Empowerment Drives Employee Success at Against the Grain

against the grain

Andrew Ott spent about 12 years working in the corporate restaurant industry, specifically launching new stores for Outback Steakhouse. However, the corporate structure had worn on him and he was ready to find something different. That’s when he met his future business partners and collectively they decided to launch Against the Grain in Louisville, Kentucky.

Where Ott, the managing member of Against the Grain, excels is in his leadership. He believes in being a servant leader and empowering his employees, which has helped him to retain the vast majority of employees since the brewery/restaurant opened four years ago.

“With my management staff, I make sure everyone’s opinion is heard,” said Ott. “We do everything as a group. Big decisions are made as a group. That type of attitude really drives people to think harder, be a little more creative, to stand out from the rest of the pack. When they see that, ‘hey, my idea is being heard right now,’ it just empowers them more and more.”

Empowerment is what Ott believes separates his team and the restaurant at Against the Grain from any other. “Empowering and reinforcing those leadership traits that they may not know that they have to be able to further develop them,” he said.

Where that also begins to take shape is by fostering care, not just from the employee to employees, but also the employees’ care in what they do. “I’ve worked in a lot of different restaurants with a lot of different people, and 80 percent of the people I worked with wanted to come in, work their shift and get out,” said Ott. “When you come to Against the Grain — I don’t care if it’s a slow Monday afternoon or a busy Friday — you see staff members in here that are off work. They want to come in they want to be here. They want to be part of the environment. I think that’s a huge thing that sets us apart.”

One way that the management team at Against the Grain shows that it cares is by empowering employees to be their own person. Ott said that when the team decided to go out and launch Against the Grain they each gave two months notice that they would be leaving. Immediately they were each let go. Ott said that put a bad feeling on everyone, something they never wanted to see happen to anyone else.

The team at Against the Grain truly understands the passions and desires of entrepreneurs. They know that they may have some in their midst, and strive to empower that as much as possible. Ott said that if someone comes to them and is planning on striking out on their own, they help them as much as possible to ensure they land firmly on their feet. Not a lot of other companies could say the same.

“I could have never sat down and conceptualized how our culture would’ve turned out,” said Ott. “It was something that we bred a little bit at a time. Like I said, we empowered everyone. Everyone that shows any type of want for knowledge we gave them the tools to get there. We gave them the tools to learn the knowledge that they had.

“I think that’s it. Our employees created our culture at the end of the day, it wasn’t us. I love the people I work with and I’m thankful every day that have the oppurtunity to work with such great people that care so much about something. It’s been mind-blowing for me. Four years now and I haven’t had a day where I’ve woken up and not wanted to come to work. It couldn’t be better in my book.”


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