I started out at Subway as a sandwich artist. My owner trusted me to run his business. He put me in charge of one store, which became multiple stores. Eventually, I was recruited by Peet’s Coffee, where I fell in love with coffee. Then I tried finance, but I found I was hanging out in coffee shops a lot. I realized I probably should be back in coffee. Retail Food Group (the parent company of my brands) reached out and offered me my current position as president of It’s A Grind Coffee House, Gloria Jean’s Coffees, and DiBella Coffee, which does contract roasting and also roasts for our franchise brands.
Running three brands is challenging. It would be easy to run them all the same way, but that doesn’t do the brands justice. It’s important that they have their own identities. It’s A Grind is a funky coffeehouse, while Gloria Jean’s is known for serving indulgent dessert in a cup.
It’s crucial to set the brand boundaries and then let your team do their work. We hire amazing people, and it’s sometimes easy to get in their way. Listen, guide, advise, be the guardrail, but let your team do their work. Running multiple brands involves a lot of moving pieces and it can be overwhelming, but surrounding myself with the best people has made it fun.
The beauty of running multiple brands is that prospective franchisees have the opportunity to figure out which brand works for them. I can tell them that It’s A Grind is working on expanding on the West Coast, and that Gloria Jean’s is looking to grow in different areas of the U.S. and expand out of mall locations. Then we can tailor their franchise plan to something that fits their market and that will be successful. When the franchisees find success, we all find success, so it’s really important to focus on this group.
In the coffee industry, we start the day off for people, and we have the power to change a customer’s attitude. There’s nothing better than being in coffee shops, interacting with customers, and seeing these amazing moments happen. A lot of great ideas have been born in coffee shops.
What was your first job?
My first job was at a local mom-and-pop movie theater. I basically did a little bit of everything, from concessions to being a projectionist, and I got my first taste of serving the public.
What are your favorite items on the Gloria Jean’s and It’s A Grind Coffee House menus?
Right now at Gloria Jean’s, I love the Toasted Almond Creme Gold Brew; a cold brew of toasted almond cream beans that’s mixed with this gold luster dust. At It’s A Grind, I like the caramel latte; warm, silky milk and sweet caramel.
Who inspires you as a leader?
I’ve worked with a lot of great people throughout my career, but there’s one person who made a huge impact on me, and that’s Denyelle Bruno, the CEO of Tender Greens. She’s so genuine and is probably one of the best executive listeners that I’ve ever met.
What’s the best piece of advice restaurant leaders should hear?
You don’t have the answers; your team does. We sometimes get into these leading roles and we think we know all the answers, but it’s really the team around you.
What are some of your interests outside of work?
Spending time with my three sons. We’re a baseball family, which is good, because I can get good coffee for those early morning games.