Restaurant Rockstars Episode #313
Awesome Guest Experiences Build Your Restaurant Brand!
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In this business, you can either run a restaurant or create a powerful Restaurant Brand!
There is a big difference between the two.
The image your team & restaurant project to your guests determines guest satisfaction, repeat business, word of mouth and positive reviews. Building a strong and lasting restaurant brand is all about the experience your concept provides.
In this episode of the Restaurant Rockstars Podcast, I’m speaking with Bob Andersen of The Great Greek Mediterranean Grill, a fast-growing franchise focused on building a restaurant brand that delivers a guest experience authentic to Greek lifestyle and culture.
Listen as Bob tell us:
– The importance of creating an authentic vibe & ambiance that draws guests and keeps them coming back
– How communication & keeping guests informed leads to sustaining loyalty
– The benefits of being active and socially minded in the community you serve
– All necessary operating systems for efficiency & consistency across multiple locations
– The reward programs that really work
– How The Great Greek is overcoming today’s restaurant challenges
– Catering as an added Profit Center
And of course, the Franchise opportunity for those interested in this growing concept and restaurant brand.
Watch or Listen on then go out & Rock YOUR Restaurant!
Connect with Bob:
Every Sunday we got around the dinner table usually around, you know, one to three o’clock and we ate great food prepared by my aunts and my grandmother. And that was, you know, our tradition. And that was my expectation of hospitality, right. A lot of love going into make food, food was plentiful was delicious. lot of buzz around the table, very welcoming. If you weren’t part of the family, you were welcome, just like you were part of the family. And so that’s what we tried to do at our restaurants.
Welcome back to the podcast. And thanks for joining me, you know, creating a vibe and an ambiance and an aura is really what brand building is all about. And that’s one of the most difficult things in a restaurant, especially if you’re first starting out. But if you have an existing restaurant, really think about the guest experience because that only leads to satisfied guests repeat business, word of mouth, positive online reviews, all those things come from your branding and the power of the guest experience when they walk in the door. The sights, the sounds, the smells really are your image, okay? And that really translates to the guest experience as well as happy staff. So listen to this week’s episode. It’s really all about that, in addition to all the other challenges of running restaurants today, you’re not gonna want to miss this episode. Stay tuned.
You’re tuned in to the restaurant rockstars podcast powerful ideas to rock your restaurant, here’s your host, Roger Beaudoin.
rockstars your team are the foundation of your business and every shift, they’re leaving impressions with your guests in your restaurant. Now every impression counts and they have to be positive. Training is the key and absolutely essential to providing what I call amazing dining experiences. But effective training takes time and commitment if you had to do it yourself. Well, imagine a staff training tool that’s completely customized to your restaurant, brand, and restaurant. It teaches your entire menu and what makes your restaurant brand special. Then it trains your team your entire team to sell because sales are the lifeblood of your business. Now, it’s also important to recognize rising talent in your organization. This tool also trains future stars to become leaders that can run your business for you. I call that an exit strategy. Now this tool is called SRV. Now learn more at SRVnow.com. That’s srvnow.com Check it out.
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Welcome back, everyone. This is the restaurant rockstars podcast with me today. Mr. Bob Andersen. He is the president of the great Greek Mediterranean grill. I’m really excited to have him here. Because I love talking shop with operators. And this is a cultural podcast. This is an operational podcast, we’re going to talk all about the ins and outs of running a great restaurant. So welcome to the podcast. Bob, how are you today?
I’m doing fantastic Roger, and thank you for having me and look forward to talking with you this morning.
Well, that’s fantastic. Before we get into this, you know, we were just talking earlier about Greece and the lifestyle and the culture and, and family and tradition and how all those things enter into the cuisine itself. And what you’re offering is people you know, people go out to restaurants for a variety of reasons, but there’s sometimes looking to just store to escape their day to day every way. You know what’s going on the problems the ups and downs of life. You know, just take a break and go out to a really great place. And you’re providing that experience. So let’s talk first of all about the Mediterranean or the Greek culture, how that impacts the food itself and the lifestyle. I mean, I have my own feelings about it. But why don’t you share your feelings about it?
Well, I mean, we feel exactly the same way. I mean, we are, you know, as a company, and the people on our team are so passionate, you know, about the food we serve, but also the hospitality, you know, that we deliver, I grew up in a, in an Italian, New York family, and very similar to, you know, Greeks, every Sunday, we got around the dinner table, usually around, you know, one to three o’clock, and we ate great food prepared by my aunts and my grandmother. And that was, you know, our tradition. And that was my expectation of hospitality, right, a lot of love going into make the food, food was plentiful, was delicious, a lot of buzz around the table, very welcoming, if you weren’t part of the family, you were welcome, just like, you were part of the family. And so that’s what we try to do at our restaurants. And we’re very, I would say, very successfully delivering an experience of exceptional Mediterranean food. And also exceptional hospitality, above what you see in most fast casual restaurants, it’s, you know, we want to be the leading brand of fine, fast, casual Mediterranean space. And there’s an opportunity right now, for a company to do that. And we want to do it around the world. And that’s what we’re, our mission is, and we’re on the way doing it. And our customers are responding in that way, that if they, if they’re familiar with the Greek hospitality and Mediterranean hospitality, or if they’re not, they’re responding in the same way that they just love, the level of food experience level of hospitality experience that they’re having at our restaurants.
