I joined Checkers & Rally’s a little more than a year ago because I thought the brand had great promise; an untapped brand DNA that guests love, great food you can really taste, a unique building format with a small footprint, and a lot of white space to grow. I was also impressed by the brand’s ownership group at Oak Hill Capital Partners and their clear commitment to investing in the business and updating assets.
Throughout my career, I found that transforming an older business is just about the most rewarding thing a leader can achieve for ALL the stakeholders, from owners and franchisees to employees and guests, and I saw a real opportunity to reinvigorate Checkers & Rally’s.
In my early days with the brand, I was delighted to find a wonderful, scrappy, “can-do” culture and a heart for service among everyone I met. I also found great talent and excellent franchise relationships—this was an organization clearly committed serving up “wins” across the board. All of this really served us well during the pandemic, which began just a few weeks into my tenure.
When COVID-19 hit, our “can-do” spirit and nimble, 850-plus restaurant system meant we could respond incredibly quickly to the changing macro environment. We implemented 15 new operations procedures including contactless payments and other safety measures in very short order; shifted our marketing from low-cost food to a more balanced approach of value and quality/premium items; focused on delivery and ecommerce; added dedicated drive-thru lanes; and drove our initiatives home while other brands were trying to stay alive.
As a result, Checkers & Rally’s has an aggressive growth and transformation agenda on which we have been able to make real progress over the past year, maximizing the pandemic tailwinds and setting the brand up for long-term success.
With our closed kitchen, double drive-thru, small footprint model, the interest in our brand is at an all-time high, and we are really growing again. While other brands are testing this model, we have 37 years of experience with it, and we are aggressively rolling it out. We have built real momentum within the brand, and that is incredibly exciting and inspiring for all of us. I could not be prouder of the entire organization, especially our operators, managers, and team members who have shown up every day to serve up wins for our guests.
What was your first job?
Working in my grandparents' newspaper store in England at the age of 14, as soon as I was legally able. The going rate was 40 pence/hour, about 70 cents in U.S. dollars.
What’s your favorite cuisine outside of Checkers & Rally's?
Who inspires you as a leader?
I have been blessed to have worked for some of the best, but John Miller, CEO of Denny’s, is a truly inspiring human being who leads with passion, compassion, humility and determination. As a result, Denny’s has had consistently solid performance for a decade.
What’s the best piece of advice that other restaurant executives should hear?
Focus on building a healthy organization, which starts with a cohesive leadership team; it doesn’t matter how smart your strategy is, without a healthy culture, it won’t be successfully executed.
What are some of your interests outside of work?
Traveling, hiking, skiing, food and wine, and our little terrier, Millie!