‘Never a Dull Day’ for Dunkin’ CFO Plus Others on Panel
Kate Jaspon, CFO of Dunkin' Brands, spoke on a panel today at the Restaurant Finance & Development Conference and gave an interview to Franchise Times.
Today started with a bang for Kate Jaspon, the CFO of Dunkin’ Brands, as Dean Foods filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Dean Foods supplies ice cream to Baskin Robbins (8,000 stores under the Dunkin’ umbrella) and dairy products to Dunkin’ (13,000 stores formerly known as Dunkin’ Donuts.)
“I’ve been dodging analysts all day,” she joked, but actually she and her staffers had been assuring analysts, shareholders and franchisees “there’s no major concern” because Dunkin’ knew about the pending filing and made contingency plans.
“Never a dull day,” she told Franchise Times before she served as a panelist on a CFO forum at the Restaurant Finance & Development Conference.
Topic one was mobile ordering. In October, Dunkin’ announced two major improvements to its app. “You used to have to add tender onto our app. We removed that requirement,” so customers can pay any way they want. “We think that will put us in play with other restaurants,” Jaspon said.
“We also did what we call guest checkout,” so people can use the app to order without entering information into the loyalty program, overcoming some guests’ objections to that step.
She believes one of the biggest benefits of guests ordering ahead is a reduction in labor. “Obviously everybody’s concerned about wage increases, but our franchisees tell us their No. 1 concern is availability of labor,” and online ordering takes 30 percent of the labor out of each transaction.
All four CFOs on the panel were asked what keeps them up at night, and the most common answer was “everything.” But they also broke it down.
From Allison Schulder, CFO of True Food Kitchen: “I think it’s a hard job to grow at the pace we’re growing but also change and evolve at the same time. It’s the whole ‘fly the plane and fix the plane at the same time.’ My overall, is the pace of disruption in this industry right now, and being able to keep up with the pace but also make the right decisions.”
From Thomas Song, CFO of Dine Brands Global: “I’ll be a little bit of an optimist, which is rare for CFOs,” he said, adding while there are many challenges, “we are blessed with tremendous optionality in this business. I would also argue there are a lot of options. So what does keep me up at night is that we’re making the right investment decisions. That’s going to make or break our industry in the years to come.”
From Laurie Lawhorne, CFO of Mendocino Farms: “What keeps me up at night is pretty much everything: from sales, to labor, to delivery. We’re growing, we’re expanding into new markets. We opened our first restaurants outside of the state of California this year,” and she wants to make sure those are as successful as the original stores.”
And the last word goes to Jaspon, CFO of Dunkin’ Brands: “What keeps me up is technology, delivery aggregators and what that industry is going to do,” she said. “We’re going into everything eyes wide open.”