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Nation's Restaurant News 2023 Power List Elma Huric Chuck E. Cheese
Elma Huric has run the Newington, Conn., Chuck E. Cheese since 2014 and fits perfectly in the general manager position with a sunny disposition and eagerness to be a brand cheerleader.

Elma Huric runs her Chuck E. Cheese restaurant with a smile and a helping hand

The general manager became an entry level manager at 18, and has been running her Newington, Conn. store since

Being a general manager at any restaurant is enough of a challenge, but at Chuck E. Cheese, GMs must wear many hats in both the restaurant and arcade sides of the business. Elma Huric — who has run the Newington, Conn., Chuck E. Cheese since 2014 — fits perfectly in the position at the children’s eatertainment establishment considering her sunny disposition and eagerness to be a brand cheerleader.

“As a GM, you have to be a coach, a mentor, and a leader,” Huric said. “You’re working with 16-17-year-olds, and they’re looking up to you. They come to you for advice, and you have to be a cheerleader for them. … There are so many skills that you have to possess as a GM, and you have to do it all with the positivity and the fun culture of Chuck E. Cheese.”

Huric — who was born in Bosnia and moved to the U.S. when she was 10 years old — joined Chuck E. Cheese as a 16-year-old in 2008 and she quickly rose the ranks to team trainer within three months of starting her first job. She was promoted to entry-level management at age 18 and then became a GM at age 22.

Just like any Chuck E. Cheese GM, Huric has to balance overseeing the freshness and quality of the food with customer service and managing an arcade and plethora of children’s birthday parties. The job is all about multitasking.

According to leaders at Chuck E. Cheese, Huric’s location has been a training store for years, thanks to her people skills and work culture. That culture even extends to her home life, as Huric’s seven-year-old daughter loves playing at her mom’s place of work.

Most recently, Huric got to show off her proud work culture and store’s new remodel in an interview on her local news station. She was excited to talk about the “new vibrant look” of the store, complete with a dance floor and new arcade games. Rick Balboni, Huric’s district manager, said this was just one example of Huric’s enthusiasm for her job, which extends to how she treats her team members.

“She's not the boss; she's the leader,” Balboni said. “She's out on the floor dealing with things. If there's a guest that's needing some assistance, she's the first one to jump in there. The work ethic and passion she exudes for her store rubs off on her employees. If the manager is out there doing everything they need to do, it motivates employees and makes them care about their job, especially knowing she’ll have their back.”

This was an especially important attitude to have during the COVID-19 pandemic, during which time Huric was able to build a loyal and committed team with a very low turnover rate.

“After COVID, it was hard to get employees even though business was back up, so sometimes you don't have enough people on the staff,” Huric said. “That was one of the biggest challenges we faced, but I felt like just being together, being positive, and working together was important. I feel I have to stay strong for my team, even if it’s hard sometimes. But always having a smile on and telling them, ‘Look at what we can do with just a few of us,’ felt good.”

One important element of Huric’s managing style is employee recognition; she takes the time to let her staff know when they’ve done a particularly good job and recognizes their hard work, even when the store is super busy. This small act, Huric said, makes her staff feel special and appreciated and more likely to catch on to her “teamwork makes the dream work” store culture.

“I think it all obviously starts with me — I have to show them that we’re going to get through this,” she said. “I run my store with positive leadership, just making everybody enjoy coming in to work.”

Moving forward, Huric hopes to become a district manager of Chuck E. Cheese one day.

Contact Joanna Fantozzi at [email protected]

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