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Nation's Restaurant News 2023 Power List Kim Cordero Bad Daddy's Burger Bar
Kim Cordero strives to make sure her team shares her belief in Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar’s mission around providing great food and hospitality.

Kim Cordero challenges the status quo at Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar

General manager leans on ‘good-old Southern ingenuity’ to drive success

Kim Cordero has leveraged her entrepreneurial drive, enthusiasm and strong people skills to cultivate a high-performance team that has been driving sales and profit growth at the Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar she manages in Norman, Okla.

“I am pretty sure most of my employees would take a bullet for me, and they believe in what I believe in, and that’s really important,” she said.

Cordero strives to maintain strong back-and-forth communication with her team and focuses on ensuring that they are not only well-trained, but also that they share her belief in the brand’s mission around providing great food and hospitality.

Before joining Bad Daddy’s as a GM shortly after the Norman location opened in 2017, Cordero had worked her way up from server to management in a 20-year career at the Johnny Carino’s chain. Bad Daddy’s, which is owned by Golden, Colo.-based Good Times Restaurants, has since bestowed her with a long list of accolades, including the chain’s Profit Maker award two years in a row, GM of the Year in 2020, Comeback Store in 2021, Lowest Turnover in 2022, and the Go-Getter award, also in 2022.

Jim Abbott, VP of operations at Bad Daddy’s, described Cordero as being “bold” and willing to challenge the status quo with her ideas, while continuing to adhere to the brand’s standards “at a very high level.”

“She keeps things fresh and keeps me looking at things from a different angle,” he said. “A number of her ideas have moved forward.”

During her nearly six years as the GM of the restaurant, Cordero has grown average weekly sales more than 80%, from about $35,000 to $65,000, Abbott said. That growth is made even more impressive by the fact that the Norman restaurant is isolated from the rest of the chain, which has most of its locations in the Denver area and in the Southeast.

As a result, Cordero has had to focus on creating brand awareness and driving sales without the benefit of having other stores in the market.

“It just takes some entrepreneurship, and sometimes some good-old Southern ingenuity,” said Cordero. “You just have to be extra motivated and self-driven. [For example], keeping the store clean not just because your boss might pop in, but because you are proud of it, and it’s what you want.”

Her entrepreneurial skills also led to the creation of a dish that has been added to the Bad Daddy’s menu — Kim’s Honey Chicken Sandwich — which she conceived of and helped develop after a customer asked her if she could make some spiced, honey-coated tater tots. She decided the recipe would work for a chicken sandwich as well, and now the menu item bears her name.

At the heart of Cordero’s success has been her ability to maintain a highly motivated and dedicated staff that execute at a high level, said Abbott.

“Her top strength is her development of people, her training of people, and how she inspires people and gets them to line up behind her, the brand and what we’re doing,” he said. “That translates to excellent results. When I go in that store, it is a pleasure to visit, because I see great execution, and I see very warm, genuine hospitality from the staff, and I see a dedicated management team, led by Kim.”

Cordero agreed that her people skills, both with her workers and her customers, have been keys to her success. She goes out of her way to ensure that workers feel they are appreciated and insists on daily communication with everyone on staff.

“I am real big about communicating — high-fiving and praising,” she said. “The No. 1 rule at Bad Daddy’s is you have to say ‘hi’ and ‘bye’ to Kim. I make it like a family, and when I get there, I say, ‘Hello, good morning’ to everybody and then when I leave, I do the same thing.”

She makes the rounds every day before she goes home, ensuring that everyone on staff has an opportunity to discuss any issues they have, she said.

Her dedication to regular, in-depth communication with her staff helped the restaurant bounce back from the pandemic. Cordero kept in close contact with workers who were laid off and welcomed them in for family meals, just to ensure that they kept the brand top of mind. Most of those workers came back to the restaurant as normal operations resumed, she said.

Her efforts to create a family environment for her staff also extend to outside-the-box efforts such as birthday celebrations. An avid home baker, Cordero bakes a cake for every store employee for their birthday.

“They get to choose their flavor and write their name on the calendar when they get hired,” she said. “Everyone looks forward to the birthdays and some ‘Kim cake.’”

Cordero also strives to maintain friendly relations with her customers, who her staff often assume are her close friends because of the way she interacts with them.

“I really treat my restaurant like it’s my house, and I am having people over,” she said. “I love talking to people, and I love solving problems. If someone gets upset, it is my life’s mission that they are not going to leave there still upset with me.”

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