Interview with District Manager of Hungry Howies

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Interview with District Manager of Hungry Howies

You can listen to the full podcast at www.restaurantmastering.com/podcast/ - or listen to it on YouTube further down on this page.

John Kinnunen:                 Hey everybody, it's John from RestaurantMastering.com. What's going on today? I hope you guys are having an awesome day. This is episode 002. This episode took a little bit longer to come out than I wanted it to but I scheduled it with my very first boss ever. Getting his schedule and my schedule to correspond with each other was a little hectic, to say the least but we finally made it happen and I'm happy that I waited because it turned out to be a really good interview. Without saying anything more, here it is in four, three, two, one, take it away.

Speaker 2:                           I'd like to welcome you to RestaurantMastering.com podcast. Brought to you by someone who lives in the northwest and wears shorts all year long, John Kinnunen.

John Kinnunen:                 Let's see ... Hello, everybody, this is John Kinnunen here. I'm here today with my first manager, not my first manager but my first manager when I was 16, his name is Todd Tompkins. I worked for Hungry Howie's and that's where I first met him. I think I started there when I was 15 actually and I worked inside for probably about a couple weeks or something like that or until I got my car and then I became a driver there. It's crazy how that job has really influenced me and really, I don't know, I compared every other pizza place I ever worked at, to working at Hungry Howie's with Todd Tompkins. This is Todd.

Todd Tompkins:                Hi there, my name's Todd Tompkins. I've been in the pizza industry since 1992. Hungry Howie's first opened in the fall of 1991 and I was with them for 10 years. Started out as a delivery driver, did that for about eight months and then progressed my way all the way through the management system working for our franchisee at that point in time, all the way up when I left after 10 years, I did leave for a while. I was a director of operations at that point in time overseeing 14 stores and was gone for a while, came back and now I'm currently acting as an area general manager, currently overseeing three locations so that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

John Kinnunen:                 Thanks, Todd. What would you say really sets Hungry Howie's apart from the other franchises or the other ... I don't know, you used to work for 7-Eleven or ... What really sets Hungry Howie's apart? I mean they have their flavored crust but what have you really enjoyed about working for Hungry Howie's?

Todd Tompkins:                I would say a few of the things that set at least our portion of Hungry Howie's apart since we are a franchise, I kind of invest more faith in our actual business owner Bob Wilson as opposed to the Hungry Howie's business system. He's taught me a lot over the years just about general business, dealing with people, investing in your business, being able to understand what the needs are of the customers in the areas that you're at. There's a lot of different things that Bob has been involved in, in showing me everything that I know now about the pizza world. Just from a national perspective, Hungry Howie's is a local franchise that started here in Michigan and we do have that logo that's been out there for now over 40 years and everybody knows the Hungry Howie's face that's from Michigan.

                                                They have expanded across the country now. They're not in every state but we do have close to 650 locations nationwide but here in Michigan, it's definitely very prevalent in society. They know and understand that trademark that's out there by the road so that's another unique thing to have as a company that's born and bred here in Michigan and holds that status with everybody else locally.

John Kinnunen:                 Thank you for that. When we started working together like I said, I was 16 years old and now that I own my own pizza place I think back to those days and how I don't know how you didn't kill a lot of us. As an employer now these kids nowadays are a lot different and how do you guys deal with that? I mean, I know when we worked together we had a great crew and I always compare every crew that I have to really Beau Wisdom and Melanie and you as a manager. Everything there just ran so smoothly and I think a lot of it had to do with the crew we had and ... You know, even though we were young, I don't know ... It's just different now and I don't know, how do you feel about that or what do you see that is just so different now?

Todd Tompkins:                Yeah, I definitely agree that it is a different community to pull from nowadays, you know back then ... One of the biggest factors I think that are different now is, back then everything was done manually so you had to be even more efficient in what you were trying to achieve. Busy Friday night if you were going through 300 orders and you're manually writing up every ticket and licking and sticking tickets on boxes and manually running a cash register, manually having to make change in your head or using a calculator, manually having to add up each and every order that's being taken over the phone, you know that's one of the biggest differences now versus then is just the overall efficiency that was needed back then in order to be able to support business that was just as busy, if not busier than the businesses today.

                                                The other contributing factor I think today is as a lot of people speak to the millennial factor, so many of today's kids that come to work for us don't really have that same drive and motivation to succeed or learn the business or want to excel in the business because they've been given their first car from their parents and they don't have to work towards trying to purchase that first vehicle or they get money from their parents all the time and the only reason that they have to work is to just show their mom and dad that they're responsible.

