A paradigm shift for growing catering sales in a franchise ecosystem


Growing restaurant catering sales inside a franchise ecosystem

Through my work at MonkeyMedia Software , I’m inspired to write this essay to address the ongoing confusion, distress, frustration and communication disconnect that I often see inside many franchise systems that I work with, when it comes to growing catering sales on top of current franchisee assets.

I feel obligated to share these thoughts with our restaurant community, because I have been very fortunate to not only come to understand the business challenges, but in fact, I have been given the opportunity to solve for these business challenges through my work in the restaurant industry.

 I am not trying to lay blame on these issues.  I simply wish to bring visibility to the reasons why I think things might be the way they are when it comes to growing catering sales, and I wish to propose a solution or perspective that perhaps we may not have considered.

 I hope you will send me your thoughts on the subject matter below.

There are no secrets, but intellectual property counts

It’s no big secret that the franchising model for growing restaurant companies continues to be a key driver in our industry. Just look around. Everyone is franchising. After all, who wouldn’t want to collect an ongoing annuity based royalty for the licensing of valuable intellectual property?  The restaurant industry is no different from the music industry, the movie industry or even the software industry.  It’s an industry full of creativity, processes, proprietary flavors and culture. It only makes good business sense to leverage those items  across the globe . At least, it looks that way on paper. It’s easy, right?  The plan is critical.

A franchisee is an important animal in the restaurant industry.  Why?

Read the whole essay here

Let’s Raise Kids to Be Entrepreneurs – Back To Basics

Well, as many of you know, my team at MonkeyMedia Software is working on a film called Back To Basics.  It started as a simple idea really.  Inspired by my learning as an entrepreneur navigating the complex boardrooms of America’s largest restaurant corporations.

The story line is real.  It comes from personal experience.  Lucky for me, the storytellers in our film agreed.

The premise of the story is compelling.  Really compelling.  Because as our restaurant corporations are focused on increasing short-term share value, our managers have boxed themselves in.  A focus on short-term share price forces short-term thinking because the financial markets always respond positively to short-term profits.

And so, because our boardrooms are populated with highly trained business sharpshooters who are great at applying formal business academics, we may be creating a “disconnect” in our organizations.

This “disconnect” is causing an imbalance in our boardrooms.  The entrepreneurship that lives at our restaurant unit level must be recognized and nurtured.  Our restaurant community must hold responsibility to make sure that as we pursue emerging markets in other parts of the world, we in fact invest in our people at home, at the restaurant level, so that they can join tomorrow’s leaders at the highest level of our corporations.

This will result in a healthier perspective in our boardrooms of the future.  The reason we need that is to make sure we compete fiercely at home in our mature markets as we expand globally in emerging markets.  We cannot do both without putting a plan in place for our young entrepreneurs who simply have not had the opportunity to be formally trained in business.

If you would like to read the long version of the film’s premise, please visit the website for the film.  All the net proceeds from this project will be donated to the NRAEF.

I saw the video below and it really inspired me today.   I hope you enjoy it too!

Footsteps in the Sand

I have been away from Vancouver since August 1. This year, I scheduled a beautiful summer vacation with my family in Maui. Certainly, after flying close to 50,000 miles during the first half of 2012, I needed a break. Especially since I have another 50,000 miles to fly during the last quarter of this year!

Don’t get me wrong. I am not complaining. Not at all. I am grateful for my job and I love my work at MonkeyMedia Software. I really do. But, I have been running hard. Really hard. Growing a company uses an incredible amount of life energy. I am positive you can relate. I mean, so much goes into providing great customer service, generating sales growth, managing costs, margins, bankers and keeping our people interested and motivated towards our higher purpose in business. So much goes into keeping shareholders informed and policies and procedures enforced not to mention trying to understand changing market conditions. It just takes a lot.

After I arrived in Maui, it took me a whole week just to get my brain to stop buzzing. A whole week to figure out how to get that voice in my head to simply stop the trivial chatter that hits my ears like a heavy rainstorm. Why does that voice always focus on trivial matters? It’s silly really; especially when you already have everything in place. I have to work so hard at home to manage that noise. An entire week went by before that noise in my head finally settled down and made space for more important life matters. Important thoughts. I forgot that I was actually capable.

