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Talent Acquisition Tales from Bar Taco

In this episode of the Chad & Cheese Podcast, hosts Joel Cheeseman and Chad Sowash dive into the world of talent acquisition with Sher Zippo, a specialist from Bar Taco, a restaurant brand renowned for its upscale casual street food and innovative service model. Zippo shares insights into Bar Taco's unique approach to hiring, leveraging technology like QR codes to enhance both customer and employee experiences, and maintaining a fun, equitable work environment across their 30 locations. The conversation covers everything from the origins of Bar Taco, the challenges of scaling in the hospitality industry, to the impact of automation and the importance of human interaction in creating a memorable dining experience. Zippo emphasizes the brand's commitment to competitive salaries, team-based service, and a culture that prioritizes fun and professional growth, making Bar Taco not just a place to eat, but a place to build a career.


Intro: Hide your kids. Lock the doors. You're listening to HR's most dangerous podcast. Chad Sowash and Joel Cheesman are here to punch the recruiting industry right where it hurts. Complete with breaking news, brash opinion, and loads of snark. Buckle up boys and girls. It's time for the Chad and Cheese podcast.

Joel: Oh, yeah. What's up everybody? It is Tony Gwynn's favorite podcast, AKA, the Chad and Cheese podcast. I'm your co-host, Joel Cheesman.

Chad: Hello.

Joel: Joined as always the Doc to my Marty, Chad Sowash...

Chad: Thank you.

Joel: Is in the house.

Chad: Thank you.

Joel: And we welcome Sheri Zippo, like the lighter.

Chad: Zippo?

Joel: To the show. Sheri is a talent acquisition specialist at two of my favorite words put together, a company called Bartaco.

Chad: Wow.

Joel: Possibly the funnest place on earth.

Chad: No wait, do they have

Sheri Zippo: Yes.

Chad: Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God.

Joel: Alright. Before we get to you, what is this Bartaco? I've never heard of it.

Chad: Please.

Joel: Is it two great tastes? It tastes great together.

Chad: Of course they are.

Joel: Is it only in... Where is it located? Tell us about this Bartaco.

Sheri Zippo: I have so many great things to say about Bartaco.

Joel: Okay.

Sheri Zippo: Bartaco is upscale, casual street food, scratch, kitchen, scratch bar. We throw a party, we sell fun. Not tacos. That's our tag. We are up and down the eastern coast. We have 30 locations. Soon to be 32.

Chad: When do you come to Indianapolis? That's all I care about right now.

Sheri Zippo: We're hearing a lot about that at this conference.

Chad: Yes. Yes.

Sheri Zippo: We do have two in Colorado. So we are a little bit this way.

Joel: You're getting there.

Sheri Zippo: But...

Chad: A little too far.

Joel: You skipped us. You totally skipped.

Chad: Totally fly over country is what she said. Yes.

Joel: Fly over a country. We don't deserve a bar or a taco.


Joel: We only deserve single. So how was it founded and when was it founded?

Sheri Zippo: 2010 in Port chester, New York. It was an old lobster shack on the water looking across to Connecticut. And it just took off from there, it's...

Joel: It's running tacos, I think. New England.


Chad: She said it was a party, Joel.

Joel: Oh, okay sorry.

Chad: This is a party. That has tacos.

Joel: Like an interview with us.

Chad: Has a tacos in a bar. Yes. I mean, come on. He did... He's slow, he's slow on the uptake.

Joel: I'm getting a better sense of what it is. Now let's get a better sense of who you are. Most of our listeners, if not all of them, have no clue who Sheri Zippo is.

Sheri Zippo: Oh boy.

Joel: What makes Sheri tick?

Sheri Zippo: Oh gosh. Restaurants, hospitality.

Chad: Long walks on the beach. I mean, come on.

Sheri Zippo: Oh, yeah. Flip flops. Walks on the beach.

Chad: Okay. There we go. There we go. Yeah.

Sheri Zippo: Some good cocktails.

Chad: Good call.

Sheri Zippo: But no, I love the hospitality business restaurant industry. I've been in it for a really long time. I'm a new recruiter, so that's a fun fact.

Joel: Please tell me Applebee's, Outback Steakhouse or Chili's is in your past.

Sheri Zippo: P. F. Chang's is in my past.

Joel: Close enough. Close enough.

Sheri Zippo: And Tavistock is in my past.

Chad: She just raised the roof. Nobody has ever raised the roof with P. F. Chang's. That was very nice.

Sheri Zippo: Well, I got two from Bartaco.

Chad: That was good. That was that. There you go. That's good that. I love that.

