Jon Sherman | [SpotOn Restaurant Recovery Series] Surviving the Pandemic with a 13-Location Manhattan-Based Quick Serve Restaurant Chain
Smart Business Revolution

Jon Sherman is the Co-founder and CEO of Sticky’s Finger Joint, a New York-based chicken finger restaurant chain. He started his career working in finance for J.P. Morgan and Bridgewater Associates before hearing the call of the chicken fingers. With zero restaurant experience — but a dream of building the best chicken finger experience on Earth — Jon opened the first Sticky’s in 2012. Over the last eight years, Sticky’s has grown to 14 locations throughout New York City, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. It has also been featured on the Food Network, Travel Channel, and ABC, and hosted events featuring the likes of Big Boi, Travis Scott, and Sheck Wes.

Jon Sherman, the Co-founder and CEO of Sticky’s Finger Joint, joins John Corcoran in this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast to talk about how his business has been recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. Jon also explains why he decided to start a chicken fingers business, the strategy he used to lay off some of his employees, and how he has been diversifying the food joint.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • What inspired Jon Sherman to start a chicken fingers business?
  • How Sticky’s Finger Joint was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the changes Jon made to deal with that
  • The strategy Jon used to lay off some of his employees because of the pandemic
  • How Sticky’s Finger Joint stores have been recovering after re-opening
  • How Jon’s decision making process has changed and his future plans for the business
  • Jon’s current process of handling recruitment and hiring 
  • Where to learn more and get in touch with Jon Sherman

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Sponsor: Rise25

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Cofounders Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran credit podcasting as the best thing they have ever done for their businesses. Podcasting connected them with the founders/CEOs of P90xAtariEinstein BagelsMattelRx BarsYPO, EO, Lending Tree, Freshdesk,  and many more.  

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Episode Transcript

Intro 0:14

Welcome to the revolution, the Smart Business Revolution Podcast where we ask today’s most successful entrepreneurs to share the tools and strategies they use to build relationships and connections to grow their revenue. Now, your host for the revolution, John Corcoran.

John Corcoran 0:40

All right. Welcome, everyone. John Corcoran here. I’m the host of this show. Every week I get to talk to interesting CEOs, founders and entrepreneurs, all kinds of different companies ranging from YPO, EO, Netflix, Activision Blizzard, LendingTree, go check out the archives. There’s lots of great episodes there. I’m also the co-founder of Rise25. We help connect b2b business owners to their ideal prospects and this episode is part of our SpotOn Restaurant Recovery Series. We’re spotlighting top leaders in the restaurant industry, restaurant tours, general managers, restaurant owners who are doing heroic things to help this key area of our economy to thrive today. This series is brought to you by SpotOn. SpotOn powers small and midsize businesses especially restaurants, with the digital tools they need to run and grow supported by personal service and delivered at a fair price. They’re a leader in fully integrated restaurant management systems and Small Business Technology, offering end to end solutions including marketing, website development, reservations, online ordering, digital loyalty, and a bunch of different areas. They have 1200 employees across the globe, backed by Andreessen Horowitz, Franklin Templeton, and nearly 8000 businesses have already made the switch to SpotOn in 2021 alone. They serve Dairy Queen Quiznos subway but also help mom and pop chains that are really the backbone of this economy. We’ve seen it so vividly this past year how it is such a crucial area of our economy. So typically restaurant chains with one or 20 locations. Go checkout to learn more. And of course, this series was created by our team here at Rise25, where we help b2b businesses to help clients referrals and strategic partnerships we’ve done for you podcast and content marketing. 

Now, Jon, you are the Founder of Sticky’s, a New York based chicken finger restaurant chain. And what’s really interesting about Jon, Jon Sherman is his name, he started his career working in finance for J.P. Morgan and Bridgewater associates, before hearing the call of the chicken fingers, but with zero restaurant experience, but a dream of building the best chicken finger experience on earth. He opened the first Sticky’s in 2012. For the last eight years, he’s grown to 14 locations throughout New York City, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, been featured on the Food Network Travel Channel, ABC and more and hosted events featuring the likes of Big Boi, Travis Scott, and Sheck Wes. And, Jon, you know, it’s such an interesting background. So I’m a recovering lawyer, you come from a family of lawyers. And you must have been like the black sheep in the family when you said I’m quitting my job to go start a chicken finger restaurant with no restaurant experience is that literally no restaurant experience, because I mean, I worked in a barbecue ribs restaurant, in college, in high school, but literally no restaurant experience. And you just I’m gonna start a restaurant

