Industry News | May 23, 2017 | By Alex Dixon | QSR Exclusive Brief

NRA Show Report: 3 Tips from the Chicago Cubs' Owner

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While it may not seem like an obvious connection, the restaurant industry may have something to learn from Major League Baseball.

Speaking during a keynote address to attendees at the National Restaurant Association (NRA) Show on Monday, Chicago Cubs owner and chairman Tom Ricketts said that long-term success is only possible if you’ve crafted a culture within your organization.

After buying the Cubs in 2009, Ricketts led the organization through a rebuilding process that didn’t initially pay off. The approach angered some fans and led to negative media reports and difficult times through the years, but culminated in 2016 when the Cubs won their first World Series since 1908.

In his speech at the NRA Show, Ricketts shared some tips that restaurant operators and executives can use to build a successful business.

 

1. Be Patient

Ricketts didn’t build a successful team overnight, and successful restaurants can’t be created quickly either. He focused on building young talent rather than keeping more experienced players with the highest salaries, which created a team that would have consistency between seasons and not just immediate returns.

This puzzled many parties—from fans to sponsors—but Ricketts said he made it clear that “we can’t pull out of the tuck; we have to see it through.”

 

2. Hold Employees Accountable

In creating a team, whether it’s at a restaurant or with the Chicago Cubs, it’s important for leadership to hold employees accountable to their roles and create a culture of personal responsibility.

“It’s tough to delegate in a high-profile situation, but you have to give people authority and let them have it,” Ricketts said during his address. “If it’s someone’s responsibility to make a decision for a business and you do it on their behalf, then if it fails, who does that fall on? The key is, once you decide you need someone and you give them the job to go get it done, you have to let them do it and stay out of it.”

 

3. Focus on the Experience

Due to investment decisions and budgeting by the previous owner, Ricketts said, the Cubs facilities weren’t in the best shape when he took over. Fans still loved the Cubs and came to games at Wrigley Field, but Ricketts said the game-day experience shouldn’t just be about the act of watching baseball; it should also be about the park and its food and facilities.

Since Ricketts bought the team, the organization has been in the process of enhancing the game-day experience.

“You are what you tolerate,” Ricketts said. “You have to set a standard and walk the walk once you set that standard. ... McDonald’s is a great example. They set the standards and they live by them; you know you’re going to get that quality and consistency.”