Sheri Zippo: I worked for some great companies.

Chad: I love that.

Sheri Zippo: But yeah, I was in operations for a really long time. Retired that hat and now I am in the recruiting side of things. So what's really great is I get to hire people for the roles that I've done, so I have a good sense of what that means. Create careers for people up and coming and add value to our company. So.

Chad: Amazing.

Sheri Zippo: It's pretty fun.

Chad: So what is the hardest thing for you as a recruiter at Bartaco? I would assume that getting people to reply to anything that says Bartaco would be easy, but I could be wrong, so help me out.

Sheri Zippo: No, we're really blessed. We have a good applicant flow. We have a good backing behind us. I mean, people know our name. I mean, we're a beautiful restaurant. We're fun. When you go on the website and you look at a Bartaco and the videos and all that, that's really what you feel and see when you walk in.

Chad: Experience? Yeah.

Sheri Zippo: It translates. And so hopefully, I mean, the goal is they talk to us on the phone and I just get great feedback about people like when can I sign up? Like they just, it's a buy-in super quick. So I think the hardest thing.

Chad: Yeah?

Sheri Zippo: Oh, I don't know. Keep raising the bar. Right?

Chad: Dealing with these technologies. Is that easy?

Sheri Zippo: We're a big tech side. I mean we use a QR code at the table. Yeah. We don't have servers.

Joel: Hello?

Sheri Zippo: Yeah. We're a whole nother Joel...

Joel: Hello. Speak of my love language.

Sheri Zippo: Oh, boy.

Joel: Little QR code action.

Sheri Zippo: So the QR code adds the convenience for the guests and then we add the hospitality, so.

Joel: What about for recruiting though? Is there a hiring QR code or have you started to use that yet?

Sheri Zippo: I mean we have them that people can easily apply. They can easily get to our website. We have virtual business cards. All that great stuff.

Joel: That's just table stakes at this point. Get it?

Chad: Table stakes?

Joel: It sounds like there's just a flood of people that wanna work there. Which leads me to my question of, we talk so much about employer brand, giving a brand that's separate from our main brand and Chad and I kind of go back and forth with is it better to have just a homogenous brand that translates into people wanting to work there or to have a separate brand and then the separate employment thing. It sounds like you guys have really embraced the overall fun Bartaco brand and that translates into applicant flow. Was that on purpose? Do you ever have discussions about a separate employer brand? Talk about that aspect of your recruiting.

Sheri Zippo: I mean that's something that has definitely been a hot topic as of late. We're growing and learning. So in my opinion what we did, 'cause remember I'm only a year now, right? So we did five openings last year and that was when I just started. So from then until now, we're lights speeds ahead. First of all, I think we get better every day. We keep adding value to the leadership teams that are collaborative and we all want the same things. We want the best guest experience, but we also want the best employee experience. I personally think that that's a combined thing and they really can't be separated. And I feel like that's the path we're going. It comes from a very genuine place. And A players wanna work with A players like, right? Like you don't have to be perfect at your craft or your skill, but you gotta have drive and and compassion and...

Chad: You gotta want it.

Sheri Zippo: And want it.

Joel: Gotta up your game.

Sheri Zippo: Yeah. Like all those things. So for me, I look for people like that to join us, to help better us in that. And we could teach you Bartaco, easy.

Joel: And you get free tacos, which helps the best... I think.

Chad: I would like to be taught Bartaco, that's all I gotta say.

Sheri Zippo: I have a shirt that says "If You Don't Like Tacos I'm Nacho Friend." I may or may not wear that here and there.

Joel: Dad Joke alert.

Chad: Nacho friend.

Joel: Dad joke alert.

Chad: Oh, I get it. Okay. So back to the tech question, in all of this, because I mean, we're talking about scale, because Bartaco, it's sexy, don't get me wrong. You're gonna get a lot of applicants. How do you scale through those applicants with the technology? Do you? Do you not? I mean.

Joel: You manage the flood.

Chad: Yeah. How do you do it?

Sheri Zippo: Oh, I think that's something that... I mean, this is a great example of what we're learning, right?

Chad: Yeah.

Sheri Zippo: Mid last year I jumped on a few webinars with different tech companies to see if there were things that we aren't using that we could use that would make our process better, easier.

Chad: Yeah.

Sheri Zippo: More attractive, all those things. And so we saw a couple of here as well. So I think when we go back...

Chad: Name names, who did you see that you liked?

Sheri Zippo: We liked RecruitBot.

Chad: Okay.

Sheri Zippo: I think that that's, that could be something that could work for us.