Jon Sherman 3:17

was literally no restaurant experience. I did work one summer as an assistant chef in the summer camp. Kitchen, but honestly, the food we were putting out was not very good. So what was the inspiration? The inspiration really came from, you know, a love of food first and foremost has always been a foundation. And I think beyond that I will always have a kind of internal, you know, yearning to build something myself and to create something. And, you know, probably took me a while to really figure out how that was going to manifest itself and wasn’t necessarily clear to me like, oh, young age I want to do this or not, certainly wasn’t my story. But it was always kind of there for me. And so I think, you know, as the conversation started, and the opportunity presented itself,

John Corcoran 4:06

I got really excited about it, and why chicken fingers you grew up in the Midwest with chicken fingers part of your childhood.

Jon Sherman 4:13

chicken fingers were definitely a part of my childhood and I grew up in, you know, partially in the Midwest and I went to college and then in the Midwest, and everybody loves chicken fingers. I mean, everybody loves them everywhere. But certainly in the Midwest, they’re a huge staple. And you know, something that always stuck with me Actually, when I was working at summer camp, you know, we had a certain one of the campers with like 600 campers, one of them who was always a problem child was very picky, and basically would only eat chicken fingers, period every day. So we would whatever we make for you know, 600 kids, we also had to make a plate of chicken fingers and fries for this kid because basically he would refuse anything. So that kind of always stuck with me. And then you know, over the years I also would always remember kind of having those like few friends who are picky eaters and you’d go to a restaurant and they were ordering chicken fingers. Off the kids menu. And so it always stuck with me that, you know, everybody likes fingers, even the pickiest eaters who won’t touch anything a little bit more exotic or out there. chicken fingers are their go to so Okay, so follow up question for a long time.

John Corcoran 5:15

So follow up question. Do you remember the name of this kid that loves chicken fingers? And secondly, is this kid probably grown up now? I’m sure he’s grown up now. Does he know that he was a partial inspiration for a chain of 14 Sticky’s finger restaurants in the northeast?

Jon Sherman 5:32

I’m pretty sure his name was Ari, he definitely does not know that he was my inspiration.

John Corcoran 5:37

Okay, well, I hope that he listens to this episode

Jon Sherman 5:39

with him and find out I would love to reconnect and fingers. Now he and I think we stopped him back then

John Corcoran 5:46

he would probably be shocked to know that he was the partial inspiration for this restaurant chain. And he probably would be like, I don’t even like Sticky’s Fingers today. Who does? So you got you know, maybe he’s like, you know, worn out? Yeah, maybe so um, alright, so you start the restaurant. And we’re kind of fast forwarding a little bit here. But the restaurant did phenomenally well, by any standard considering that many businesses, small businesses fail, but you’re up to 14 locations. over eight years or so. And then take me to the beginning of 2020. You built a team, you’re preparing for growth or opening locations? Take me back to February 2020. Where are you at? In terms of what are you focused on? And what are you thinking? The world is your oyster? I imagine at that point.

Jon Sherman 6:35

Yeah, I mean, so you know, just that backdrop context of that moment, you know, we had spent the 2019 really big year of growth in 2019, we went into the air with five restaurants and doubled our store count over the course of the year. So 2019, you know, we built a team to be able to support that. But of course, it was a challenging year, wherever on a stretch. And we were really doing a lot of different things. And you know, really trying to not only open up these new restaurants, but continuing to build the foundation in which we manage the restaurants. And so, and then we had three more in the pipeline for 2020, we opened up a store in February of 2020. And, you know, so we were kind of in this rapid expansion phase. And then, you know, the pandemic hits, and we kind of have to, like, stop on it. You know, it happened over the course of a few weeks, when, you know, the kind of the first cases in America were happening to them two weeks later, you’re like, oh, man, this is, you know, this thing is real. And this is we have to really change about how we’re thinking about everything. And, you know

John Corcoran 7:37

What was that like, you know, mid March, when you have to shut everything down? Are all your locations closed? What are you thinking when that happens?