So, this year, my vacation in paradise really got me thinking. After snorkelling with turtles, seeing bottle-nose dolphins at Molikini, hiking on volcanos and simply gazing at the night sky, I finally created some space in my brain to think about the things that really matter in my life.

Before I tell you about that, check out my turtle friend that I met while floating in the waves. He’s so friendly, so beautiful and just so graceful. Made my day! I am proud of this picture that I took with an underwater digital camera. Great technology these digital cameras!

I’ll pause here for a moment.

Ok, back to the things that really matter.

My health. That’s it really. Nothing else really matters in the end. Without it, none of it comes together. It’s not to be taken for granted. If you have your health, you have everything you need. All that matters.

It’s not that nothing else is important. There are many important things. Assuming that I get to keep my health, (and we all do until we don’t have it anymore), I made a commitment to myself on this holiday that I would take a different approach to my buzzing, busy brain upon my return home next week. After all, nothing will have changed much. The emails will still pour in, the telephone will ring off the hook, money will still need to flow and people will come and go. The world just doesn’t wait.

I was born an entrepreneur. For better or for worse. Born to suffer in the endless abyss of business. The pursuit of sales and the resistance of expenses. Well, in order to have any business success, for any of us, we have to struggle. It’s a fight. There is no other way. As an entrepreneur, I can tell you that the journey is long, difficult and torturous. It takes a generation to build an organization never mind a legacy. So, this got me thinking alot about my exit plan. Not today. But if not for my exit, how can my business grow? Clearly, if I am ever able to remove the business manacles from my ankles, my “ball and chain”, I will have succeeded in shaping my vision. No? If I don’t help my team reach the end goal of my exit, then I will be shackled. There is no questions about that. I’ll need to be strong. I’ll need to be more humble. More generous. More……? I have to become a better leader. That’s all. I need to let go. Yes, letting go. That’s the key.

Well, I am not quite there yet. No way. Not until I have fulfilled my community obligations. That means that I will have to have delivered on my vision. My commitments to my customers, my team and my family. But with what plan? I’d love to tell you that this is all well calculated. But I can’t. I am just “winging it”. Going on intuition. Survival skills. It’s how I have always operated; and it has served me well. So, what next? I can’t continue on the same assumptions as I have for the last twenty five years. No way. The world is different! I am different! Change is inevitable.

I’ve got to take it down to an actionable item. After all, that’s how I have been trained. Take action! Right?

What I can do is focus on my value add. My true desire to be the best that I can be and to continue to figure out ways to add value to the world. To the lives of the people who work and play in my community and perhaps even some who I have not met.

So, I continue to ponder where it is that I can add value to the conversation. How can I serve my team? My customers? My friends? My family? My community? I mean, what can I do for the balance of my time on this planet to really “step it up”? To really be a better person? To not let that voice in my head “get me”. How can I replace all those negative thoughts with positive ones? It’s going to take work, commitment and perseverance. Yes, perseverance.

And so, I’ll add the image below to my post to remind me to simply close my eyes from time to time upon my return home. To remind me to pay attention to the “ebb and flow”. After all, how can we experience happiness without sadness? How can we know what pleasure feels like without pain? And on and on we go……

I took many walks along the ocean’s edge here in Maui this last few weeks. I made it a daily ritual. And as I stepped along the golden sand, I made sure that I connected with each step. The way my toes sunk and my heel marked my spot at the earth’s edge. I felt like I was a pioneer. I imagined what this coastline must have been like one hundred years ago. I felt like an explorer with each step as if no person had stepped on this beach before me.

Then I looked back. And with each break on the shoreline, my footsteps were washed away for another explorer. Here today, gone tomorrow. The passage of time as obvious as the lava flow before me. It made me wonder. What will I do to stop the trivial chatter in my head and just focus every single day on what is important in my life? My health.

Drop me a line will you? Let me know what you will do to stop the trivial chatter.

Mahalo and Aloha!

The Leadership of Ray Kroc and his drive to Catering Sales!

I decided to write this blog in advance of the upcoming Restaurant Leadership Conference in Scottsdale from March 25-28, 2012.

In preparation for the conference, I have been reading everything that I can about Ray Kroc these days. As I dig deeper and deeper into his story, I become more fascinated with his meticulous attention to detail. Like all entrepreneurs, he struggled to make his venture work. He went through the growing pains, set the culture and set a clear direction for his people. He fought hard.