Chad: We've been hearing the name a lot around here. We have, we have.

Sheri Zippo: You know, we're different too. We're restaurants, hospitality versus looking for nurses. It's not even...

Chad: Yeah.

Sheri Zippo: So when you talk about a certain recruiting platform, I don't wanna mention total names, but it may not hit the target audience that we're looking for our... The mass hiring. Right.

Joel: What does work for you, if not the targeted solution?

Sheri Zippo: Well, Indeed is a really big hub for us. Especially when we're doing new restaurant openings. And you're talking about hourly employees? I mean, we just did an event in Charlotte to open our Birkdale location, Jamie and I, and we had over 300 interviews that we interviewed and over a 20% return rate on that for two days of hire, like an event.

Chad: Okay.

Sheri Zippo: So we get a lot from that. But salaried is when you're cultivating who you want on your team. And you're building with what's already there. And you're poaching from P. F. Chang's, you know what I mean?


Sheri Zippo: Like the places that you respect, you respect those places and you're like, "Well, I want you to work for us."

Chad: You know, the training, you know the environment, you know if it's gonna actually come out, if there are parallels.

Sheri Zippo: Right.

Chad: Yeah.

Joel: I feel like she's saying the Taco Bell training system doesn't sync with the Bartaco.

Chad: No. Sorry. Maybe Del Taco, maybe Chipotle, but no Taco Bell.

Sheri Zippo: Well, to be honest, like Chipotle or Chick-fil-A or things like that. Starbucks. We've had some really good success stories with managers of which we call service leaders in our industry coming in as a start because they wanna jump over to full service.

Chad: Yeah.

Sheri Zippo: And we're willing to teach them. And they have all those things we talked about, the non-negotiables that we can't teach.

Chad: So it's amazing... So my wife, her background is service restaurant general manager. Right. The logistics, the management. I mean, everything that you have to do going through that process as a like a manager or general manager at an organization like Bartaco, it's a great launchpad for not just staying in the industry but getting into other leadership positions. Because there's a lot of leadership that's taught, there's a lot of care and give a shit about your employees because if you don't, guess what? They don't show up the next day. It is much different than most other industries. Talk a little bit about that. I mean, because those... I feel like a lot of those individuals get looked down upon and they have skill sets that are far above many even corporates.

Sheri Zippo: Which people? Individuals?

Chad: Like the general managers. The managers of locations who actually have to deal with the people, not just customers, but also obviously employees.

Sheri Zippo: Yeah. Well, they're boots on the ground, right? Like we are very, like we know that, you know, the RSC, the restaurant support center, some of the best collaborative group of people I've worked with in the industry as far as the support center, we know that. All of us know that, we work for them. And we are at their disposal. So we're there to support. So whether that's being available to pick up a phone or do something for them that they need. Or it's leadership and development or soft skills that we wanna help our leaders grow. I think everybody at Bartaco in that position is committed to doing that for all of our teams, which is pretty awesome. So that's what keeps me going and makes me wanna just stay and hit another year and another year because I believe in it, you know?

Chad: So you see a career path?

Sheri Zippo: I mean, that's why I joined. I would never have, a 100%.

Joel: We talk a lot on the show about minimum wage. As you are aware, it hasn't increased in many years over a decade. And food service is struggling with paying servers and staff. Where is Bartaco's sort of strategy around salary and keeping people, it sounds like it's a great environment. There's training for retention, but talk about the salary piece of keeping people on the job.

Sheri Zippo: As far as the salary positions that we have, you know, we are very competitive and the people, the powers above are very clear in stating where we wanna fall into with the percentile of, you know, a like with like, so I think we're on the cutting edge with that. Like I think we're in a good place. As far as the hourly go, that's the great thing about Bartaco. We, the service model allows us, so we don't, like I said, we don't have servers, we don't have hosts. We have a group of support team that we call Dragonflies 'cause that's our logo.

Joel: Ooh.

Sheri Zippo: I know. Isn't that cool?

Joel: I like that.

Sheri Zippo: And our management team and your bartenders, those are your front of the house staff. And then you have your typical culinary staff. Right? And because it's a... The QR code, all those gratuities that are being left are split amongst the team that worked. Right? So it creates a higher wage.

Joel: Are people tipping through QR code?

Sheri Zippo: Yeah.

Joel: Talk about that. What... How long, what was the decision to do that? What kind of engagement do you have? 'cause...

Sheri Zippo: I don't know. I don't know how much I could actually talk on it since I'm not that new, but like what do you mean? It's the use of the QR code?