You know, I love the word hospitality and that you use it so freely, because it is the foundation of our business. And it definitely means, you know, everything that you said it does. But it also goes back to treating every customer as if they’re an old friend, as if they’re not just a first time visitor, that they are a regular or a loyal, you know, customer and that sort of thing, treating everyone special, as if they are family, because this is a family, you know, it’s a family business that we’re in, you know, and sharing, not just the cuisine, any restaurant can serve food and drink, but delivering a true rare, you know, element of hospitality really sets a restaurant apart. So I get the feeling that that’s exactly the experience, you know, at the great Greek Mediterranean grill. Let’s talk a little bit about benefits of the Mediterranean diet, it is healthy, let’s talk about some of the menu items in the foods and, and what goes into that, and the preparation and just the a lot of these foods go back like 1000s of years. You know, it’s like it’s it’s, the traditional Greek cuisine has a very noble history to it.
Right, here’s that, you know, and I love that question, because something that we get often is obviously, as a Franchise Group, we’re talking to people from all over the world, all different countries and backgrounds. And you know, although it says Greek, in our name, we’re finding the Mediterranean diet and the Mediterranean recipes are really cross cultural. While they might be little differences, how they prepare it in the Lebanese diet, and maybe the Greek or even what, you know, what you might see in the Italian Mediterranean diet, it all comes back to the same thing, it comes back to simple, fresh ingredients, right prepared with a lot of love, right? Doing it every day. So it’s fresh and delicious. So you’re taking advantage of really that special flavor that you get now the result of that is having healthy ingredients, okay, or ingredients that are good for you. And they’re also tastes amazingly delicious. So so for us how that’s translating into the restaurant is our consumer feels like they can come visit us twice a day, three times, four times a week. And that’s really helping driving our business usually an odd been Roger in the burger business, that pizza business, the chicken business, you know, and those concepts you see people are on a schedule, right? I can only eat a burger once a week, once every pizza just once a month. So I have this you know, everyone’s on a food schedule. Now the food schedule in the Mediterranean space and with the great Greek it’s all broken up because we’ll see people come for lunch and get get a salad that come back for dinner, and they get a lamb entree. And so they’re going to still eat healthy diet, but they’re also going to get great flavor. And of course you’re going to get exceptional hospitality. And it’s like any other brand I’ve been with the incidence of repeat customers. Coming back in is a mess. I think that has to do With the diet, and then the experience they have in the restaurant, and then it’s food they can take home and be proud to serve their family take to their office proud to serve, you know, the employees or associates. And the other thing about this space that is just amazing, to me, it’s very, it’s very cross cultural, it reaches into so many different cultures, this type and style of food. And it’s easy, it’s not complicated, it’s not threatening. So all those things, too, for us are coming together. It’s like a tsunami, and really driving the success of our brand. But at the heart of it is really high quality ingredients that are made fresh daily, and serve to people with a big smile and a lot of love. And that’s where people are really resonating, and we don’t discount the smile and the love. Because this also can be, you know, medicine to the world, right? You know, people come in to eat for certain reasons, sometimes it’s celebrating, sometimes get down, and we want to be there for both occasions to celebrate or just pick somebody up.
