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June « 2013 « Friday's Founder

Archive for June, 2013

PRINCIPLE DRIVEN – LIFE & MANAGEMENT

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Generally associated with the worlds religions or organizations like the Boy Scouts, I relate principles to a life well lived and the best way to run any  business or organization. My years of experience have convinced me that the most profitable,  and fun, way to run any organization is through a foundation of principled core values. These values when put to a standard of excellence, with a clear set of goals make up the management formula we call ‘tricept’. This is the formula that was the basis of Friday’s founding theories and philosophies. My upcoming book teaches this formula which is the ‘why’ part of the equation and then with my legendary metaphors we begin the learning of  the ‘how‘. To  fully understand why this is only the beginning of the ‘how’, you need to read the definition of education in the book. What?!?! of course this is shameless book promotion! 

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A LONESOME DOVE SUMMIT

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Lonesome Dove is one of my all time favorite books and mini-series. The story begins in the area of Texas where we will have one of our final creative sessions before wrapping up the book. We will be hanging out, but not like the movie scene above, in and around Bandera, Texas (cowboy capital of the world.). Heavy thinking will be conducted while floating the river pictured above. We have had many working titles and the final will, most likely, be selected by the publisher. The essence of the book is PRINCIPLED MANAGEMENT – The founding theories and philosophies of an American ICON. The final title will convey this in some form or fashion. I am very happy with Mikie’s reformatting and latest draft. Jimmy’s graphics add a nice touch and help set the ‘fish hooks to the brain’ for the reader.

I am very happy to be reconnecting with Friday’s.  Sandy and I will be visiting Nick Shepherd, CEO, Carlson Restaurants and spending a couple of days at his Dallas home. Ironically, his house is near the house I built when I lived in Dallas. We will tour the corporate office, where I am told a conference room has been named in my honor. Wow! I really appreciate Nick doing all of this for me. We will leave Dallas and head south for the ‘Lonesome Dove Summit’ with the brain trust. 

In September I am honored to be attending T.G.I Friday’s, U.K. annual meeting at Wembley Stadium. I have a presentation for Karen Forrester, CEO AND SENIOR V.P.  She has asked me to be the head judge at their bartender competition. While there I will be given the opportunity to teach a class to the senior management and tour a few of the stores in the London area. This experience will give me the final perspective I need to complete the chapter on Karen and her phenomenal success.

On a personal note, I wrote a blog earlier, giving my thoughts on losing weight.  I lamented the blimp I had become while writing the book and becoming addicted to non-stop snacking. I am happy to report I am approaching the forty pound mark………….without Jenny Craig!

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Book Writing Music!

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There has been a good bit of interest in the status of the book. I was explaining the  current status and how the process works to a good friend. He thought for a minute and said, “Oh, I get it, your write the music and Mikie sings the song!”

SPECIALIZE – ‘EXCELLENCE IN CANOES’

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I have been getting a good bit of play on my vanity plate. My cousin gave me a couple of books on skin and bark canoes.  Being obsessed with EXCELLENCE I am now thinking of opening a business devoted to the finest canoes made of sustainable bark and skin. On second thought I think I will finish the book first.

POTATO SKINS AND THE EVOLUTION OF CASUAL DINING FOOD

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As we were launching Friday’s nationally, in the late 60′ and early 70’s, we were creating casual dining and most importantly casual dining food. Restaurant food had primarily been fast food, coffee shops, diners or up scale white table cloth. Casual dining brought innovation, cross overs and FUN. My job was much like Triple D (DINERS – DRIVE-INS & DIVES) on the food network. I searched out the best of the best. I went anywhere there was a line in front of the door. As my friend Mariano (of restaurant fame in Dallas) reminded me recently, Friday’s was the first to blur the lines, serving  ethnic, bar-b-que or ‘whatever’. Our rule was to improve the products we ‘discovered’ with EXCELLENCE and innovation, never directly copying someone.

Our most famous innovation was the potato skin. While entertaining a girl friend’s brother in Dallas who was from Coral Gables, Florida, he mentioned an interesting potato product he had seen at the Mariner Hotel in Coral Gables. Fascinated and always searching for new innovative products I flew to Florida. The product was an embryo of what we eventually made famous but it got us started. Everyone except Joe Snouffer, who was in charge of product development, thought I was crazy. After six months of many variations Joe nailed it. It took another six months for the product to capture the public’s attention but then WOW! Many fun problems ensued, like what do you do with the potato insides we scooped everyday. A cleaver kitchen employe solved that by inventing a peace symbol looking knife that scooped three wedge fries, creating a new product. Ooops, wedge fries became so popular we had excess skins but that’s another story. (We paid the cook $5,000 for his invention). The funniest business problem with potato skins was the pricing.  There didn’t seem to be any limit to the  elasticity of demand, charge what we may,  demand remained unchanged! Nice problem to have.

