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What Can Independents Learn From Chain Restaurants?


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Rob Wilder takes a lesson from chains when implementing support systems at his restaurants such as Minibar, pictured here.

The session was titled “Revenge of the Independents: How Multi-unit Independents and Chefs Are Shaking Up Legacy Chains.” But as the discussion progressed on the last day of the Restaurant Finance & Development Conference in Las Vegas, it became clear independents actually look to emulate chains in some ways.

Speaking from his perspective as the owner of Simms Restaurants, including SoCal spots such as Simmzy’s and Tin Roof Bistro, Mike Simms complimented the processes many national chains have in place.

“Giving the tools to their team members to make their jobs easier, that’s what chains do really, really well,” said Simms. “From scheduling to food costing to responding to Yelp reviews, they have a system in place that’s documentable, proven. And they have the manpower to do all this.”

The back-of-the-house administration systems of national chains are something Peter Merriman is envious of. With several Merriman’s restaurants on three Hawaiian Islands, the chef and restaurateur said he and his team often spend an incredible amount of time redoing things they’ve already done, such as having to find new suppliers for basic items—candleholders, for example.

“They [the chains] have a lot of their easier decisions premade,” said Merriman, and those systems are extremely important.

Chain restaurants’ ability to train people—and have systems in place for that training and a clear presentation of expectations—is something Rob Wilder has taken and applied to his ThinkFood Group, the company behind José Andrés restaurants, including Minibar, the recent recipient of two Michelin stars.

“One of the great things chains can do with their greater resources is support things that are important to them,” said Wilder. “We’ve taken a lesson from the chains to over-invest before we need it in supporting our team members.” 

RFDC, presented by FT’s sister publication the Restaurant Finance Monitor, wraps up today, November 16, at the Bellagio.

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Tom KaiserTom Kaiser is associate editor of Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3209, or send story ideas to tkaiser@franchisetimes.com.
 
Beth EwenBeth Ewen is editor-in-chief of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3212, or send story ideas to bewen@franchisetimes.com.
 
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Mary Jo LarsonLaura Michaels is managing editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3210, or send story ideas to lmichaels@franchisetimes.com.
 
Mary Jo LarsonMary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and the Restaurant Finance Monitor.  You can find her on Twitter at
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Nancy WeingartnerNancy Weingartner is editor-at-large of Franchise Times magazine and the editor of the Food On Demand media project. You can reach her at 612-767-3200 or at nancyw@franchisetimes.com.
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