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‘Don’t quit’ is motto for Shoney’s operator


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You spent an incredible 46 years in the Shoney’s brand, what did they do to instill such loyalty?

Shoney’s has been led mostly by a very passionate individual. Nothing gets done without passion. When you listen to them and you see their vision and you’re part of that vision, then you just fight through your obstacles. They’re going to come, they’re going to knock you down and make you have bad days, bad months and bad years. But knowing that someone else believes as much as you believe keeps you going.

Rory Smith

Did you ever think you would work your way up to VP at Shoney’s in those early days?

No way, I was 15 years old. I was thinking about how to put gas in my Volkswagen.

What was a big turning point in your career?

When one of my mentors retired. It was a moment of self reflection, pondering that he’s gone, and wondering what’s our next step, where’s our leader? That was a defining moment.

How about in your franchise operation?

When my people were trained, they knew the thought process of the customer to try to exceed their expectations. So I said, ‘Hey, if one’s good, let’s do two.’

You take developing people very seriously. What is your philosophy there?  

You find the people that care, and then you help develop their talents. Like someone did with me, they said, ‘Hey, you can be someone more than you are.’ You work with them, you cuss with them, you do whatever you have to do. But also let them know that you’re their leader and you’re not afraid of tough calls and are going to demand more than they expect. When they don’t agree, have an open forum. Throw titles out the window—they have to know their opinion matters. If you can do all that, there’s people out there that will want to be part of it, and that’s who you want.

What’s your leadership motto?

Show up and make a difference and make your presence felt. People see that, when you show up and you’re working alongside them, you’re saying, ‘Hey, I’m on your side and we’re going to win.’

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.

What do you look for in real estate?

In the restaurant business, the motto is always Main and Main or the three rules: location, location and location, but I think that’s oversimplified. There’s not a lot of Main and Main anymore. It’s a very mature industry and a very aggressive industry. What I look for is my demographic, what fits our model and a nice bedroom community around it.

What’s the best advice you’ve gotten?

Just don’t quit. You might get knocked off the field, but just don’t quit. I’ve been there many times, thinking, ‘What truck just hit me,’ but you get up and you press on. But it’s a doubled edged sword, that advice is also some of the worst. Sometimes you’ve got to know when you cut your losses. We had a saying: don’t ride dead horses; when you ride a dead horse you don’t get very far. Hopefully the decision is driven by facts and data and the market, but it’s a delicate balancing act to not quit too soon or not quit quick enough.

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