Brendan O’Brien

The Face of Leadership

What do Phil Jackson, Oprah Winfrey, and Richard Branson have in common? In addition to being well-known personalities and powerful figures in their respective fields, all three have built unprecedented personal leadership brands that transcend their professions and, in some cases, precede their reputations.

Personal leadership branding is just as important in the quick-service restaurant industry as it is for those in the sports, entertainment, and travel sectors, largely due to the direct correlation the public makes between a CEO and his or her brand.

Under the Wing

Early on in his career, Jim Amos, chairman and former CEO of Tasti D-Lite, would make it his mission to track down his mentor, a business leader who hated flying so much that he would drive his personal coach around the country to various meetings and engagements.

“I would call his secretary and find out where he was, and I would fly into the city just to sit in his coach and talk to him as he was driving, and learn from him,” Amos says. “I learned a great deal from this gentleman, not just about business, but certainly about life and relationships.”

If At First You Don’t Succeed

Outside the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory in Waterbury, Vermont, past a white picket fence, sits a group of colorful tombstones shaded by large overhanging tree branches.

“It swirled in our heads, it danced in our dreams, it proved not to be though, the best of ice creams,” the epitaph reads for Sugar Plum, a Ben & Jerry’s flavor that was short-lived from 1989 to 1990.

This Flavor Graveyard is where the ice cream concept buries its dead flavors, some of which, like Sugar Plum, were utter failures. But they weren’t entirely fruitless.

Kick the Stress Out

Quick-service leaders have a lot on their plate, from running complex organizations and overseeing financials to being the voice and face of their concepts.

But as they juggle these responsibilities and wade through the myriad daily decisions they need to make, something threatens to derail everything: stress.

From the Outside Looking In

For many leaders in the quick-service industry, the restaurant business is their lifeblood. Many start out as a dishwasher, cook, or cashier and work their way up through the ranks.

But for some CEOs, the quick-service industry represents a clean break from their successful careers in other fields, like banking and technology. As a result, these leaders bring a unique set of skills, experiences, and entrepreneurial spirit to their new endeavor.

How Fast is Too Fast?

Every brand wants to be bigger and more profitable. But leaders and experts in the quick-service restaurant industry say finding the correct growth rate is a delicate balance of having a clear appreciation for resource and talent capacity and an understanding of one’s appetite for risk. 

Dan Simons, who runs Vucurevich Simons Advisory Group, a restaurant-consulting firm based in Maryland and Texas, says the appropriate expansion rate shouldn’t be based entirely on the popularity of a
concept.

Fancy Fast Food

The days of dingy, dull, and outdated fast-food joints may soon be a thing of the past. Quick serves are meeting the demands of an evolving consumer base to remain competitive with the fast-casual sphere, using everything from sleek interiors with comfortable booths and flat-screen televisions to healthy, fresh food and drink offerings.

Cracking the Food Safety Code

For years, barcode technology has been commonplace in the retail sector, where it’s used to gather information about products, sales, and even consumer trends at various transaction points. But now, due to a major standardization initiative and broadening food-safety concerns, the same barcoding technology may be poised to catch on in the quick-service restaurant industry.  

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