In 2004, Geoff Bainbridge was one of three co-founders in Grill’d . The gourmet burger restaurant saw rapid expansion – healthy meal choices were a growing trend – and consumers appreciated the health-conscious value now available in traditionally unhealthy options. With more than 150 locations worldwide, Grill’d has become its own play on words, offering burgers, fried chicken, chips and plant-based alcoholic beverages all while taking a healthy initiative in promoting the value of consumer choice. Bainbridge’s vision for the restaurant was inherent, diligent, and value-driven.
“…and one of those egos was mine.”
The competitive edge in the food and restaurant industry separates players from pretenders. For every champion on Top Chef or Guy’s Grocery Games there are thousands without acclamation for their style, technique, presentation and promotion of the food, but more significantly the self. The ego can only mask itself for so long – Bainbridge knows this first-hand – and two egos in the same company, much less in the same room are one too many.
Bainbridge recounts moments when there were too many egos in a room, and “one of those egos was mine.” Rather than firming his grip and maintaining adamantly that his ego would sustain itself, Bainbridge was willing to learn, grow, and develop. He is a winner in the long-run because of his willingness to theorize, to visualize, and to take a step back in the micro while appreciating the macro.
Bainbridge is a proponent of the macro approach to business – the big picture is always the better picture – and ego-driven decisions tend to come back to bite. There was a temporary gap in his judgment, one that could have been his downfall or an uplifting moment – Bainbridge made the choice to choose people over ego – the stylistic approach has carried him forward nearly 20 years after he changed the hamburger industry. It was never about credit, but improvement, where ego stands in the way of human connection.
Differences are accepted or rejected, which is telling in determining the value of a person. Bainbridge has been well-respected, and frankly well-liked by those he has worked with, socialized with, and engaged whether on a personal or professional basis. As ego gets in the way of humanistic behavior, Bainbridge changes his approach, uplifting others by providing the self to be a caring and compassionate person. One of his secrets to business is care over competition, a willingness to limit one’s own ego for the good of the business, and the betterment of wider society. Redemption, he believes, is for those embracing their own faults, listening to them, and abandoning egotistical patterns of thought.
An ego is required to believe that one can change the hamburger. In 2004, Grill’d was an idea. In 2024, it will be a normative approach to the food industry, where healthy alternatives to traditional comfort food have changed the game. Bainbridge symbolizes redemption in an ego-driven society. He is responsible for this change in the food industry because he was willing to change his own ideas, philosophy, and attitude towards business and people.