Optimistic Dayton-area CEO to his workforce: ‘We’re back’

Robert M. Connelly, president, Henny Penny Corp.
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Robert M. Connelly, president, Henny Penny Corp.

Henny Penny workers are returning to their Eaton offices, and the food preparation equipment company’s chief executive is greeting them with an upbeat message: “We’re back.”

“From being down over 80% last April to currently running at full capacity, we are as busy as we have ever been in our history,” Rob Connelly, Henny Penny chairman and CEO, said in the message to workers last week. “The Roaring 20′s are coming, and we are preparing. There is so much excitement and people can’t wait to get back out and be together, be it a restaurant, event, vacation, ballgame, or whatever.”

He added: “The future is bright, and we are happy to be back”

Last week, the company returned all employees to offices for the first time since March 2020, although the company has had about 400 workers on manufacturing floors since April 6 last year, Connelly told the Dayton Daily News.

The company has come a long way since the dark days of last spring. Perhaps more than any other industry, restaurants were hit especially hard by the pandemic, as many customers declined to dine out and government lock-down orders either reduced capacity or shut doors entirely.

Rob Connelly, chairman and CEO of Henny Penny. Company image
Caption
Rob Connelly, chairman and CEO of Henny Penny. Company image

Henny Penny Corp. makes frying equipment for restaurants like McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, KFC and Chick-fil-A.

Last April, Connelly told his employees in a very different written message then: “The darkest phase is where we are right now. It calls all of us to question our roles.

“What I firmly believe, and what I want you to know, is this: we are going to get through this together,” Connelly wrote in that message last year. “We’re not preparing and responding out of fear. This isn’t a false sense of confidence. This is a real confidence based on the most likely scenario. Things may be terrible, but it is temporary.”

“Our businesses are the busiest they have ever been in our history,” Connelly said Tuesday. “Through this, one of the cool things is, we’ve continued our expansion, getting ready to open up a 175,000-square-foot addition that we were in the midst of (when the pandemic struck).”

“We didn’t stop that, because we were really believed in the future of what’s going on,” he added. “And that’s the coolest thing; we were not ready for a ribbon-cutting, but you’re going to have to come out and see it.”

Some 75,000 square feet of the addition will be devoted to engineering new products.

With about 750 workers in Preble County —”and growing,” Connelly said — Henny Penny has food preparation equipment in more than 100 countries, serving dining chains, health care facilities; supermarkets; and more.

Founded in 1957, Henny Penny became an employee-owned company in 2015.