Start to Finish: What Inspires Execs | July 2014 | By Sam Oches

Start to Finish: Bill Dunn

President & Chief Operating Officer of Auntie Anne’s
Bill Dunn of quick service restaurant Auntie Annes worked for Wendys as first job.
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I guess I was 14 when I first got into the restaurant business. My father owned nine Wendy’s down in north-central Florida, and when I would go visit him in the summer, I would work in the restaurants. I still have my first paycheck framed in my office. I think it was for $84.

I didn’t stay in foodservice. I had aspirations to go on and play professional baseball. That never worked out, but I took a lot of the learnings from my years playing sports, and now I refer to myself as a player-coach within the business and understand the importance of teamwork, helping others, never giving up, and always having competitive, continuous improvement. When I first joined the company, I strictly looked at it from the business perspective, the size of the company, and how I felt as though I could contribute to its overall growth. But soon after I joined the company, I really started to understand what was so special about Auntie Anne’s, and the values that the company and the associates have is just something that I never experienced before in other businesses. I still am inspired by the commitment that we have to innovation and growing the brand and growing the business itself.

When the time comes five, 10, 15 years from now, if the associates say something about me, I hope that it’s that I was committed to continuous improvement, that I recognized and valued the history of the company and at the same time had a vision of where the company could go. Certainly the decisions that I make impact a lot of lives. I’m not going to be right 100 percent of the time, but I do the best I can and make educated decisions to help move us in the right direction. Coming from baseball, where you fail 70 percent of the time and you’re considered a success, certainly those percentages don’t play well for someone who is in my role. But I think that’s helped me in understanding that I’m not going to be right all of the time. Fortunately, I have an outstanding team around me that is very talented and in a lot of areas a whole lot smarter than I am, and help me make good, solid decisions for everyone.


When did you first enter the quick-service industry?

About 37 years ago, when I worked for my father, who owned nine Wendy’s Old Fashioned Hamburgers. My first net paycheck was $84, or $2.30 per hour.

What is your favorite item at Auntie Anne’s?

The Original Pretzel

What is your favorite restaurant or type of food (excluding Auntie Anne’s)?

Sushi

What are some of your interests outside of the business?

Spending time with my wife and three children, golf, attending sporting events, hunting.

Which menu item or operational strategy at Auntie Anne’s are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of our commitment to innovation on all fronts of our business. From new training programs and menu development to our new store design and loyalty app, we’re innovating in ways that contribute to growing the brand and franchise partner profitability, as well as our relationships with all stakeholders.

Who are some leaders that inspire you?

I appreciate the advice that my grandfather and father have given me along the way. I take pieces of inspiration from various leaders that I come in contact with—past coaches, speakers, and colleagues. I even have learned a few things from the guys on “Duck Dynasty.”

What is the best piece of advice quick-serve executives should hear?

Listen carefully and ask a lot of questions.