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

Start to Finish: Amit Kleinberger

CEO of Menchie's
Menchie's CEO Amit Kleinberger fosters a work environment that makes customers smile.

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I’ve always loved foodservice. I started my journey with foodservice as a teenager. I worked at a Subway restaurant as a teen. After that I worked at Burger King and some other food establishments. That’s when I really developed a passion for the foodservice industry. I liked it because, in my nature, I’m about making people happy and being around people. The foodservice industry is an industry that really makes people happy.

The most important thing in this business is to bring value to what we do. I believe that each of us as human beings has a moral obligation to bring value to people, to the world, to communities. I believe that our brand is one where our mission is to make people smile. And we really do that. We really live and breath what our mission is. My team today that accounts for more than 5,000 team members and approximately 400 franchisees worldwide, that team is really committed to making everyone smile.

One of the best lessons I’ve learned is to build your brand to become the No. 1 brand in your category. No. 2 just doesn’t cut it. The most important thing is to become No. 1 in your category, because that’s where the most momentum will come to you.

I like to think not only about the future, but I always like to go from there to here, and not from here to there. I envision where we want to be, and I go back from that point to where we are today and think about what steps need to take place. What inspires me is looking at brands that have done it right and are really global leaders: Looking at the McDonald’s of the world, looking at the Apples of the world, looking at the Amazons of the world—those brands that have not only done it right, but really became global leaders. And they all have something very simple in common: All of them are very well positioned and all of them always thought big and always aspired to be No. 1. No. 2 was never of any interest to them.

I’m not necessarily looking for me to be remembered, but rather, for what we have built as a team. That’s the most important component.

What is your favorite yogurt flavor?

I dream of Cookies and Cream.

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

A good pizza! I can eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

What are some of your interests outside of the business?

Watching basketball, playing table tennis, traveling, and researching businesses and brands.

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

Launching our very own new line of frozen yogurt that took three years to complete. We consider it best in class and No. 1 in our category.

What is the biggest risk you’ve ever taken as CEO?

Putting my family, franchisees, and self out there for “Undercover Boss” without having an idea of what would take place in it.

Who are some leaders that inspire you?

Ray Kroc, the father of franchising. He envisioned what a franchise should be doing and executed in a big way.

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

Build No. 1 brands in your category; No. 2 doesn’t cut it. To be No. 1, you must position your brand properly to your desired audience.


Dear Mr. Amit Klinebeiber, I saw you on undercover boss. I was so very impressed with you and how really how kind you are. You are truly a gentle Man. I feel a kindred spirit to you as my father immigrated from Russia to the U.S.A. when he was a child. He was orthodox. But I never knew I was Jewish until I was about 12yrs old, You see I was born in 1941. The beginning of ww2 and it must have been awful for my parents. My sister was born in 1937. My parents were both alcoholics and abusive. I will not go into the difficult time I had growing up. But I am so proud of your service if I had been born in another time I would have been so very proud to have been fighting for Israel's peace. That's about all I have to say except I am disabled and alone. My sister and her family are astranged (sp) from me. For whatever reason I don't know. My sister won't talk to me about our early years. I do believe my parents wanted a boy. My ex husband told me this years ago. I am beginning a serious decline in my health and just wanted have you know how very much you impressed me. My sincerest best family to you and family, ( am sure you have started one by now). Margot Tanzer Lincoln.BTW, I was never a Tanzer my jewish surname. My parents changed our name To Tangway before I was born. I was not raised in any faith. I feel a real emptiness in my life because, I never belonged to my birthright.

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