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Nation's Restaurant News 2023 Power List Gary Birring Mountain Mike's
Gobinder ‘Gary’ Birring is known for his friendly, warm demeanor and how well he knows his regular customers at Mountain Mike’s.

For Gobinder ‘Gary’ Birring, Mountain Mike’s is a family business

Birring runs one of the most profitable restaurants in the portfolio with his uncle Ranjit Gill

Before joining the family business at a Mountain Mike’s franchise in Stockton, Calif., 16 years ago, Gobinder “Gary” Birring did not have any experience in foodservice. But before long, he learned the ropes as manager at his uncle Ranjit Gill’s store, discovered he had a knack for the job, and now runs one of the most profitable stores in the entire 270-unit Mountain Mike’s portfolio.

Birring is known for his friendly, warm demeanor and how well he knows his regular customers. In fact, Gill said that when the local kids ask their parents for pizza, they ask to go to “Gary’s Pizza,” not Mountain Mike’s.

“I think the relationship with the customers is the most important part of the business,” Gill said. “That's the main key and why the customer comes back. Gary was telling me the other day that a family wanted to go somewhere else with their kids for dinner, and their kids forced them to come get ‘Gary’s Pizza’ just a few days ago.”

Birring’s career with Mountain Mike’s began almost two decades ago, when Gill was told about Mountain Mike’s from a friend. Birring and Gill stopped by a store to try it for themselves and fell in love with both the pizza and the culture of the brand. So they decided to try their luck at running a Mountain Mike’s themselves. Gill recruited his nephew to join the team even though he had no prior hospitality experience and English was his third language; he had a good feeling about Birring’s natural skill.

Gill said their partnership as a family business was a store differentiator from the beginning.

“We can handle the process and control the cost and build up the product and clients the way we want to,” Gill said. “We can’t trust anyone more than us, so that’s why we put Gary onto that position where he can fully operate [the store].”

Mountain Mike’s looks for similar qualities in its GMs as other franchises but aims to recruit and train the right people for leadership positions. According to company president and COO Jim Metevier, the best GMs have a servant’s mindset; they’re expected to be patient and engaging with customers and to be involved with the community outside of the restaurant. One way Birring has done this at his store is when a police officer in the community died and he ran a store fundraiser, giving one day’s profits ($16,000) to the family of the fallen officer.

Even though Birring has had multiple sales milestones and community accomplishments as GM of the Stockton Mountain Mike’s, Metevier said, you’d never know it because he’s humble and acts like just one member of the team.

“Gary is a humble and quiet guy, but if you see him in his restaurant, that store runs like clockwork,” Metevier said. “People always come in and ask for Gary. So you see, even though he’s a behind-the-scenes kind of guy, his heart shows through, and what better type of person to recognize?”

Every year, Metevier and Gill said, Birring takes on more responsibility and is able to develop his store culture more perfectly, which has led to a low turnover rate at his location — an anomaly in this industry.

“My leadership style is democratic, I [encourage] ideas and participation and work very closely with my crew,” Birring said. “I’m proud of my crew that has helped me over time, and I go shoulder to shoulder with them. People that work for me tend to work for me for a long time.”

Given his leadership skills, what’s next for Birring? Would he leave his store or become a district manager?

“If there is a good opportunity,” he said. “But this is a local community where they know me by my name, so that’s why I want to stay here, too.”

Contact Joanna Fantozzi at [email protected]

TAGS: Fast Casual
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