Davis says part of the recipe for success is creating an environment that supports employees at all levels.

Vice President of Human Resources

Cameron Mitchell Restaurants

Chuck Davis had quite a year in 2001.

It began with his wife asking him for a divorce. It was punctuated by the Sept. 11 terror attacks. It was stalled when he had complications from surgery to remove his appendix. And when it ended, Interstate Hotels, the company to which he had devoted 19 years, was sold and an unappealing relocation loomed.

As the calendar turned to 2002, Davis was ready for change.

It came in the form of a new romantic interest, a new city and a new job leading human resource initiatives for a fledgling company called Cameron Mitchell Restaurants.

Fourteen years later, Davis has made Columbus his home with his new wife and helped CMR spread across the city and beyond. His contributions to CMR also earned him the title of Executive of the Year for a large organization.

"I believe hard work and luck create opportunity," says Davis, CMR vice president of human resources. "This honor is a validation and recognition for what Cameron Mitchell has done for countless associates. We take great pride in the level of service we provide our associates and work hard every day to support our associates, so every day they can do what they do best."

Davis, a Pittsburgh native, started his path at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where he pursued a master's degree in industrial/labor relations in what he considered the heart of the American labor movement.

"[Pennsylvania] has a deep, rich labor history, and the program had incredibly accomplished individuals in industrial labor relations," he says. "I came up through hotel operations and felt I didn't know everything I needed to know, or I needed to validate, 'Do I know what I know?' Grad school allowed me to do that."

Upon graduation he started working for Interstate Hotels, rising to serve as regional director of human resources before his transition to CMR. Davis says he sees many similarities between the hotel and restaurant industries that helped him succeed in both.

"They are both in the business of creating experiences," he says. "We work when most people are having fun. What we are in business to do is make raving fans."

To accomplish those goals, Davis oversees employee relations and provides advice to general managers at each restaurant by assisting them in how to handle worker issues, discipline and harassment allegations. He is also an expert in the labor laws in the 11 states that host-or will welcome-a Cameron Mitchell restaurant.

Evidence of his success can be seen in the dedication of CMR employees; the company has a 50 percent turnover rate-compared with 63 percent in the restaurant industry-and nearly 70 percent of managers are hired from within.

"When Chuck started, we didn't have much of an HR practice," says David Miller, CMR's president and chief operating officer. "He has developed and evolved HR for the past 15 years. Culture is everything to us. Our turnover is extremely low because our practices are solid. We have very few challenges because people are trained well and educated well. Our HR practices are A+ because of his leadership of that department."

Davis says part of the recipe for success is creating an environment that supports employees at all levels.

To that end, Davis cites communication as the most important part of his job, as employees can't truly be effective unless they know what's going on. He sends weekly emails that include information and status on current projects and initiatives to provide employees a bigger picture, and an overview of what's happening at the highest levels. He also includes birthdays, anniversaries and fun facts about people.

A former military policeman in the US Army Reserves, Davis in his spare time teaches a senior capstone class at Ohio State University for students majoring in hospitality management.

"It's all about making connections with people," he says.