How One PJ’s Coffee Franchisee Kept Growing During COVID

    “Your employees are going to make you successful," Barry Prendergast says.

    Outside Insights | August 13, 2021
    PJ’s Coffee.
    PJ’s Coffee
    While business owners worldwide struggled to keep their doors open, Prendergast continued to grow his stores.

    In February of 2020, no one could have predicted the enormous impact the COVID-19 pandemic would have on the world around us. People everywhere were confined to their homes, many businesses closed their doors, and every day was unpredictable.

    Today, businesses around the world—especially those in the restaurant industry—are still coping with the adverse effects. Most recently, this can be displayed with the current labor shortage.

    Barry Prendergast, who owns six thriving PJ’s Coffee locations in Louisiana and Mississippi and is getting ready to open his seventh, and earned his title of PJ’s 2020 Franchisee of the Year through perseverance.

    While business owners worldwide struggled to keep their doors open, Prendergast continued to grow his stores, even setting records at all of his drive-thru enabled locations. So how did he do it, and how can others manifest success in the quick-service industry?

    Maintain an honest approach to business. Throughout all the ups and downs that come along with running a business, PJ’s corporate team was very receptive to Prendergast’s transparency. “I don’t sugar coat things, and this allows all parties involved to clearly understand the circumstances they’re facing,” Prendergast says. Providing realistic expectations is what will help you determine the best strategy to proceed and thrive.

    A positive attitude goes a long way. Prendergast understands that there is always a way to make something work; it’s just a matter of finding it. Picking yourself up after something doesn’t go your way is the key to success. Sometimes what seems like a “failure” is just an obstacle that motivates you and leads you into something even better. Getting creative with your strategy, combined with good, old-fashioned hard work, is what will ultimately help you achieve and surpass your goals, and this “can-do” attitude will reflect in your employees.

    Make relationship-building a part of employee training. Customer service is an integral part of success, especially with quick-service brands. Prendergast has made this side of the business a major focus in his training process. He wants his employees to get to know the customers- everything from their names and regular orders to the details that make them unique. Many of us his employees have developed strong relationships with their regular customers over time and have taken the time to get to know them as individuals, about their families, occupations, and catch up regularly when they come in for their morning cup of joe.

    Focus on proactivity and creativity. Prendergast is the perfect example for when it comes to “thinking outside-the-box.” Amid the pandemic, there was a sudden surge in demand for on-the-go options. Prendergast converted an old car wash into a PJ’s Coffee with not one, but two drive-thru lanes! This kind of proactivity has contributed a great deal to the success he has seen both before, during, and following the height of the pandemic. The “to-go” trend is only expected to continue, and he already has an advantage with the design and processes he has in place.

    Keep your employees happy. This one seems like a given, but it is all too often overlooked. As the labor shortage continues to challenge the restaurant industry, employee satisfaction- a concept that should have always been a main focus- has been brought into the spotlight. Prendergast understood this even before the labor shortage began, and his low turnover rate has been what makes it so easy for his employees to get to know and recognize customers and vice versa.

    If there is one single piece of advice Prendergast has for other franchisees and franchisors alike, it’s that you have the power to manifest success, and those around you all play a significant role.

    “Your employees are going to make you successful,” Prendergast says.

    Customer and employee satisfaction should be at the top of your agenda, and the personalized touch you and your team provide to your community is what will truly give you a leg up on the competition.

    “It’s like going to the barber- I don’t want to go there and tell them what I want each time. I want to just go and have them know what I want,” Prendergast says.