Chef, social entrepreneur, and food activist Erik Oberholtzer and his business partner David Dressler recently released their first book, Ten Year Plan. The work details how a long-term plan can help restaurants respond to and recover from short-term crises.
Ten Year Plan is about Oberholtzer and Dressler’s experience founding their restaurant, Tender Greens, in 2006 and scaling the brand within ten years. Tender Greens set out to address a gap in the food industry market at that time: the lack of affordable, healthy, fast-casual dining in the United States. “We wanted the efficiency of fast food but the integrity of slow food and make it accessible for more people,” Oberholtzer tells Food Tank. “Over the next ten years, we intended to open restaurants grounded in organic, local supply chains and led by chefs at a price point that people can afford.”
With Ten Year Plan, the co-authors set out to tell their story, highlight the importance of a long-term plan, and help set an example for other entrepreneurs. The book includes the successes throughout Oberholtzer and Dressler’s journey, as well as the struggles they encountered during the 2008 economic recession. Oberholtzer explains that a transparent discussion is an important lesson for young entrepreneurs “that success doesn’t come easily.”
Oberholtzer also hopes that his story can serve as an inspiration and as a case study for other innovators. “We were very much at the beginning of fine casual [dining]. We were able to scale successfully and do it consciously where we stay true to our belief systems and values as it relates to food systems, creating a people-centered culture, and finding ways to make impacts,” he tells Food Tank.
Most important to Oberholtzer, Ten Year Plan aims to highlight the importance of a clear, long-term plan. According to Oberholtzer, a decade allows for flexibility as well as time to adapt to unexpected challenges and innovate. “What we learned in 2008 and now with COVID-19 is that these events stress test a business, and the resilience of the team,” Oberholtzer tells Food Tank. “But they also present an incredible opportunity to think differently.”
For Oberholtzer, this story also shows how restaurants can strive to be agents of positive change by working with local supply chains, offering healthy and nutritious foods, promoting community well-being, and helping workers achieve personal development, growth, and independence.
“Food entrepreneurs of all forms should feel obligated to do what they say they’re going to do, and be clear on the world that they want to live in, and what role they play in making that possible,” Oberholtzer tells Food Tank. “This book is a plea for entrepreneurs to do the right thing.”