“Roadside” Chain Shifts Gears for Safety | Behind the Table

The team navigates pandemic foodservice by putting employees and travelers in the driver’s seat.

In today’s foodservice climate, operators are making guest and employee safety a priority. But how does a business emphasize safety when its customers are primarily travelers? 

Common Man Roadside is a regional chain of quick-service restaurants and convenience stores across New Hampshire. Five years ago, the concept came out of a public/private partnership to redevelop the Route 93 Welcome Center in Hooksett, New Hampshire. Through the name recognition of its parent company, Common Man Restaurant Group, the roadside concept was quickly able to establish loyalty among locals and greater New England tourists. 


Common Man Roadside


Once the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, customer and employee safety in a business fueled by travel, became an ever-evolving challenge. 

“A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work,” said Brad Pernaw, Managing Partner of Common Man Roadside. Pernaw and his team worked with Gordon Food Service to transition their general merchandise to PPE items and develop a safety strategy for their staff. 

“We were able to pivot the business and do what was right for the business, but also help people out.”

Pernaw said listening to employees and customers has been critical to decision-making, especially when information seems to change day-to-day.

“We’ve proven again that we have a really good team—one set up for whatever obstacle we’re presented.” 

Roadside’s slogan is “Real Food, Real Fast,” and they’ve been able to maintain that mantra while using protective equipment, spacing out tables, and building outdoor seating. Many of the changes and ideas have been developed by their 200-plus employees.

“We have a diverse team, so it’s great to have different perspectives,” Pernaw said. “We’ve proven our entrepreneurial spirit.” 


Common Man Employees


Through the ups and downs of the pandemic, Pernaw keeps a positive outlook. He says that sayings like, “we’ve always done it this way,” don’t reflect an inclusive spirit of growth.

“That mentality, certainly in today’s climate, has to go away. You have to look at everything differently now.”

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