Golden Chains’ successes stem from active leadership

Golden Chains’ successes stem from active leadership

DALLAS —Success starts with leadership, especially when times are tough, agreed winners of this year’s Golden Chain awards during the 50th annual Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators conference here.

Employees, the lifeblood of a restaurant operation, need even more mentoring and protection in an environment marked by reduced consumer spending, escalating operating costs and a macroeconomic downturn, the seven executives said during the Golden Chain & Pioneer panel discussion. —Success starts with leadership, especially when times are tough, agreed winners of this year’s Golden Chain awards during the 50th annual Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators conference here.

“Our relationship is with our people,” said Cameron Mitchell, president and chief executive of Cameron Mitchell Restaurants, known for his upscale steak and seafood restaurants. “We take care of our people, they take care of our guests, and the guests take care of the company.” —Success starts with leadership, especially when times are tough, agreed winners of this year’s Golden Chain awards during the 50th annual Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators conference here.

Columbus, Ohio-based Cameron Mitchell Restaurants operates 15 locations under seven brands, including Cameron’s American Bistro, Marcella’s and Ocean Prime. The company sold 22 restaurants under the Mitchell’s Fish Market and Cameron’s Steakhouse brands in 2007 to Ruth’s Hospitality Group Inc. —Success starts with leadership, especially when times are tough, agreed winners of this year’s Golden Chain awards during the 50th annual Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators conference here.

The other Golden Chain winners were Chuck Fallon, president of Burger King [3] North America; Phil Friedman, chairman and chief executive of McAlister’s Deli [4]; Jeffrey Harvey, president and chief executive of Burgerville; and Randy Kibler, president and chief executive of Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ’n Biscuits. Richard Melman, founder of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, was the Pioneer Award winner. American Express sponsors the annual award program. —Success starts with leadership, especially when times are tough, agreed winners of this year’s Golden Chain awards during the 50th annual Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators conference here.

“This is a unique opportunity for the industry to discuss benchmarks for success,” said Curtis Wilson, vice president and general manager of restaurant industries at American Express. “2010 will be a very difficult and tumultuous time. Bringing the industry together is critical to grow as individuals and businesses.” —Success starts with leadership, especially when times are tough, agreed winners of this year’s Golden Chain awards during the 50th annual Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators conference here.

Some of the greatest lessons can come from failures, panelists said. Melman, responsible for building Chicago-based Lettuce Entertain You, which operates such concepts as Big Bowl, Mon Ami Gabi and Shaw’s Crab House, said restaurateurs need to understand why plans don’t work. He noted his largest failure, a pizzeria in Las Vegas near a hotel’s rooftop roller coaster. —Success starts with leadership, especially when times are tough, agreed winners of this year’s Golden Chain awards during the 50th annual Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators conference here.

“No one wanted to eat before the ride for fear they would get sick,” he said, “and no one wanted to eat after the ride because they were sick.… We just had to walk away from that one.” —Success starts with leadership, especially when times are tough, agreed winners of this year’s Golden Chain awards during the 50th annual Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators conference here.

Knowing how to react to obstacles is a key to success. Jim Greco, chief executive of Burlington, Vt.-based Bruegger’s Enterprises Inc. and the 2009 Operator of the Year, said management must always react quickly to obstacles. Greco is known for turning around many firms, the latest of which is Bruegger’s Bagels, a 290-unit chain. —Success starts with leadership, especially when times are tough, agreed winners of this year’s Golden Chain awards during the 50th annual Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators conference here.

“Companies fail because circumstances outside of their control create an obstacle and management doesn’t react,” he said. —Success starts with leadership, especially when times are tough, agreed winners of this year’s Golden Chain awards during the 50th annual Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators conference here.

Greco said in a turnaround situation, creating a series of 90-day plans, and then communicating and executing those plans, is key to eventual success. —Success starts with leadership, especially when times are tough, agreed winners of this year’s Golden Chain awards during the 50th annual Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators conference here.

All of that requires the buy-in of various executives, from corporate positions to hourly employees. At Burger King, where Fallon had worked to turn around the No. 2 burger brand, communication with franchisees was imperative during the chain’s successful run. He noted that franchisor-franchisee relations at the 10,000- plus-unit chain are something the Miami-based owner still is working to improve. —Success starts with leadership, especially when times are tough, agreed winners of this year’s Golden Chain awards during the 50th annual Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators conference here.

Friedman, chief executive of 285-unit McAlister’s Deli, which is based in Ridgeland, Miss., said his biggest responsibility is to make others feel that their jobs are easy. —Success starts with leadership, especially when times are tough, agreed winners of this year’s Golden Chain awards during the 50th annual Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators conference here.

“I try to help [colleagues] do the best they can,” he said. —Success starts with leadership, especially when times are tough, agreed winners of this year’s Golden Chain awards during the 50th annual Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators conference here.

Harvey, chief executive of Burgerville, a 39-unit chain based in Vancouver, Wash., said that listening to employees has paid significant dividends for his company. —Success starts with leadership, especially when times are tough, agreed winners of this year’s Golden Chain awards during the 50th annual Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators conference here.

While developing a full-coverage health care program was important for the company, employees were the ones that encouraged Burgerville to provide cheaper health care coverage during an annual employee satisfaction survey, Harvey said. When Burgerville listened to the requests for additional coverage, it spent significant cash to fund the program. After its first year, the program reduced turnover and training costs and improved productivity. Burgerville was able to cover its costs and generate a 3-percent return on the program. —Success starts with leadership, especially when times are tough, agreed winners of this year’s Golden Chain awards during the 50th annual Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators conference here.

Providing corporate and personal leadership is a tenant that Kibler of Bojangles’ said he takes very seriously. —Success starts with leadership, especially when times are tough, agreed winners of this year’s Golden Chain awards during the 50th annual Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators conference here.

“We owe this industry,” he said. “We have to give that kind of leadership back.”— [email protected] [5] —Success starts with leadership, especially when times are tough, agreed winners of this year’s Golden Chain awards during the 50th annual Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators conference here.