We introduced many products to many parts of the country for the first time. In Boston we got funny comments about the ‘hot okra’ on the nachos and in the mid-west had to work hard to keep patrons from trying to eat artichoke leaves and choke. I guess we were little responsible for today’s over sized portions. One of our first entries was an ice cream sundae served in the large dimpled goblet in which we served our outrageous martinis on “Friday’s nights”! We prided ourselves on being the leaders of both innovation and quality, making everything from scratch. Our core values were based on EXCELLENCE so our 100% menu philosophy meant every menu item must be best of kind. So even normal items like a grilled cheese or onion soup must be the best of kind. (Our onion soup recipe exceeded the specs at the Ritz-Carlton and the bowl was the classic French crockery.)

Sadly, today the majority of  casual dining has abandoned fresh food and innovation in favor of supply line efficiencies for ease of  preparation. Look for their labels in the frozen food counters at your local grocery store! Happily, this has spawned a delightful new industry, Food Trucks! Fresh food and innovation abound. We go every chance we get!

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HERE COME DA JUDGE!

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I have the honor of attending Friday’s UK annual conference being held at Wembley Stadium, the theme ‘Update and Celebrate’. Karen Forrester, Senior Vice President & CEO, Friday’s UK, is the best natural leader I have met in my long business career. When she holds one of these events it is truly inspiring. I am presenting her with surprise award, first and only of it’s kind. I am also working on getting an interview the London Times reporter who prematurely reported my demise in a restaurant review back in 1990. Karen has asked me to be the Head Judge at their Bar Champs competition. I am delighted to participate and have already put out the word that “I can be bought!” 

The origins of the many worldwide bartender competitions, including the Bartender Olympics, come as a result of a marketing challenge Friday’s faced in the early 80’s. (Note: This event gained enough fame that the Olympic authorities took note and the name had to be changed……personally I think they should just added it as an event!!!)  As I mention in the book the market place is like a meandering road. One must stay alert and follow it or land in the ditch. In the early 80’s we and the industry at large were faced with declining bar sales. The crusade, which I supported, against drunk drivers and a increasingly health conscious consumer, were the primary causes for the decline.

Most of my competitors responded, as they do today, with discounts, two for one’s, give aways and lavish happy hours. Our approach was to educate our patrons to the better experiences in beverage alcohol. We became the largest seller of Hennessy XO, a high end cognac. We were introducing the latest boutique wines from around the world, especially wines from California . One of our biggest promotions, fun and educational for many, was our entrance into the race to be first to the United States with Beaujolais Nouveau. This is a fun worldwide event. The first year I flew the Beaujolais Nouveau back on the Concord and gave a press party in New York City with Tony Randall as our spokesperson. My last year we flew a FedEx DC-10 full of the wine to Memphis for early distribution. After I left Friday’s, the new management, in order to reduce costs, tried using California beaujolais. It was a non-event??????? By departing from the true event  the promotion died.

We also introduced a whole line of non-alcoholic drinks called flings, mmmmmmm-good. The amazing thing we introduced as part of our marketing plan was entertainment at the bar in the form of ‘Flair’! I call it amazing because of the worldwide phenomenon Flair has created. Tom Cruise was trained by a former Friday’s bartender for the movie ‘Cocktail’. So after all these years it seems fitting that I be one of the judges at Karen’s Bar Champs competition and if I can pick up a little money on the side………………………….so!

Oh, by the way, WE INCREASED BEVERAGE SALES, no coupons, discounting, advertising or give aways. Just pursuing our standard of EXCELLENCE!

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The Power of EXCELLENCE

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One of the central themes of my upcoming book is THE POWER OF EXCELLENCE. We elaborate on the many benefits that are derived from performance to this standard. It is amazing the power that comes from EXCELLENCE. We ended up asking ourselves the question, ‘What trumps EXCELLENCE? Discounting, couponing, advertising, repackaging, remodeling, the list goes on of what is offered in lieu of, but nothing seems to trump EXCELLENCE. The consumers echo this fact. The amazing thing is that EXCELLENCE is more profitable and certainly more FUN!

The objective of the book is to teach EXCELLENCE as a standard and how to achieve it!

COMING SOON!

How’s the book coming?

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Thanks for asking. My objective with the book has been to teach, little did I know how much I would learn. The re-connection with past associates has been an incredible experience by itself. After assembling an encyclopedia of  knowledge and experiences that I wanted to share in a first draft, we began to learn about the world of change that is book publishing today. The principle changes have been associated with the impact of  e-books. I jokingly call the biggest change the “Twitter’ attention span.  We are on the fourth and fifth drafts, bringing the writing style into the world of e-book compliance. Casper is doing a great job and we both agree the changes greatly improve the book and it’s readability. This process has delayed our time table by about six months but the additional time and effort has been very worthwhile. Soon we will submit to our agent for his approval. The latest working title is THE POWER OF EXCELLENCE.