                                                So we do run into a lot of circumstances where the folks that we pull from the 16, 17-year-old range and even some of the 15-year-olds ... I've actually found that some of the 14 and 15-year-olds nowadays work harder than the 16 and 17-year-olds do because they've never had any exposure to any experience at all working and you can kind of mold them and shape them into what you want and try to teach them what work ethic really is. Those are a couple of the things that I think are quite different today versus back then.

John Kinnunen:                 I'd have to agree with you on that. I can't tell you how many times I just get a phone call from the parents even that say, "Junior's going up north this weekend with me.", and it's like, "Well I have him on the schedule.", and they don't really care. They don't care if their son or daughter has that job, like you said they just had them get a job just to prove that they could get a job and kind of teach them a little bit of responsibility but really they'll just pay their bills and they'd rather them go on vacation with them instead of teaching them, "Hey you need to put in a two week notice to let them know we're going on vacation and if the boss says it's okay then you can go on vacation."

                                                I remember growing up my mom, she wanted me to work more if I could because she was a single parent and even single parents nowadays, they still don't teach their kids the same kind of work ethic that we had growing up. I can't tell you how much it bothers me to see some of these kids come in here and think that they deserve $10, $15 an hour and they don't even do the job for what their getting paid to do it as now. Back then I feel we even worked harder and we would never treat our job the way they treat their job nowadays. It's just a different time. They say every generation gets worse. Our parents probably are just shaking their heads in disbelief at the work ethic nowadays compared to when they were growing up. A lot of them worked on farms and had several jobs and responsibilities and chores and then they went to work on top of that.

                                                It's funny, you mentioned licking the tickets and sticking them on boxes. I remember doing that and figuring out the price on the calculator and that's how I did it when I first opened this place is, that's what I remembered. I remembered how we used to do that, how we had the calculator sitting right there and again I was drawing from my very first job on how I was going to run my pizza place. Everybody was like, "Why don't we just use these check tickets?" I was like, "No, this is how we did it at Hungry Howie's. It was one of the busiest, fastest, most efficient pizza places I ever worked at and this is how we're going to do it, okay?"

                                                I had to search to find a place to order them but I did. I found a place to order them from and by no means were we doing 300 tickets a night because we're a mom-and-pop shop but it was still challenging to teach these kids how to figure out the price. Then everybody's handwriting was a little different. We had to teach everybody the abbreviations for what pepperoni was, what sausage was and we even had to ... At first, I just thought it was common sense, okay, pepperoni "PE", sausage "SA", tomatoes "TA", it just went down the line but I had to come up with my own procedures because I wasn't a franchise, so I had to come up with the list of the toppings and say this is the abbreviations, this is how it's done and I don't care what you think and that's part of being a mom-and-pop shop and really growing as a business owner when I first opened.

                                                Then I went to the pizza expo out there in Las Vegas and I was there basically shopping for a POS system and I came across Revention, which I wish I would have just walked right by that booth now. They're great, it's a great system, they're very expensive and I bring up Revention because I know that you guys use Revention as well and I was just wondering what your thoughts about the POS system and coming from the tickets to the POS system because I know part of our problem is our customers were like, "Well, it was this price last week, why is it this price this week? Why isn't it the same?" It all came down to dependent on who was answering the phone if they felt like charging them for the extra topping or not and if they punched it into the calculator right. So you could get three different prices, three different times and you could have ordered the same thing three different times that day.

                                                Whereas with the POS it made everything so that it was ... It just streamlines everything now. You guys are pushing out way more orders than what we push out and could you imagine like ... It makes everything run smoothly for you. Think about it for us, it makes us feel like we're on order number one and we might be on order number 60 or something and I just want to get your perspective about the POS system that you guys use and how the transition from the paper to that ... Because I remember Beau used to have to figure out the labor every hour and I never got that technical with it because I was always here. If it was slow, you were going home. What are your thoughts on it?

Todd Tompkins:                The Revention system certainly did change the overall way that operations happen for Hungry Howie's. I know originally back in the day when they were looking to bring aboard a company, not just locally but on a national platform that's going to be able to support as many stores as they were going to require to utilize their system, it certainly has been eye opening to go back and look at all the mistakes that were made and the amount of time that was involved in manual labor of crunching ... You used to become a 10 key expert being able to use a calculator so fast and add things up because of all the manual labor that was involved with totaling and tallying. Now, like John said, it is universal pricing and they're going to get the same price every single time that they order, they're going to get the same recipe every single time they order.

                                                It certainly does make it easier for sure and with the Revention system that we have, maybe a little bit easier for us to get things accomplished with Revention because we have such a strong platform of stores that pull from their call center when there is customer service issues or troubleshooting that needs to take place. Sometimes I do believe it is kind of the luck of the draw depending on when you call and who you talk to over there because their call center is ... There have been times where they knock my socks off and fix the problem within minutes and then there are other times when you're on the phone literally for over an hour trying to have them help you fix or figure something out. So we are fortunate definitely to have so many stores calling to the same functions and features where John being supported just as an individual with just a couple of locations so I think that's critical for him that he doesn't have that same support that we've negotiated with them on a national level of over 650 stores.

