Squeezed by big guys, CHOMP bites back

…Using the same organizing principles he used in his previous career as a hospital CEO to help rural hospitals save money on expensive services like MRIs through cost-sharing, Mr. Sewell structured CHOMP as a kind of collective with all 20 founding restaurants buying company shares and all having a seat at t he board table.

“We’re all in the same boat. It makes sense to partner up,” said George Etre, who co-owns Formosa, Takanami, El Patron and Iowa Chophouse in downtown Iowa City. “I think we all feel comfortable with restaurant owners leading the way. None of us are trying to get anything. We’re not trying to gouge each other. We’re not going to raise the rates and leave town. We’re all committed and there is strength in numbers.”

Mr. Etre said the line of communication that has been opened between restaurant owners – many of whom did not know each other before – opens up opportunities to collectively organize on other issues such as credit card fees.

“Up until now, I had not known any other restaurant owners,” Mr. Sewell agreed. “Restaurant owners are usually fiercely independent. What was shocking to me was the enthusiasm about this service. Everybody really seemed to enjoy working collaboratively to build this.”

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