees.

As the architect building a foundation to ensure the future growth of his company, Frabitore has not been afraid to engage outside experts when their abilities add strength to his own. In seeking a recruiting partner to introduce him to the top leaders in the restaurant industry, Frabitore turned to TalentServed.


Armed with instinctive business acumen, trusted advisors, a painstakingly constructed growth strategy, working capital and most importantly a concept he believes in, successful consumer packaged goods executive Steve Frabitore is ready to activate his plan. Having worked with competent recruiting firms in his corporate career, he understands the value that a deeply networked recruiting team can add when seeking key personnel to lead the functions necessary to enable rapid growth. The attributes Fabritore requires in candidates include a successful track record in a high-growth concept, the bandwidth to scale upward as the demands of the business increase, geographical portability and cultural fits that blend effectively in his unique brand while simultaneously raising the bar in their given discipline.


Following a survey of the landscape of potential recruiting partners in the restaurant space, Fabritore retains TalentServed to tap its network in order to provide properly experienced candidates that meet his high expectations.  With a team of recruiters coming specifically from the restaurant industry and especially experienced in emerging concepts, TalentServed provided an open line to direct communication with many of the restaurant industry’s top executives.


Since being retained by Tupelo Honey Café, TalentServed has introduced dozens of properly experienced candidates for executive level openings.

Following high-bar screening tactics and proper due diligence of successful candidates, TalentServed has assisted in the placement of multiple executives including the Vice President of Human Resources, Chief Financial Officer, Senior Vice President of Operations and Vice President of Culinary. “TalentServed has proven to be an ally in our growth” stated Steve Fabritore, CEO of Tupelo Honey Café. “They sourced candidates from across the country who brought us experience from the top restaurant companies in the industry. With TalentServed’s help, we’ve built a leadership team that will enable us to deliver the Tupelo Honey Café experience to new guests all over America.”

Get more ideas in our post Good Help is Hard to Find.

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