Yeah, that’s a great point you’re making, especially in a, you know, an emerging franchise or if someone is a new franchisee, they want to know that the business is going to be there. And that, you know, repeat business is very important. It’s not just okay, get them in, get them out. And you know, there’s not an endless supply of customers, you really want to build loyalty with your customers. We’re going to talk about your loyalty programs, of course. But let’s go back to the brand history. Tell us about great Greek Mediterranean grill, when did it start? Tell us the story of the company, if
you would? Yeah. Interestingly enough, you know, the great Greek is just starting to get on some people’s radar right now, just because the tremendous success and growth that will have and, but the brand really started in May, we just celebrated our 11th birthday. In May it started in Henderson, Nevada was a Greek Armenian family started the original concept and recipes that we still execute. Today, it started in a 14 150 square foot location. That store still exists today. It’s actually one of our top performing stores, we’ve added four more restaurants in Las Vegas, around it with a partnership, Nick and Trent Jones, Nick and Trent took over that business in 2016. Trent had a very successful background as an entrepreneur and in the real estate real estate development side. But Nick was, was a casino operator had a lot of Vice President experience at the casino level with some of the biggest casinos in the world. So Nick came in and really embraced the food, and didn’t change anything with the recipes, but prepared the system of delivering the foods so the brand could eventually expand both at that location, expand the sales and then expand into other locations. So that’s what they started in January of 2016 and 2018. They they partnered with the United Franchise Group, and United Franchise Group, it’s been around for 35 years. Plus we operate in 65 different countries, we have 100, we have I think 1800 units operating. And we have different divisions, we have a retail division, we have a consulting division, where I think four of those brands are world leaders in their space, whether it’s signs, promotions, and then the food division is fairly new at USG. And, you know, that’s where a great Greek is. And we have an amazing team that we’ve assembled for this brand to really grow it and have tremendous success with the brand. And so kind of that’s where we stay today. Last year, we introduced our brand tagline that really, I think captures the essence of the brand. And that is live your life deliciously
about that. Certainly an interesting history of the brand. And it really comes down to foundational systems, of course, we’re going to talk a little bit about those systems. But anyone interested in this franchise can be sure that this company obviously has a lot of experience behind it. It’s not just a new startup. And one thing that I was really impressed with that I saw on your website, you were ranked the top, you know, by Entrepreneur Magazine and 2022, top new and emerging franchise. So that says a lot about your company and how it operates professionalism. You know the systems are dialed and all that. So I’d like to get into that a little bit more. But before we do, let’s talk about the vibe and the ambiance of the store. We talked about the lifestyle, the culture of Greece, and you want to give people an authentic experience and they walk into a store. So it’s about the music, it’s about the decor, it’s about the feeling, it’s about the aromas of the food, it’s about, you know, it’s about the flavors, and it’s about the people. It’s all those things, but as if I’ve never been into a great Greek grill, which I haven’t, but I’d like to try and describe to me what I’m going to experience when I walk into a typical great Greek Mediterranean grill.
Yeah, I think you know, One of the things that our team’s going to try to deliver when you walk in is really to engage all the senses, you know, of our guests when they come in, whether it’s their first time or their 1000s time come into our restaurant. So when you walk into the restaurant, immediately you’re gonna smell you know, some of our great proteins, you know, whether it’s lamb or chicken or steak that a marinated cooking on our grill, or our Euro me cooking on. So there’s going to be a visual of that you Romi but you’re certainly going to have some some delicious smelling food so that live your life deliciously starts hitting you right in the face, the interior itself is really going to be vibrant and bright, it’s going to be, I would say old world modern, right, it’s like, you’re gonna see a big white brick wall, you’re gonna see some, you know, wood elements as well. But it’s also going to have a little bit of a contemporary feel, and buzz and lightness to it, which really starts to grab hold of our guests, when they first come in. Now, what we’re doing today, Roger is what I find really exciting, is as we build new restaurants, they’re all distinctively great Greek, but we have usually a local painter comes in, and we started painting, whether it’s olive branches, olive trees, love messages, into our spaces to make them all somewhat unique. At the same time, also be distinctively great Greek. So you’re gonna get that feel. And then also, you’re going to get a very welcoming, very welcoming feeling, our team is going to greet you, right, when you walk in the door. You know, we call it kind of like a, it’s a reunion with our guests. It’s like, you know, you haven’t seen a friend for for a long time or a family member, you’re like, Hey, how are you like, that’s the kind of feeling that we want to get to there’s a, there’s a good buzz in the store, our teams are usually walking around brisk delivering food, we deliver all the food to the tables, the customers don’t come up or wait and get called a number we deliver it out to them, they get their food on a real plate with a real fork real knife. And then when they’re the if they’ve ordered an appetizer, Ziqi or hummus, and they got a dessert that’s going to get staged out to you, Roger, just like you was sitting in a full service restaurant, you know, your appetizers or salad or soup would come first, then would come your entree, and then would come you a desert, our team cleans up after you we don’t even have trash receptacles in our restaurant. So the service experience is going to be the closest to a full service restaurant for our guests. And at the same time, they get this high quality ingredient delicious tasting food. So that’s the experience, you know, we put together and of course, when they leave we you know, we feel like we want to give them a hug. But we give them a nice, you know, goodbye, we thank them for their business, and we welcome them back, you know, for their next meal. And that’s, that’s, you know, it’s in the world of technology creeping in our space. Yeah, I see the more technology is coming in. And the more other operators are looking not to have contact with the guests at the great Greek, we’re looking to enhance that experience with the guests by having personal contact.
