Browns Hires New Executive Chef and Director of Marketing

Andrea Baxter, Browns Restaurant Group | BCBusiness
Andrea Baxter, new director of marketing at Browns Restaurant Group

Browns Restaurant Group is in expansion mode with two new hires, the launch of a test kitchen and plans to open more locations across Canada 

Browns Restaurant Group has appointed Jason Labahn as its new executive chef and Andrea Baxter as director of marketing as the restaurant chain charts substantial growth in the coming years.
Browns is slated to open another 20 to 25 locations next year, says Baxter.  The company plans to have a total of 50 locations established across Western Canada by the end of 2014. So far, five Socialhouses have opened across three provinces this year, including the first Alberta outpost in Red Deer, which opened earlier this week. 
Baxter, famed co-founder of women’s money-mentoring brand Smart Cookies, has also worked for brands such as 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, Blast Radius and Vision Critical. She also opened her own consultant firm, Bratface Marketing, in 2009. Baxter will take on the role of “chief storyteller” and has goals to tell the Browns story across all digital platforms, help award franchisees and create a strong culture within the restaurant.
“Having been involved with 1-800-JUNK in the past when we were still in the very early, hyper-growth period of that business excited me about Browns because we are experiencing massive growth over the next 12 to 18 months and I wanted to be a part of that,” she says.
Labahn mastered his culinary skills at high-end resorts and hotels in Las Vegas and left his role as executive chef at Black and Blue Restaurant and The Roof at Black and Blue to join the Browns team. He will also play a key role in Browns’ new culinary test kitchen, set to open alongside a new flagship Socialhouse in Langley in early 2014. Labahn says that he joined the team in part because of the opportunity to be creative and work on the development and resourcing side of the restaurant business.
“We will have the resources and time available to put thought behind every dish that goes on to the menus,” he says.
The test kitchen will be available to Labahn 24/7 to work on menu development. His main goal is to create food that is “craveable,” “memorable” and “approachable.” Expect to see staple Browns dishes stay on the menu along with a few new items and an expanded brunch. Whatever the menu may be, Labahn is determined to differentiate it from other restaurants.
“Anybody can open a hundred restaurants and just do boil-a-bag food and a box of frozen spring rolls,” says Labahn. “Something that is going to separate us from the other large-scale brands is it that we are going to stay true to cooking all the time.”
The test kitchen also has a focus on training, which is going high tech with the help of state-of-the-art audio and visual capabilities. This will allow Browns to communicate new menu items and preparation techniques with multiple locations via the web and will help ensure consistency.
“People learn better visually rather than reading manuals so it’s definitely a leap in that digital direction that we want to take,” says Baxter.
In the future, online cooking tutorials and videos introducing new menus may also be filmed in the test kitchen, says Baxter and Labahn. Focusing on the digital aspect of marketing, Baxter says that she will be enhancing the current website and making sure that it does the best job of representing the brand.
Both Baxter and Labahn speak very highly of president and CEO Scott Morison, who started the premium casual dining chain in 2004. Browns Restaurant Group also franchises under the name Scotty Browns in the U.S. Up next, the company is hiring a director of restaurant design and plans to break ground in the Ontario market within three years. 

Introducing Browns Restaurant Group Executive Chef: Jason Labahn from Noravera on Vimeo.