Interview with Dan Chaon, CEO at Native Grill & Wings

January 20, 2018 // USA Weekly

Starting a business is a big achievement for many entrepreneurs, but maintaining one is the larger challenge. There are many standard challenges that face every business whether they are large or small. It is not easy running a company, especially in a fast-paced, ever-changing business world. Technology advances, new hiring strategies, and now, political changes coming with the new administration, all add to the existing business challenges that entrepreneurs, business owners, and executives have to deal with.

Maximizing profits, minimizing expenses and finding talented staff to keep things moving seem to be top challenges for both SMBs and large corporations. We have been interviewing companies from around the world to discover what challenges they are facing in their businesses. We also asked each company to share business advice they would give to a younger version of themselves.

Below is our interview with Dan Chaon, CEO at Native Grill & Wings:

What does your company do?

Native Grill and Wings is a family focused sports grill with 40 years of history. The concept was originally known as Native New Yorker as the Anderson Family, who founded the brand, originated from Buffalo, New York. They were the first to bring Chicken Wings to the Southwest. The original Native New Yorker started off doing favorites such as traditional chicken wings, New York style pizza, calzones and sandwiches; it has grown into the Native Grill and Wings brand as locals and regulars routinely referred to their location as “my Native”. Today, the company has become a very successful franchising model, with a rich history and lots of opportunity for growth.

What is your role? What do you enjoy most about your role?

I have the honor of serving as CEO for an amazing brand. I hate titles, so I prefer looking at it as a great coaching job. Whoever coined the phrase, “you’re only as good as those you surround yourself with,” must have been speaking about the amazing Native team, those customers who frequent our restaurants every day and our valued franchisees who we consider to be partners. There are two things I enjoy most about my role. First of all, I get great satisfaction from taking the mistakes and victories from being in the industry for 28 years and using those as coaching moments for our franchise support team and our franchise owners. Secondly, I’ve learned that the only thing that never changes about the restaurant industry is that it’s always changing. It keeps you young at heart and on your toes, and I love that.

What are the biggest challenges in your business right now?

Right now, the biggest challenge facing the restaurant industry as a whole is truly finding frequency of visits to your brand. The economy is great, people have good disposable income to eat out, but there are a lot of choices. These choices come not only from direct competition but also the evolving way that guests dine out. With home meal replacement, third party delivery, emphasis on loyalty programs, etc., our guests can be very selective on how often and where to spend those dollars. The battle has never been greater for brands fighting to build year-over-year guest counts. That, coupled with high labor demands, diminishing skilled labor and commodity costs, restaurants really have to be focusing on blocking and tackling issues without managing their businesses down. It may seem like a given in our industry, but it’s all about food quality and level of service.

If you could go back in time, what business advice would you give to a younger version of yourself?

Be patient for results and impatient for actions needed for those results. Understand that running a brand is a marathon, but approach the marathon with a sprinters mentality. I was afraid early on to make mistakes and took it as defining grade, only to look back and realize some of our best outcomes came as a result of those mistakes. If you’re going to fail, fail fast and then pick yourself up from the bootstraps and get after it again.

40 Under 40: Restaurant Stars on the Rise

March 2018 // FSR Staff


Chefs, owners, bartenders—some barely in their 30s—fill this year’s list of Rising Stars, the folks to watch in 2018. This list shows stars can be born anywhere, in as expected a place as under the tutelage of Eric Ripert at Le Bernardin or, quite the opposite, washing dishes in a family restaurant or taking a job bussing tables just to break into the industry.

Take note, this year in particular, of how these chefs and restaurateurs embody a new wave of restaurant professionals. They are more creative, innovative, and bold than ever before.

Cynthia Velasco, 28, has been the Director of Marketing for Native Grill & Wings since the fall of 2016. 

When Cynthia Velasco embarked on her career with Native Grill & Wings, the Arizona-based concept was a struggling 19-unit brand. Velasco helped to transform it into a family-friendly sports grill with more than 30 locations. She introduced new brand guidelines, modernized marketing campaigns, and initiated a new fan base that turned into a loyal following.

“Evolving a brand involves taking risks, and [that] gave me the determination and persistence to stay true to course,” she says. “Native Grill & Wings provides a great balance of collaboration and autonomy, which fuels innovation and keeps the brand evolving. I’m constantly challenged, and there’s nothing better than the feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day.”


A new restaurant opening in the Tri-States

March 2, 2018 // WGEM

An Arizona-based restaurant chain will open on Quincy’s Riverfront next week.

Native Grill and Wings will replace the Titled Kilt on 138 N. Front St. The company has more than 30 locations nationwide, but this is the first one in Illinois.
It’s billed as a family-friendly sports grill that will serve chicken wings, pizza, burgers, and more.

“The Tri-State area needed a great family friendly sports bar with great food and atmosphere,” said Heather Balzer the general manager.

Friday was their soft open to make sure they’re ready for when they officially open Monday, March 5.The restaurant will be open Sunday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Friday through Saturday 11 a.m. to midnight.