As an entrepreneur and working on my 9th business, I can identify with his relentless desire to succeed. He was a fantastic businessman and very passionate about getting it right.

I found this really cool video, made by a few creative high school students, Zac Smith, Michael Warren, Jason Kiracofe and Daniel Alweis. I have embedded the video here for all of you to peruse. Good job on the school project boys. I think it tells a lot about who he was and what he was about.

I wonder if Ray were here today, what he might tell us about the current state of our multi-unit restaurant industry? I wonder if he would be happy with the outcome of what McDonald’s stands for today. Would he be proud? I wonder what he would say about McDonald’s building a catering revenue channel for his brand? I had a dream this week that Ray read my book. He loved it. Thanks Ray. I appreciate the support.

From what I have read, and as I have come to know him through other people’s words, his own book, Grinding it Out, and the number of videos and articles that are available on his leadership and management style, I would venture to say that Ray would have mixed emotions today based on where his brand stands. Sure, he might be proud of the stock price. Or would he? I think he would be horrified at all the negative tweets and comments. Knowing Ray, he would do something amazing to set it all on the right track. Just as great leaders like Howard Schultz or Ron Shaich have done with both Starbucks and Panera. Oh, and if Ray saw the traction that Panera is getting on their catering operations, he would want a piece of that market for sure. Because that’s what he was about. Being in front.

In the beginning, for Ray, and for all our leaders, it was all about looking after his customers. He wanted growth, but not at the expense of diluting his brand and experience. Of course, in the 1950’s and 1960’s, the world was a different place. I am certain that had Ray known that his McDonald’s would eventually become the fast food giant that it became, he only would have wanted it to do so if it was in the best interest of his customers.

He had a vision for the business, for the systems, for the experience and for his internal culture. He could not see the negative impact ahead on the dietary issues of fast food on our children and our communities. I have no doubt, that had he seen that, he might have managed it differently. I am certain, that if he were with us today, he would be working very hard to fix it.

Today, as McDonald’s continues to be the largest hamburger chain in the world, it still amazes me that even though the culture of Ray Kroc may just be a ghost in the wall, the organization continues to try to adopt to the ever changing needs our consumers. In my opinion, McDonald’s has done a superb job at trying to keep up with the trends, trying to morph their menus towards the more current fast casual type model.

Of course, to move a system this large to a new model, is not only difficult, but it requires a tremendous amount of investment and gumption. McDonald’s may not be the healthiest choice in the market place yet, but I predict that in the next 10 years, they will move into the top position of the fast casual market. They will do it, because they have the real estate, the brand and their consumers are going to only shop there if they continue to adapt to the ever changing dietary needs. Especially in North America.

So, this brings me to my next question? Will McDonald’s offer catering services that are scaleable across the brand? What will the program look like? I believe that they already have, but they have not hired the right leadership to take them the rest of the way. I found this little nugget in the United Kingdom that really convinced me.

Is McDonald’s Fast Casual?

Well, it all starts with the Deli doesn’t it? Well, at least that’s how it started for me!

Then as I dug further, I found this:

So, you tell me! What kind of leadership will it take for our multi-unit restaurant community to finally decide to take catering as a serious business? Especially in the QSR segment. If you have a powerful brand, and you tell your customers that you offer alternative services, they will buy from you. We already know that. So, the next question I have is “can they execute?”.

I believe that if any of our community leaders decide to pursue catering as a serious business, then they would in fact see a lift in their sales that our industry has not seen since the day’s of franchising and drive-thru. But, it doesn’t matter what I believe. Or does it? Because like Ray Kroc, I too am an entrepreneur. And so, I will live or die by my conviction and my leadership. And so, as I put this article to rest, I call out to all of you in a restaurant leadership position to really take a hard look at the facts. Catering is here to stay. If we don’t do it, the grocery segment will (as they already are).

Ray would want us to compete and compete hard.

I believe that catering offers our multi-unit restaurant community a true opportunity to grow. So much so, that I put it on Video, wrote a book and am betting my entire future on this transformative idea. This video is 3 years old. So, it’s now 15 years.

Tell me. What do you think? I hope you can share your thoughts with me. This is a great debate!