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Building leaders goal No. 1 for Mike Hamra, in Multi-Unit Mindset


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Mike Hamra

So you’re going deeper into the Panera system; what’s driving that?

I believe in their future. But I really had to get my head around the new leadership. This is a completely different regime since the company was taken private under JAB. But I think they have a lot of the same objectives with the new owners. And they’re more aligned with the franchisee than they ever have been.

How so?

The best example is when we were publicly held there was a strong focus on top line sales. There still is but more in the way that it affects restaurant-level EBITDA. That’s one of the biggest changes in how the business is managed today.

And you’ve been around the industry for awhile?

My folks had been franchisees since 1975.

You were a practicing lawyer until you jumped back into the family business. What drew you back?

I remember my dad asking if I had an interest in the business. I said I really like this law business, but really what happened is the company I was with filed bankruptcy. I was either going to find another legal position or come do his for a while. I looked at this and said, ‘Will I regret this in 20 years to get back into a business I grew up in?’ So I got in and haven’t turned back since.

Leadership is a core focus, but what does that really mean?

I consider our organization a leadership organization—we develop leaders. That’s another role I play, inspiring others to take on leadership and take on the vision of the company and insuring people are aligned with our culture. That’s a big component for me.

How does that affect the bottom line?

There’s a lot of lemon locations out there, we’ve got a few ourselves. Even if you do, you can’t give up on it, you really have to work on leadership in that unit itself. If you don’t have leadership, it will stay a lemon. We’ve taken mediocre locations and grown them into superstars with good leadership.

Nicholas Upton

Staff writer Nicholas Upton asks what makes multi-unit operators tick—and presents their slightly edited answers in this column in each issue. To suggest a subject, email nupton@franchisetimes.com.

How does that resonate with your strategy of growth by acquisition?

In an acquisition, it’s important you can find deals where you can add value either through your culture or operational acumen or business acumen. To acquire for the purpose of acquiring doesn’t really work, you have to have a purpose and you have to see a way to enhance the value because it’s a lot of money to make acquisitions.

What was the biggest turning point in your organization?

Probably back in 2007 I’d say. That was the same time that I had been purely focused on the Panera business. That’s when I took on overseeing the Wendy’s operations as well. It really became more of an enterprise leadership role than it was just a brand focus of building stores. Before that, we were siloed. The Wendy’s guys never talked to the Panera guys.

How did combined operations change all that?

Initially, it was a lot of talk about, ‘This is my brand,’ or  ‘This is unique.’ But now, it’s very collaborative, I think the leaders rely on each other now. They have a bond, and that never would have been there if we hadn’t brought them together.

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