Andrew Phillips has discovered over his seven-year tenure as general manager of the Bar Louie in Granger, Ind., that the best GMs are patient with both customers and employees and are immersed within the community.
Making his way up the ladder from busboy/barback in 2008 — he took the job to put himself through college — to where he is now as general manager, Phillips is proof that companies that create an easy pathway for internal promotions are successful at turning hourly workers into salaried long-term employees. Phillips eventually became assistant GM and then general manager. The store he is managing now opened during the pandemic but is consistently the top-performing location in Bar Louie’s portfolio.
“[Moving up the ranks internally] is part of the Bar Louie culture,” Phillips said. “When you’re in those positions, slowly moving up, you get to meet a lot of people — both staff and guests. … It can definitely be a challenge, going from being a server or barback to running the show, but that’s what this brand is all about: It’s about building people and relationships.”
Phillips continues to build those relationships even after he became general manager. According to Megan Gibbons, Bar Louie’s senior vice president of human resources, certain aspects of being a general manager can be taught as employees try out new leadership positions, like teaching them the menu or the inner workings of the restaurant. But you can’t teach someone leadership qualities or how to make guests feel welcome.
“What really sets us apart from the competition is that we’re open all the way until 2 a.m., so GMs have to be able to adapt through all of our different dayparts and they have to be problem solvers,” Gibbons said. “They have to be solution-oriented, work with a sense of empathy, and … genuinely care for the community. … Andrew in particular always talks about the ways he is connected with the community.”
Phillips tries to connect with his store’s community by supporting local sports, like broadcasting high school sports every Monday in the store and doing an annual golf outing that benefits a local arm of Food Rescue, an organization that takes unused meals from restaurants and cafeterias and make meals for underprivileged people.
“We're not a chain — we’re not a cookie cutter restaurant,” Phillips said. “We’re involved with local charities. … We try to immerse ourselves in the community. It’s very important to bridge that corporate divide. Anyone can get a beer and a burger anywhere. It’s a matter of showing people what we do.”
Besides his generous spirit, Gibbons said that part of the reason why Phillips has been so successful as a leader is that he doesn’t sweat the small stuff and has incorporated flexible scheduling and a strong work-life balance at his store, where his employees are not afraid to take a sick day or ask for time off.
These were some of the above-and-beyond reasons why Phillips won GM of the Year at Bar Louie’s corporate level in 2019, and has since received multiple accolades from the company, including GM of the Year for his franchise this year. It’s even more impressive considering the fact that Phillips manages one of the largest Bar Louie locations in the system, with three floors, 16,000 square feet, two kitchens, and a rooftop bar.
“People just want to be around him,” Gibbons said. “He's taken the Granger location and turned it into one of the highest-volume Bar Louie’s we have across the company.”
Contact Joanna Fantozzi at [email protected]