Deborah L. Cohen

Deborah Cohen writes <i>QSR</i>’s Finance column.
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A Cultural Difference

Well-prepared food by itself has never been enough to propel a fast food name to stardom. Today more than ever, a recognized personality and set of beliefs and customs is essential to set successful quick serves apart from the competition, according to industry experts and top management.

“Culture is being able to stop anyone who works in the company, ask them what the company is about, and get the same answer,” says Mathew Mabel, a Dallas-based management consultant specializing in the hospitality industry.

Operators Know Best

Phil Friedman, chairman and CEO of McAlister’s Deli, is a firm believer in independent research of a company’s franchisees. Getting an independent read on the health of his franchise system has led to important changes in key operational areas, such as marketing and distribution.

For Sale by Corporate

If it wasn’t for the publicity, outsiders might not have known that Captain D’s was on the auction block, the result of a decision by private equity owners Sagittarius Brands Inc. to sell the brand late last year.

CEO David Head was working hard to keep the emphasis on day-to-day operations. In early February, he was gearing up to rally the troops for the critical Lent season with a six-week tour of Captain D’s 500-plus restaurant system, where attention was shifting to preparations for an expected increase in sales.

Incentives for Green

Quick serves of all sizes are hopping on the green-construction bandwagon, installing everything from energy-efficient lighting and kitchen equipment to solar roof panels. But whether or not these sustainability improvements result in increased tax savings—and a quicker return on investment—is largely a question of whether CFOs and their tax officers take an active role in planning, development, and education.

‘The International Plan’

Population. U.S. proximity. Financing. Footprint. The right partners. Those were just a few of the factors that mid-sized quick serve Wing Zone considered in choosing the first international market to represent its expanding brand.

A Brand Salute

David J. Thomas never planned on a career in franchising. When he left the military after a 12-year stint as an Army officer, Thomas went back to school to become a teacher. To help make ends meet, he began delivering meals on the side for an emerging concept called Steak-Out.

Before long, Thomas, who had overseen operations for a mess hall during a tour of duty in South Korea, was inquiring about opening his own Steak-Out restaurant, attracted by the promise of working within a proven system not unlike that of his former government employer.

Pondering the Poach

During boon times, management energy is rarely spent worrying about violations of top-level employment agreements when hiring new executives. But when a downturn comes, companies are watching their backs.

Consider Starbucks Corp.’s well-publicized lawsuit against a former division head for breaching a noncompetition agreement to join rival coffee chain Dunkin’ Brands Inc. The ex-Starbucks executive, Paul Twohig, agreed to settle out of court, paying his former employer $500,000 and subsequently delaying his start date, Starbucks disclosed.