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#33 Black Bear Diner
Family restaurants

At Black Bear Diner, where a sculptor still hand carves every wooden bear, CEO Bruce Dean says growth means sticking to tradition. “We’re going to be 25 years old come 2020, so what I concentrate on, really my philosophy for driving growth, is stay true to your values and stay true to what got you here. It’s easy for us to run across a commodity cost or labor increase and change who you are. It’s easy to say, ‘I’m spending a lot on labor and scratch food, maybe I can have someone make our food for us and eliminate that labor piece,’” said Dean. “There’s a lot of these things that if you don’t stay true to you can go off track.” But behind the dining room, he said technology has made it easier to stay true. “These are real robust tools, they really are. They can do a lot of things and for us to take advantage of,” said Dean. “In the past year, we’ve been able to better theoretically identify our food costs, so that helps us to assist our operators to manage their food costs.” On the development side, Dean said they’ve been using mapping and demographic analytics tools to compare potential sites to current locations. That’s proven especially helpful as the concept grows further from its West Coast roots.