Joel: Well, I think that's innovative. I mean, we don't hear a lot of food service talking about tipping through a QR code. Like is it a service? Is it a vendor?

Sheri Zippo: Yeah. Well we use a company called OneDine and that's who we partner with. And so you...

Chad: Okay. Makes sense.

Joel: You pay the bill and tip. Okay. It's not exclusively tipping.

Sheri Zippo: Yes.

Joel: It's paying the bill. Okay. So I got excited for no reason.

Sheri Zippo: I was like, "Uh-oh"


Chad: As usual, anyway.

Joel: As usual.

Sheri Zippo: But you know, these line cooks and prep cooks and team members, you know, are making sometimes an average of $20 an hour, you know, and it... That's amazing. And we have a weekly pay and everybody is paid fairly and equally and it's a team environment. And if you're not a team, then it's not, if you're not willing to do that, then it's not an environment for you. And that's fine. And we're gonna find the people that wanna do that. 'Cause the more money we make, the more money they make.

Joel: So automation, is another topic that's hot and we hear about more restaurants looking to automate. Certainly in my experience. And...

Chad: A little robots you're talking about?

Sheri Zippo: Oh, I don't know if I can answer that.


Joel: Kiosk replacing cashier workers, flippy...

Sheri Zippo: I'm just a little TA girl.

Joel: Flippy replacing just a little TA girl.

Sheri Zippo: I don't think so.

Chad: She doesn't make the robotic...

Joel: So no, no thoughts on automation. Are you?

Sheri Zippo: I don't, I don't know, but I don't think so. We're such a human interact...

Joel: Well, is it a Brandy question? So for example, we had In-N-Out last night and I can never imagine the culture of In-N-Out being automated, whereas other restaurants, I could imagine that. Where do you think your brand is in terms of automation? Do you think it'll be something you embrace or people want the personal touch at the restaurant?

Sheri Zippo: Like are you asking me if I think we're gonna get rid of people? I don't think so. I mean, who would cook that...

Chad: There it is.

Sheri Zippo: Who would cook that? I mean, again, I don't wanna be held accountable for that, but I don't think so.


Sheri Zippo: I dunno who's gonna cook that in easy Scratch...

Chad: I don't think anybody is gonna hold you accountable.

Sheri Zippo: Scratch food, you know?

Joel: Yes. She's like, when I sat down, I was told that they would just talk about bars and tacos.

Chad: Which is, which is...

Joel: Not getting rid of all our employees.

Chad: Which is my wheelhouse.

Chad: Yeah.

Sheri Zippo: But what I do think is that we are innovative company and we are cutting edge and we are leaning on technology. So I think we're gonna keep upping the bar.

Chad: Right.

Sheri Zippo: But combining it with the human, is if I had a guess.

Chad: Beyond Bartaco, just basic opinion. We've heard automation, AI, blah, blah, blah, it's all over the place. Right? Do you think that is just like overrated or do you think it's literally true that some companies are... They're gonna look at trying to cut heads using automation and AI.

Sheri Zippo: And see that's what's funny. Like we don't use the QR code for that. Like one might think that right off the cuff they might go, "Oh, they don't have service because they don't wanna pay that." That's not actually why we do it at all. It actually helps our employees. But I think that yes, for some concepts I think that that's the way it has to go, but not for all.

Chad: Yeah.

Sheri Zippo: I think it's gonna vary. I think it's... Can't be standardized.

Joel: Everyone that is Sheri Zippo.

Chad: Zippo.

Joel: From Bartaco, Sheri. For those that are listening who want to connect with you or get on that list for when Bartaco is coming to town. Where would you send them?

Chad: Indianapolis.

Sheri Zippo: You can go to my LinkedIn profile. Or should I give an email address or?

Chad: Whatever you want.

Joel: You do you Sheri with a name like Zippo. Just let it ride.

Sheri Zippo: Or

Joel: QR codes, bars, tacos, P. F. Chang's.

Chad: I love it.


Joel: Speak of my love language Chad. Another one is in the Can. We out.

Chad: We out.

Outro: Thank you for listening to, what's it called? The podcast, the Chad, The Cheese. Brilliant. They talk about recruiting, they talk about technology, but most of all, they talk about nothing. Just a lot of of shout-outs of people you don't even know. And yet you're listening. It's incredible. And not one word about cheese. Not one cheddar, blue nacho, Pepper Jack, Swiss. So many cheeses and not one word. So weird. Anywho, be sure to subscribe today on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. That way you won't miss an episode. And while you're at it, visit Just don't expect to find any recipes for grilled cheese, it is so weird. We out.


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