Wow, that’s the best, the best of both worlds, you know, you’re providing an experience, not just food, but it’s also quick service experience with the quality which is rare in the fast casual business, you know, that’s definitely a competitive advantage for sure. You know, I remember being a kid going to a Greek pizza place, you know, and you walked in the door and the music was playing and there was you mentioned painters coming in? Well, this place I can remember to this day, they had a muralist, I guess come in and they painted this whole Greek countryside thing. And you could see the Athenian capital in the background. I think I remember the Parthenon, but you could also see the port and the water and, you know, islands off in the distance, and it really created his vibe in this ambience. So maybe you’re doing a little of that as well.
Yeah, absolutely. We actually have a restaurant in Las Vegas, in fact, that has an olive tree right in the middle of it alive. And so that was really the entry into Hey, we don’t have to have an olive tree in every restaurant, but we can make that restaurant unique to the marketplace. So that’s what we’re trying to do we try to incorporate what might be special about a given area that we’re opening that restaurant, but also bring some really cool excuse me Greek elements to it and it’s so far it’s been well received and we get a lot of comments on it. So we’ll continue to do that. You mentioned music, you know, we don’t we blast you know, contemporary Greek music into our restaurant. So it also enhances you know, that feel as well. very upbeat. So it’s a it continues to keep our vibe but it’s done in a very authentic way. Yeah,
when you run a franchise you want things the quality is certain coming through but then the systems have to be somewhat simplistic and not complex so they can easily be duplicated. And Greek cuisine is noted for its sauces and its spices and and the detail is certainly there so how do you how do you marry those things getting the quality getting the detail yet quick service with the, you know, the nuances really makes Greek and Mediterranean cuisine what it is.
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Yeah, I mean, first, you know, on our side, we have an incredibly experienced team. And what our team, you know, has learned over the years is, it all starts with selecting the right people to execute those systems. And those menus and those recipes, we can have the most well written recipes and system but if we don’t have the right people who are committed and passionate about delivering great food and great experience, then it breaks down. So we spend a lot of time making sure you know, we have the right people, we have an amazing training staff, obviously, our systems, over 11 years have been well developed and well established along with our recipes. So now it’s just plug and play the right people training them up. And as I mentioned, we have a fantastic team that that we’ve assembled, that’s able to really get in and trainer and coach up our operators, their managers, their frontline employees, and you know, across the board, we’re having tremendous consistency of delivering the experience we want. And that’s really, it’s a testament to our franchise operators, who have the passion and want to deliver that, you know, as you know, this business, there’s a lot of monotony in it, right doing the same thing over and over and over again. And so we have to continuously support and emphasize that this is the result of doing over and over and over and over again, don’t change a thing. Just follow it and you’ll have success. And you know, our operators believe it and they see it and they execute it. And it’s and it’s showing if you look at our, our, you know, our aggregated ratings from multiple places across the board, you know, they’re for four and a half stars. So it’s a very consistent execution. As we get the feedback from those guests around the country.
Now your company is known for retaining and celebrating staff, I want to talk about that, because that’s a that’s something really near and dear to my heart when I ran restaurants, you know, I built what I call the Dream Team. And recognition rewards were very important. Everyone works for a paycheck. But people really work for something more they, they want to feel like they fit into a place they want to feel like there’s opportunity to move ahead. They want to have that camaraderie with the team. They want to feel the team spirit and they want to feel that even if it’s monotonous, it can still be fun. This is a business of fun. It’s a business of passion. Tell us about the philosophies and perhaps the onboarding and training that gets your people there. And then once we cover that on a talk a little bit about solutions to the labor crisis, because that’s something every restaurant is dealing with. But let’s let’s pretend that doesn’t exist. For now let’s talk about how your company operates and how it trains and onboard and you know, the retention piece is so important because this is a high turnover business. But let’s talk about celebrating staff. But how do you get there, Bob?
