Ingredients for a Winning Brand  

How to create a beloved restaurant — and keep it going.

Maybe you haven’t heard the name Parasole before, but chances are you’ve dined at The Good Earth, Manny’s, Chino Latino or Buca de Beppo (spun off in 1995). Since its launch more than 40 years ago, Parasole continually reinvents itself and its dining establishments.

Twin Cities entrepreneurs Phil Roberts and Pete Mihajlov founded Parasole Restaurant Holdings in 1977. A commercial designer in the 1970s, Roberts traveled extensively and ate at many of the country’s top restaurants. But he noticed Minnesota had none of them. Thus began Parasole. They started with Muffuletta, a European-style bistro near the university. It’s tagline? “Just different enough.”

The owners didn’t realize that their plan of operating a single restaurant was (fortunately) not in the cards. Today, the company operates 14 restaurants and its own bakery. But behind any good company is the never-ending hunger to keep things fresh and take an ample amount of risk, balanced with a desire to take care of its employees. Parasole is no exception.

Making Moves

In 2008, it became clear that the popular Manny’s Steakhouse needed a change — specifically, it’s location.

“Sales had flattened out at the existing downtown location, and there was an opportunity to move into the W Hotel,” Parasole VP of Marketing and Business Development Kip Clayton says. “This had a huge impact on Manny’s continued revenue growth.”

In six weeks, the Parasole team moved the restaurant and got it up and running. The result? A dramatic increase in sales, a private dining option, an energy between the hotel and dining venues, and a younger crowd.

But to achieve success like this, Parasole relies heavily on trusted partners — like professional services company CBIZ — to provide expertise and advice.

Over the last 40 years, CBIZ has become a trusted advisor to Parasole by providing financial, accounting, insurance and benefits support.

“We provide tax advice on all transactions, and anything related to Parasole’s newest businesses,” CBIZ Sr. Managing Director David Levi says.

CBIZ helps Parasole maximize tip credits for individuals, take advantage of depreciation and ensure company partners get the best benefits possible.

“We’ve seen the benefit of a long-term relationship,” Clayton says. “CBIZ provides tax guidance to our diverse organization and helps us through the levels of complication.”

Putting People First

In the restaurant business, things change quickly. Fluctuating food costs and high labor costs keep owners on their toes. Despite the challenges, Parasole strives to show its commitment to employees.

“Restaurants have notoriously high turnover. But, we’ve worked to minimize ours,” Parasole Chief Financial Officer Barbara Marshall says.

It’s does this by allowing employees to move across restaurant brands, and improving its employee benefits each year.

“It’s important for companies to continually assess their employee benefits to stay competitive in the workforce,” CBIZ Employee Benefits Consultant Ramona McCree says. “Next to salary, benefits are why people choose to work for a certain employer.”

CBIZ helps negotiate contracts with benefits carriers for Parasole, implement new workplace solution options like short-term disability and a critical access program, develop strategic goals for health and welfare programs and navigate new health care laws.

“CBIZ is always thinking of new ways to deal with health care and what other optional benefits to offer,” Marshall says. “Our employees are more informed than ever about their choices — and CBIZ is a huge part of it.”


Headquarters: Cleveland, Ohio

Inception: 1987

Leadership: Jerome Grisko, President & CEO; David Levi, Sr. Managing Partner – Minneapolis

Employees: 4,600, nationally;
150, locally


Parasole Restaurant Holdings

Headquarters: Edina, Minn.

Inception: 1977

Employees: 1,400