Julie Knudson

Back from the Brink

After opening his first store in 2004, EJ Martinez, founder of Miami-based Power Pizzeria, ran into trouble almost right away.

“I had a great idea, which was to serve a healthier pizza, and I just started without really knowing what I was doing,” he says. Although he had a strong marketing background and knew how to advertise his product, Martinez didn’t have any experience in the restaurant industry. “I kind of dove into it without really knowing how to track inventory, provide timely delivery, or create a consistent product.”

The Changing of the Guard

They say the only thing you can count on is change. That adage is especially true in the quick-service C-suite, where new career opportunities can leave a company without its top executive at any time.

This year has already witnessed a slew of CEO shake-ups, perhaps none as significant as when Jim Skinner retired and turned McDonald’s over to the capable hands of Don Thompson. Such moves often force even the most seasoned executives to reconsider how succession is handled within their own organizations.

Staying True to Your Roots

“Growth has killed many brands.”

Those words, from Corner Bakery Café’s CEO Mike Hislop, sum up a problem that several quick-serve CEOs face: Expanding a business is a natural desire for most executives, but growing it beyond one or two stores without compromising its authentic, personable branding often proves to be difficult.

But some CEOs, including Hislop, have figured out how to balance growth with a consistent, brand-wide personality.

Share the Knowledge (and the Wealth)

Gaining insight into what makes their competitors tick can give quick-serve executives valuable strategic advantages. But while sharing competitive information might seem counterintuitive to the industry’s top CEOs, some companies have found that throwing open their doors and inviting rivals in can have its benefits.

A Tennessee-based burger brand has been doing this for more than a decade. Pal’s Sudden Service introduced its Pal’s Business Excellence Institute (BEI) in Kingsport, Tennessee, in 2000 after it won the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.

How CEOs Can Make Big Things Happen

Quick-serve executives have a wide range of leadership strategies. While some believe that leading from behind the doors of their corner office is a suitable way to grow a business, others have found that the only path to success is leading by example and inspiring employees to be the best they can be.

For an example of the latter, look no farther than the CEO of the largest restaurant company in the world.

How Top CEOs Assess Risks

Chief executives have big decisions to make and risks to consider. But in the quick-serve industry, where trends are constantly evolving and one misstep can impact an entire chain—like when McDonald’s decided to spend hundreds of millions to advertise its doomed Arch Deluxe sandwich—taking risks is an especially daunting responsibility.

Still, industry experts say big risks can yield big rewards for quick-serve CEOs who navigate each risk carefully.

Is Franchising Right for You?

As the economy slowly strengthens, founders of successful eateries may be considering franchising as a growth model, but experts say CEOs must approach it with caution and do their due diligence to make sure it’s appropriate for their brand.

The first step, experts say, is to explore the viability of their brand on a bigger scale.

Where Holiday Dollars Are

Find out which groups are ready to spend and what they’re buying this season.

A new report shows that consumer spending in the food and beverage space got off to a good start this holiday season. Dollar volume spent in the industry on Black Friday, the unofficial launch of the season, grew 11.7 percent over last year, according to First Data, an electronic commerce and payment processing firm.

To sustain the growth in consumer spending through the holidays, other firms suggest operators should focus on specific demographics and fine-tune their marketing to those groups.