Yeah, great question. And it’s something obviously you know, everyone in the restaurant business and most retail businesses are talking about, you know, today It all starts, you know, for us, culturally, you know, with United Franchise Group and you know, the people who work for our company, we require to have passion, right? If we’re interviewing people and passion doesn’t come across and, and inspiration that people want to grow, that person usually doesn’t, you know, make it onto our team. So for us, it always starts with the passion, the desire to do something special. And that comes to skill set, right, you need the skill set, but I’d much rather have someone passionate, who has a desire to grow than someone who has no passion or desire with high skill set. So culturally, our organization celebrates that. And those are the people that that we bring in and not step out forward, when we understand, hey, who’s a good fit for us, culturally, it’s now being able to recruit cultural fits that have the technical skill set to be successful in the position. So we have a pretty extensive interview process, to make sure that you know, people who are not a fit, don’t don’t make it through and you know, I have a gentleman we, we get around, he had 20 interviews, okay. That’s not common, it just kind of it’s a different story. But most people will talk to a good eight people, whether they are formal or informal. I like to do informal stuff, have team members call people. And my question is, is this a fit for the team? Not about this, they have the skill set, of course you want to they deserve, they understand what the role is, and but do they fit the team. And that’s what we’ve had success is to make sure we have people who fit each other, they’re there to support each other, whatever it takes attitude, as you know, in this business, it’s, it’s up and down, up and down. There’s no right, right. So people have to be able to be flexible, adjust to that. It’s right now or you lose, you know, and so those are the kinds of people that we bring in, and then we train them up, you know, we train them up on soft skills, we expect them to bring the hard skills, and the soft skills are bringing that hospitality to now transferred to our franchisees. Right, so now our franchise operators, we look for the same kind of elements, right? What are they passionate about the business. So someone who comes to me and says, I just want to make money, maybe not the best fit, no one comes to me and says, you know, I have a passion for food, I have a passion to give back to the community. And I like to make money. That’s my, you know, that’s a perfect person. And so that’s what we look for when we interview them. I’m not even asking, what’s your restaurant experience? I want to know, have you grown? Have you hired train grown teams? Do you lead teams? What’s your experience in that, because I can teach you how to cut lettuce, how to cut me and how to grill the meat, and how to put a smile on your face and certain foods. So for us, it’s looking at really all those key soft skills, assuming that they have most of, you know, hard, technical skills, and then we sell a vision to that person. That’s part of it. Right? If you know, Raju, and you sit in, and you’re in an interview, you’re looking at a person across from you, and we’ve all done and you’d say, either you see yourself working for this person, or you don’t. And we have to make sure that you know where a great employer or manager or leader and that was showing that individual a path. Right? What’s the path to success, no one starts in a restaurant wanting to be a cashier the rest of their life, work on a cook grill the rest of life or a manager, they usually have aspirations to get up to the next level, McDonald’s built a great company on that concept of just training people through their system. And that’s the approach we take is always shown what what’s your next step? What’s your pathway. Now there are people who are just content with those positions. And that’s great, well, happy to have those people as well. But most people want to see a path, they want to be part of something exciting. And then the last thing specifically for this brand, it is a really nice place to work. If you’re in the restaurant business, we have great great management, great leadership, a lot of respect a lot of hard work, and then our customer base is amazing, you know that people who want to eat great food, and they want to, you know, take care of themselves. And so it just makes for a nice environment, you know, for a for a restaurant employee. So it starts at the top, basically, it’s cultural, all the way down, and we have to support it, whether you’re the president of the organization, you’re one of our operations, marketing people all the way to transferring that to our franchise operators.
Thank you for sharing that. I think that’s so important for our audience to hear. Because now it’s more important than ever to have that approach with management and like you said, lead by example, and top down is so important, but in the past, you know, there are managers that delegate then there are managers that empower and those are two very different things. And in my mind, you know, anybody can tell somebody what to do and delegate a job. But it’s a rare manager that can give someone responsibility, show them how to do something, nurture, develop and empower them, and then recognize and reward that achievement. Those are two completely different things. And it sounds like that’s the philosophy of your company.
Absolutely. And just to take that step further, I mean, we have a gentleman we just brought on, he’s in training. So I’m talking to my, you know, my leader in operations, like, you know, let’s make sure we touch base with them, let’s make sure training is going well see if the same thing we need, we have another person, we’re onboarding on Friday, I’m going to make a call to him, just welcome him to the team. It’s those little things, you know, talk about hospitality, just those little things, of just acknowledging someone and how important they are going to be or are to us to achieve our objectives, our goals, to grow the brand is incredibly, it’s incredibly important. And I get feedback on anything from people who’ve been on my team throughout the year. Through the years, it’s they appreciate being acknowledged and recognized. And I just find that is so simple. And the more we do is, because we have
Absolutely, let’s talk about some of the challenges the business right now, specifically the labor crisis, how has that affected the company? And how are you dealing with it? What are some of your best practices, obviously, costs are higher than ever, we have to pay more for labor now to compete with other industries that have traditionally paid more, a lot of exits from this business, people going to other industries. But again, the culture of the business, again, is foundational, how you treat your people is foundational. And you know, the grass is not always greener, if you’re doing all the right things here, and a lot of people find that out. But how are you dealing with the challenge?
