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Concordia alumni helm Quebec’s largest family-run restaurant chain

Benny&Co executives Jean-Christophe Benny and Dino Di Girolamo ensure the recipe for success includes tradition and innovation
June 7, 2024
By Kay Pettigrew, BA 22

Man a beard wearing a white shirt with checked jacket smiles faintly at camera “I could write a book on what it is to be part of a team at that level,” says Jean-Christophe Benny, BA 19, on his time with the Stingers football team.
Man wearing a white and light blue checked shirt with blue and white herringbone jacket smiles at camera Dino Di Girolamo, BEng 94, says Concordia prepared him for “lifelong learning.”

It all started with a unique gift.

In the 1940s, the Benny family were tobacco farmers. But when a friend offered the eight Benny brothers a gift of 1,500 roosters, a poultry farm was born.

The family soon vertically integrated the farm. One brother, Gilles, used his skills as a mechanician to invent a specialized rotisserie oven, allowing for a three-hour, slow roast of the birds. The innovation laid the foundation for their expansion into the restaurant industry, with each family member creating independent ventures across Quebec.

The second generation, led by Jean Benny, soon united their endeavours under one banner: Benny&Co. Today the chain stands as Quebec's largest family-run, quick-service restaurant company, boasting 80 locations and counting.

Among the current executives are two Concordia alumni: Jean-Christophe Benny, BA 19, and Dino Di Girolamo, BEng 94. Jean-Christophe, the director of store development, represents the third generation of Bennys within the company. Di Girolamo, who began working for the family at age 17, is now the company’s vice-president of technology and real-estate development. He is also one of the brand’s shareholders, alongside Jean, Yves and Vincent Benny.

Company values rooted in family traditions

For both executives, the family’s ethos is still evident at Benny&Co.

“In the restaurant business, the turnover is ridiculous. I think we do a lot better than the average restaurant, because we treat employees right. We treat them like family,” says Di Girolamo.

Employees participate in organized activities, and managers are invited to give back to their communities through initiatives they are passionate about. The company also established the Benny&Co Foundation. The foundation’s mission is to contribute to the well-being of young people with special needs by facilitating and increasing accessibility to experiences adapted to them, while giving parents a chance to recharge.

“We have three values: respect, team spirit and excellence,” Benny explains. “Respect includes everyone and everything around you —  every customer and employee, every piece of equipment and everything you serve. You cannot have team spirit without that respect. And excellence means doing what you do the best you can. So we set the standards high.”

These values extend beyond the restaurant to the company’s approach to ecological sustainability. All of the restaurant’s packaging is 100 per cent compostable or recyclable. Di Girolamo applies skills from his Bachelor of Building Engineering to ensure the company’s construction projects are environmentally friendly.

“We do a lot of things in our restaurants that are good for the environment,” he says. “For instance, all of our equipment that uses water is low-volume. We also converted all of the lighting, even in older restaurants, to LED.”

Concordia learning fosters industry leadership

Reflecting on their Concordia education, both executives attribute their success to the university’s emphasis on teamwork and continuous learning.

“In engineering, you learn to work with teams under intense pressure, which is what I do today in the restaurant business — construction and renovations, often under really tight timelines,” says Di Girolamo. “You continue to learn when you go to the workplace — and you’re more prepared to do so.”

Benny adds that his degree in human relations “says it all.” As a former athlete with the Stingers football team, he credits the Concordia coaching staff and his fellow players for helping to develop his sense of resilience and responsibility.

“In my program, I learned to work with different people in groups, different personalities. It helped me with my listening skills and my general thought process of trying to put myself in the other person’s shoes, which is what we have to do with customers every day.

“I could probably write a book on what it is to be part of a team at that level. You’re given a great deal of responsibility, which I think is essential for your development as a human,” says Benny.

As stewards of the Benny&Co legacy, Benny and Di Girolamo strive to embody the values instilled by the family and their Concordia education.“I try to bring those values to my day-to-day, to the people I work with,” Benny explains. “You give them responsibility so they feel they’re important — and they are. It brings out their confidence.”

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