Restaurant Success Stories: What Makes Thriving Restaurant Groups?

Business Posts March 13, 2019

Successful Restaurant Groups
What Makes Successful Restaurant Groups?

Today we’re asking what makes successful restaurant groups? At our firm myself & my team have the opportunity to interact with a variety of companies in the restaurant/hospitality industry daily. Of which many are successful restaurant groups that are growing, stagnant firms, and failing operations. All of which are either looking to fuel growth or trying to make a change for the better. And what better way to do that, is through hiring the right people.

During this 2019, I’ve been doing some reflecting on the variety of accounts we‘ve recruited and serviced over the past few years. Small & Medium businesses, All sorts of sizes of Franchise Groups, Big Corporate Restaurants, Niche Restaurant Groups, Hotels, Vineyards and others in between. To me it’s always fascinating to see how each client approaches hiring. How different each are or similar they are and the patterns that exist across each client. We also get the opportunity to spend countless of hours observing and interacting frequently with these businesses and their leaders. One can be an owner just starting his or her first restaurant, or a small franchise owner struggling with turnover, another mid-sized franchise looking to keep expanding, a couple of partners trying to turnaround a market of units, a hot new concept rapidly scaling, a massive corporation trying to get another edge, and so on. Thankfully, we get to see all of this on a first hand basis. Below are some interesting accounts we’ve worked during 2018 and our insights:

1) Client 1, The Cash-Rich, Go-Go-Go Grower. She owns a mid-sized QSR Franchise (~$70MM in sales and a very standard “brand”). She’s fast, fearless, energetic, creative and progressive. She’s by definition a badass. She keeps her employee turnover extremely low, she’s expanding her hiring & locations, she holds creative food contests for her customers, does things outside the box, her sales are a record high (a matter of fact, the highest compared to all the other franchisees, who are now trying to model her), she’s profiting, her employees are treated incredibly well and paid well-above market, she’s not afraid to make mistakes/and doesn’t dwell on them. She knows she’s not perfect but strives for it daily, she knows her employees, vendors, and customers are not perfect, but she gives them the opportunity to be so. She always tries to make the best decision she can, but most importantly she always just moves forward no matter what and ignores the noise and focuses clearly on what she wants (which is growth & expansion). When this client first called us, we noticed this and the energy behind her. Our team was very excited to get behind this successful restaurant group, leader and everything that comes with it. And we were excited to find employees who wanted this for their careers! What struck me when speaking to her, was her ability to work so quickly and the energy behind her actions. Speed used wisely is one of the most important things not only when it comes to hiring (markets in this industry are ever so competitive as of recent), but when it comes to decision making, business and growth. Not only did she hire a big handful of candidates from us, but she did this at such a fast and accurate rate. I think that businesses out there in this industry, should observe these patterns…could these be some indicators behind her success? I’d say most certainly. An owner or executive may think to model or acquire these attributes themselves or build teams with similar traits & train them, especially if you’re looking expedite growth. Or do the opposite? Would the absolute opposite of this be effective? Let’s find out below.

2) Client 2, The Low Energy, Not Responsible CEO, owning a smaller/mid-sized fast-casual concept ($23MM in sales). Watch out, here he comes! He didn’t want to be bothered by work on this cell phone, he was tired every time we spoke, unenthusiastic, low energy, dwelling on the negatives (negative himself), indecisive, slow moving, caught up in the minutia (instead of the bigger picture and focusing what’s actually important). I noticed that management under him lacked ownership/leadership and was also equally disorganized (but can you blame them, they were just following the leader). Fortunately for employees and investors, the product itself was an excellent product. So it wasn’t hard getting new managers interested in this sort of concept . However, getting them interviewed that was a whole other issue! There was no definitive plan for interviewing and processing A-players efficiently and effectively. Let alone, the restaurants were in locations that were some of the most competitive hiring markets in America. I tried coaching the CEO on several occasions, on top of everything he wasn’t open to my feedback nor our teams. Generally, an excellent CEO will be an extremely good listener and pay close attention to feedback. Whether that’s from vendors like us to employees, to customers and other relevant parties. Sadly, this was lacking and he had his own unfocused agenda. As a result, I later remember reading online that the brand was struggling and closing more locations. I hope this serves as a good lesson for any leader and I’m also hoping this year he will be more introspective and bounce back not only for the sake of his customers but his employees, investors and other stakeholders.

3) Client 3, The Calculated, Adaptable, Business Partner. This client owns a successful restaurant group & businesses, including an established high-volume full-service restaurant. In speaking to this client he’s very analytical and plays his cards close to his chest. He’s interesting, because he’s always looking at every single detail of the business that drives it forward. Not overly energetic, but very calm and collected (only sometimes gets passionate/emotional when he needs to make a change to the business). He’s engaged and passionate about finding new ways to keep improving overall profitability and sales growth. He’s always open to feedback and especially is during his interviews with new Managers in the FOH or BOH. He opens his ears to their ideas and solutions to solving things for the better. He adapts well to the changing market, inside and outside his restaurant. When it comes to the food they are serving, developing their catering business, to overall marketing strategies of the restaurant. Even though he is more “old school” he has someone hired to work the internet the right way, social media and new online channels to expand his brand further and reach new customers. His hiring process is very tight. In working with us, we really dug into all the details that were important to him. Reference checks were critical and detailed social media/background checks. He interviewed carefully but also quickly. The best balance. A phone interview, in-person interview, followed by a final interview with him and his partner (including a walk-thru of the restaurant and to see how he/she interacts with his team). All of these characteristics point to a leader who can guide a brand that is well-established through ups and downs of the market. And is now approaching $9MM in sales last time we spoke (years back it was in the high $7’s). And now I’m sure they’re heading towards $10MM this 2019.

Enjoy reading about these different clients? Which one are you? It’s always interesting to see what patterns and things these clients do to get where they are. Many times it’s a combination of mostly psychology and operations “know-how”. Want to work with our team of restaurant consultants, coaches/experts, and recruiters to be more like like Client 1 or Client 3? APPLY NOW!

About the author:
Matthew Rodgers is CEO of RestaurantZone a nationwide recruiting agency that helps restaurants, hotels & hospitality hire excellent people to fuel growth. Him and his team of recruiters & consultants have 5 to 35+ years experience recruiting in this industry across a variety of concepts. Their passionate about helping brands reach their goals through hiring and have a variety of solutions to offer clients. It is their view that people play one of the most important roles in determining success within a company and in this industry. Learn more here.

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