Yeah, I think emphasizing what we just spoke about, right? Finding great people in the restaurant business to work for you is nothing new. It’s predates pre COVID. Yes, it does, more bodies to bring into your restaurant. But really assembling a team that can deliver the experience you want was always needed a lot of work. And it started with all those foundational things. So to me, any restaurant organization, if they don’t have that foundation, they need to establish that because they’re going to lose out to the companies who are and it’s going to be much more difficult. Today’s environment, there’s just fewer people, right. And so it’s more important that you can emphasize those differences, we’re going to treat your respect, you are going to be part of you know, the family and the team, you’re going to work in a very nice environment, we’re going to give you flexible scheduling hours and work with you all those things that great employers have done for a while to recruit people, we just want to emphasize the things. You know, interestingly enough, everyone’s paying high wages, and most people are not making that decision, just based on the wage unless you’re far off. So you have to be competitive, where the wages in those markets, it’s different in Houston, Texas than it is in Charleston, South Carolina, or Cago, Illinois. And so our operators, and our team need to really adjust to that to be competitive, but it still comes back to emphasizing those core things and showing people a pathway. And then then get after it and do everything you say you’re going to do to keep them engaged and keep them hired. So for us, it used to be Roger, when we went into a new market or opened a new store, we had a grand opening marketing launch plan for either that location and that market. Today we have to marketing launches, we have one aim that attracting employees, prior to the launch to attract a consumer. So that has shifted for us in some cases. You know, we’ve you know, we’ve got teams out on the street just going out and approach and we whatever it takes to do to get someone interested to come into an interview and hire him on the spot is what our team do. We have a, I would say maybe 15 different tactics that are deployed, not all at the same time, not even all but but their tactics and tools that our operators can use to help them get in front of those people. And then it comes back to again, those talking about those fundamental things that person across from you needs to say, I believe in that person, and I want to work for that person. And that’s ultimately what we try to coach our operators up to.
Have you had challenges with supply chain shortages on the items that you’re bringing into the stores? And besides that, have you seen dramatic price increases as well? And how have your company dealt with that?
Yeah, I mean, I’ll start with the first one. I mean, the price increases it’s affecting everyone whether it’s shortage and product, issues with the manufacturing, labor and manufacturing, labor and shipping, you know, it’s all those things. So sometimes a product not making it to, you know, our location is not because there’s a shortage, but all those all those elements, and that is creating price increases. And so, you know, we’ve seen things go up as high as 30%. And, you know, typically it’s 10 15%, a couple of different times, I expect we’re going to see another price increase here on items, probably hearing in the early summer, is what we’re hearing. So our team is gone out and we reengaged our vendors, we’re renegotiating contracts to put our operators in a better position. You know, we’re looking at things like margin schedule with our broad liner to, you know, a fixed price per case, just to mitigate some of that risk that we have moving forward. So we’ve been able to really curtail it for, for a small brand, we’ve been able to partner with, you know, some, some group person purchasing organizations and really position ourselves to do the best thing possible. So we are seeing it, unfortunately, we can’t pass all of that price increase on to our consumers. But as you know, you’re hearing and it’s true with our brand we are passing some of that cost on so our conversation is, although we’re passing that cost, we need to now create more value, one of the things we want to that you’ve seen a lot of brands doing is this making portion size smaller. And so we’re sticking with the same quality ingredients, the same food philosophy, the same portion size, the same big plates. And you know, for us, our guests get it and they’re willing to pay a little bit more to have, you know, that great tasting food that’s fresh, and it’s, you know, it’s a great ingredient. So it’s a push and pull, you made
an excellent point about doing everything you can to minimize margin decreases and trying to maintain those margins for your stores. Like whether you have one store or 200 stores, it’s so important, the independent operator really doesn’t have the economies of scale that you have. But again, it’s like you have to know your weekly finances, you got to know what your food cost is, you got to know what your labor cost is, you got to dial in all your systems, just to be able to, like I said, maintain those margins. You know, communication is super important right now, as well. At first, it was the COVID thing, okay, once the dust settled, and customers started coming back into restaurants, whether, you know, there were shutdowns temporarily, or whether everyone went to curbside pickup and delivery and that sort of model. It’s like we had to community communicate the safety practices to the consumer, what we were doing to maintain, you know, the health and safety of our employees, and the health and safety of our guests and all that sort of thing. Now, it’s about communicating about the challenges that we’re having, and telling customers we’re doing everything we can to hold our pricing where it is. And these are the challenges we’re up against yet we really appreciate your business, thank you for supporting us, how does your company communicate these things we’re talking about to the end guests.
You know, we do it at the at the front lines and manager level of of the restaurant. And you know, as you mentioned, and I just stated earlier, that communication with the guests, whether it’s about your product, or how you’re servicing them, or what they can expect is what creates that value, right to value proposition. So our you know, our whole focus is on that value piece. So that includes all those things that we mentioned. So So you know, we’ll communicate, obviously, verbally, with our gas, we’re communicate through having messaging, you know, in our restaurant, we’re communicate through our database, about different issues. And so we continue to do that. And it’s really happens on on the front line. So again, it comes down, it comes through the operators, to the guests, but communicating with the guests is nothing new for operators in front lines. So it’s it’s a rather effortless transition to get the information. And then you know, putting up messaging in the restaurant.
You mentioned earlier, it’s very important for, you know, your different stores to be active in the communities that they serve, what are some of the things or the directives that you see happening and that you perhaps pass on to your stores that you’re doing locally?
