Where European Educational Models and an Atlanta School-to-Careers Program Intersect, a conversation with FLIK CEO Scott Davis

FLIK Hospitality, a Compass Group business, is known for nurturing a hospitality-forward culture established by founders Rudi and Julie Flik, who placed a high value on giving back to their communities. One way the Fliks invested in the cities they served was through a school-to-careers program. Through the program, which was based on the German model of dual vocational education and training, FLIK sponsored students from underrepresented neighborhoods who showed an interest in culinary and hospitality vocations while they did on-the-job training, and then supported them with scholarships to continue their learning in hospitality programs like the Culinary Institute of America and Johnson and Wales University.

Today, CEO Scott Davis takes his responsibility for FLIK’s culture keeping very seriously, which is why when FLIK’s joint venture partner Thompson Hospitality and Chef Simone Byron introduced the concept of Navigate, a new school-to-careers program for Atlanta-area students, Davis knew FLIK would be the perfect fit for its pilot.

“The Navigate program harkens back to the Fliks’ values, which were foundational and still guide the way we do business today,” said Davis. “The work Chef Simone is doing not only meets the needs of students and is in line with FLIK’s values, but it also supports clients whose own values drive them to invest in their communities by establishing a framework within which they can co-create career opportunities. It truly is a partnership.”

With a successful pilot under its belt, FLIK is now expanding the Navigate program to other large clients whose size and values make them ideal locations for advancing student learners. But clients of that size were once unthinkable to FLIK, which was a regional mom-and-pop operation until 1997 when the new Compass Group and Thompson Hospitality partnership began gaining traction with clients.

“When I met Warren Thompson, we were both new to Compass Group at a time when Compass was just beginning to serve national accounts. Clients were taking a closer look at their spends from both a diversity and efficiency standpoint, so in that way the partnership was well timed,” said Davis. “But it was also really smart because Warren’s business acumen is unmatched. He knows the heart of a hospitality business is the relationship between its people and the people they serve, and he modeled that by creating and nurturing meaningful relationships with clients. He came to every bid and every quarterly business review – he knew every name and shook every hand.”

Together with Thompson, FLIK won their first national account and retained it every time it went out to bid. Since then, the partnership has matured. The joint venture figured out how to best serve clients through a three-party agreement, and they’ve been winning business that way ever since.

“We don’t go to market without Thompson,” Davis added.

And the benefits to FLIK’s culture are undeniable. Davis believes partnerships with Thompson Hospitality and Navigate demonstrate FLIK values to Associates and the communities they serve.

“The word gets out about an organization and what they’re committed to. For people working in the field and operations to bear witness to people in their communities being successful beyond the front line is essential for promoting a healthy organization,” said Davis. “When people in the communities we serve talk about our business – that we care about DEI, that we offer good benefits, that we’re a safe place to work, and we’re respected – that matters.”

Davis says there’s always room for improvement and that he and FLIK are committed to continuing to evolve FLIK’s culture not only by creating opportunities for advancement but by removing barriers that prevent Associates from accessing opportunities in the first place.

“Our culture is to promote from within, so it is paramount that our Associates view FLIK as a place where they can see themselves grow,” concluded Davis. “Community-focused partnerships like what we have with Thompson Hospitality and career pathing programs like Navigate and Compass Group’s accelerated management program all benefit our Associates. When our Associates see people coming out of locations and being invested in – when someone who was once a dishwasher takes a leadership role – it makes it easier for them to envision a career for life here. You just can’t have enough of those stories.”

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