Yeah, I love that question. You know, I tell, I tell people, when I first got into this business, part of my career, I went and operated restaurants and I did it solely for financial reasons. I was one of those, one of those. And what I recognized was into about, you know, month nine to month 12, that the other is much more rewarding, given back to my team, my customers in the community, and hearing those comments of love your food, I love your team, you’re the best person to work for. Those kinds of things were much more rewarding than any dollar that I made. I did find though, the more I got those comments, the more dollars I’d made.
Right? So direct connection there.
So the so the focus got shifted on on that. And so we have, the way we do it at the great Greek is everyone shows up usually with their own area that they’re passionate about to want to give back, whether it’s to their employees, and the community, some people in the community, it might be a church, it might be a school band, it might be some of the great organizations that are supporting breast cancer or leukemia, it usually usually reverts back to what is that life experience of that individual. And we support that. And so, you know, it’s flexible in the way but we want that operator to get involved with, you know, something that they’re passionate about, and then community items like schools and churches and those those types of organization where you really supporting the church, there’s usually a food bank, you know, for for us back to the community, in that area. So we’ll have a host of things, obviously, you know, I’d like people to choose, you know, usually two, maybe three, so they really can put a good effort. But it usually starts with that one initiative that drives that individuals experience. And then it’s off to, sometimes you’re approached, you know, when you’re in a restaurant, if you operated restaurants, you’re approached by people in the community on a daily basis on wanting help or assistance. And, you know, picking and choosing what might have the most impact to that community would be important. We have veterans and they want to support, you know, veteran, there’s so many different things and so many ways. You know, if people want to give back, I tell them, there’s no better place to do it. And in the restaurant business,
doing good by doing good. Absolutely. All right, that’s great. Let’s talk about unnecessary technology. You know, the pandemic has really shifted that in a lot of operations that really didn’t have online ordering before and third party delivery, and all this, all these new technologies have emerged, what’s really important for your stores, what has really worked, whether it’s pre pandemic, or during the pandemic, or even right now what I mean, it’s shifted the whole way we do business.
Yeah, well, I mean, we’re really focused on technology right now, that makes us more more efficient, right, more efficient, really, on the back side of our business, you know, our philosophy is, you know, high tech, but high touch, right, we don’t want to give up, you know, we go back, we, you know, with kiosks in our restaurant and those kinds of things. And, yeah, we’re really not there from a mindset people can easily order online. So we’re making those friction points easier for our guests, like, how is it easier for them to use us so if Roger is in his car, he wants to hold up on his mobile order something from the great Greek on the way home from work, we want to make that really simple and easy. So those are really the primary technologies. Secondary, you know, I would say are things that make us more efficient, integrate us better into our systems to make more efficient operator operations for our operators. So customer touchpoints, first, and then really efficiency and operations second, and then, you know, everything else after that is, you know, things that on a case by case basis, we look but the ultimate goal is how do we make it easier to either do business for us, or easier to work and get the information we need the insights, we need to make better decisions.
Perfect. Let’s talk a little bit about loyalty and rewards, the way you operate your business clearly leads to repeat business, but then the icing on the cake is really the rewards program that definitely gives them incentive to come back in what has worked for you and tell us about that program.
Yeah, I mean, this is this is something we’re debating right now, actually, and looking at I think we’re at at the answer of it. But you know, loyalty rewards, as you know, is highly based on points system. I think American Airlines might have really years and years ago kind of started that, you know, gather points, you get a free ticket to Starbucks has an amazing platform to but people use Starbucks every day, gathering those points for us when we went out and talk to, you know, our guests, especially in the restaurants that have been with us for a while, you know, we saw that they just want to get recognized for their visits. So we’re shifting really to a visit base platform where we can introduce to them different items, different incentive incentives based on their visits. And so, you know, for us, we’re in the process of beta testing and really starting to roll out a more robust loyalty program based on visits connecting engagement, delivering our message of live your life deliciously
Let’s talk about catering. Now, that’s another, you know, I’m a big believer in multiple profit centers and restaurants and catering clearly is, you know, another way of, you know, going off site and delivering the same quality, but it’s also a marketing tool introduces people to the restaurant brings people back to the restaurant once they’ve experienced, you know, the cuisine and the hospitality delivered by the people. What is it to start a catering operation simply and how can you create, or I should say, recreate all of your recipes in volume so that you can take it to a large event and that sort of thing?
Yeah, it’s one of the opportunities roger that we see, you know, as a brand, that we really haven’t scratched the surface of the opportunities that catering brings to, you know, our operators and each individual unit. So at the beginning of this year, we started reworking our catering program to enhance it. We just completed that at the end of this first quarter, going into the third quarter, we’ll be rolling out into our restaurants, some PRP, some messaging, to really emphasize our ability to cater. The benefits of it are everything that you mentioned, first of all, you leverage, you leverage your facilities, you leverage your labor to a great extent, you might have a five person catering event, you might have a 500 person catering event. And, you know, the more you grow that business, the more impact that has on your restaurant, financially. But also the ancillary benefits are exactly what you mentioned, the opportunity to introduce people to our food and our brands who have not had it before, or they’ve had it. And it’s been a while since they’ve come into the restaurant or it gets them reengaged. So it’s definitely an area that that we’re focused on, we’re already starting to have some great success, we’re really excited about, you know, our revamped program, our food travels incredibly well. I mentioned earlier, it’s cross cultural, what I didn’t mention is that if you are a vegetarian, or flexitarian, or pescatarian, any of those carians, or you’re a meat eater, like I am, okay, we accommodate all those dietary requirements. So it makes it really easy, especially for for employers today, when they bring food and they really need to be cognizant of, you know, who has their work, you know, their workplace and who they’re serving food to. We have beautiful clean look and food that tastes great, whether you’re a vegetarian, or want meat, we can accommodate that. So it really presents well for all occasions. And that’s a huge advantage for the brand. So we’ll continue to push that out, going into the fourth quarter, really at the end of the third quarter here, we’re really start ramping up the messaging to amplify the awareness of of our catering program, which is very exciting for our operators, and especially for our team.
Let’s talk about your growth plans. Now. There’s currently around 20 stores operating and you’re opening 20 more quickly, what’s the timeline for that? And is it a regional expansion? Do you see national expansion in the future? Tell us about that. Yeah,
it all starts with what I shared with you earlier, you know, the brand vision really is to be the world’s leading fat, fine, fast, casual Mediterranean restaurant. So because of being part of United Franchise Group, we have resources all over the US. But we also have all over the world. So our growth trajectory right now is actually worldwide. We have a group in Canada that we just brought on, and there’ll be developing in Ontario, and we’re already having some good success there. We’re also looking to do deals in, in Europe and amazing, and in Australia, and we have dedicated teams in those markets already, again, emphasizing the strength of you know, our great organization, USG, but what’s most exciting right now is what’s happening domestically. We have 21 restaurants currently operating in United States from you know, we’re in Florida, we’re here in Texas, we’re in Michigan, we’re spread out. All over the US we’re going to be opening 20 to 25 restaurants this year is where it will come in from California to New Jersey, and everywhere in between. So we have the team we have the resources and fortunate for us. And the ability to do that at a very high level, will will will almost triple in size this year in a sales component because we continue to keep growing our sales year over year as well. So it’s very exciting and we’re growing our team and we’re able to grow throughout the United States in the world. And again, it starts with having great franchise operators and we have some excellent people who are really driving that growth for us.
Well, this has been a tremendous episode, we’ve learned a lot. We talked about best practices, we talked about how you develop a team, and how you get the most out of your people. And I really love the fact that it really wasn’t about experience. It’s really about personality approach in a true desire to serve the customer. And that word hospitality really came through in this episode. You’re really inspiring guy. Bob, thanks so much for being on the podcast.
Well, thank you for having me. I enjoyed the conversation, as well.
While this could be a new opportunity for those operators out there, I love the way this company is run. And it’s clearly professional organization. So I think we all learned a lot. That was the restaurant rockstars podcast, we can’t wait to see you in the next episode. Stay well, everyone. Thanks, Bob, for sharing your insights into brand building and creating that image and or an ambiance that really draw people in and take them away from their day to day and really give them a new experience that only leads to positive word of mouth and repeat business, and positive online reviews you’ve got all wrapped up at great Greek Mediterranean grill. I appreciate you being on the podcast. Thanks also to the sponsors of this week’s episode, Popmenu Smithfield Culinary, Davo and SRV the restaurant training app found at srvnow.com. Don’t miss the next episode, we’ll see you then.
People go to restaurants for lots of reasons for fun celebration for family for lifestyle. What the customer doesn’t know is the 1000s of details it takes to run a great restaurant. This is a high risk high failed business. It’s hard to find great staff. costs are rising and profits are disappearing. It’s a treacherous road and SMART operators need a professional guide. I’m Roger. I’ve started many highly successful high profit restaurants that I’ve now sold for millions of dollars. I’m passionate about helping other owners and managers not just succeed, but knock it out of the park. I created a game changing system and it’s filled with everything I’ve learned in over 20 years running super profitable, super fun restaurants. Everything from creating high profit menu items and cost controls to staff training where your teams serve and sell to marketing hooks, money maximizing tips and efficiencies across your operation. What does this mean to you more money to invest in your restaurant to higher management team time, freedom and peace of mind. You don’t just want to run a restaurant. You want to dominate your competition and create a lasting legacy. Join the academy and I’ll show you how it’s done.
Thanks for listening to the restaurant rockstars podcast for lots of great resources, head over to restaurant rockstars.com See you next time.
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