John Kinnunen:                 That's crazy, you guys have over 650 stores? Is that the exact number?

Todd Tompkins:                I think it's a little over 650 now, yeah.

John Kinnunen:                 Wow, that's awesome. I like being an independent but on the other hand being franchised would be extremely nice because like you said all the procedures, everything is set in stone. You guys probably have training manuals for people to watch on video even whereas when they come in the first day here, I'm literally having to walk them around the store and I really rely on my veterans to really show the new people around. Where you probably do the same but you guys also have videos and different procedures for everything, which is really ... What I've developed over the last five years I've really ... I have a procedure for everything, even from complaints to praises, because you want to reward that person for doing a great job just like you want to talk to the people that aren't doing a good job.

                                                There's benefits to being a franchise and there's benefits to being a mom-and-pop shop. One thing is I get to have a cheese-stick pizza or if I see something good or if an employee of mines like, "Oh man, we should have a Big Mac pizza or something.", I can throw it on the menu the next day and there'd probably be copyright infringements with the name but that's one of the cool things about being a mom-and-pop shop is I get to create the menu. I do my best at making sure the recipes are all the same all the time but with you guys it definitely is.

                                                I know for my store I try and keep my labor at between 20% and 30% and my food costs down right around 30%. I get that question a lot when I interview different restaurants. I've sent out surveys to them to ask them what are some of the problems that they see and one of them is, "I wish that I would have known what a good food cost is or what a good labor cost is.", and one of them was even from a Mancino's, which I was really surprised because I thought that they would be more of a franchise but he says he gets to set his own prices and everything and I'm thinking that's not really a franchise model but they should have that food cost for you I would think. What's a good one for you?

Todd Tompkins:                Yep, Hungry Howie's is as a Hungry Howie's franchisee in the system, you are allowed to set your own pricing and as far as food and labor cost we generally try to run our food costs right in the 24% to 27% range. Then labor, working with the franchisee that I work with, he has never been a particular fan of what most places would call a labor percentage in trying to run your business based on a percentage of your sales towards your labor. He has lobbied actually with Hungry Howie's on a national level to have them even do more research into the way that he supports the labor side of his business. We use what is known as a sales per man hour formula as opposed to a labor percentage to where we set a goal every day depending on the location, we'll say $30 per man hour is what you're anticipated goal is going to be.

                                                So, the way that breaks down is, for every hour that you're open and paying out labor ... So say for the first hour that you're open if you have four employees that are on the clock, you've incurred four hours worth of labor expense, you should be able to generate $30 with each one of those hours, so your sales for that hour should approximately $120 to still maintain a profitable business structure inside of that first hour. You're going to have hours where it's slower and your sales per man hour is going to be in the teens or even in the single digits and depending on the location and what's going on with all the other special events or weather in the area, it could be even in the negative but then you're also going to have your hours on Friday and Saturday and some other nights during the week where you're working with 40, 50, 60 sales per man hour.

                                                So it all balances out in the end as long as you obtain your daily goals and your weekly goals and your monthly goals. We've never really been adamant about labor percentage. Generally it probably does break down to about an 18% to 22% labor percentage if you were to really break it out from there but the nice part about sales per man hour is you set the schedule up to always be able to support being busy and never wishing that you had scheduled somebody else. It's always much easier to send somebody home than it is to get somebody to come in when you're in the middle of a rush that you weren't anticipating was going to be as busy as it is. So sales per man hour is definitely a labor model that I've learned a lot about over my time in the industry and how it does support and promote the ability to grow the business.

                                                I have seen other operators in Hungry Howie's that utilize just working off of a strict labor percentage and if they're staffed to run a certain labor percentage to do a $1200 Tuesday night and they end up doing $1900, chances are it probably was atrocious because they were so focused on trying to be able to run a 20% labor model on a day when they were anticipating to do $1200 and it snows and there's a parade and there's something else that goes on and all of a sudden they've done $1800, $1900 and they weren't ready to do that labor wise because they're trying to focus on just a percentage instead of trying to focus on sales per hour based on the labor that they scheduled. That's one of the biggest differences I think that we've utilized and have become very successful with is using a sales per man hour model as opposed to just trying to schedule and manage off of just the standard labor percentage for the store's sales.

John Kinnunen:                 Thank you, that's interesting. I've never heard of a ... What did you call it? A labor per man hour?

Todd Tompkins:                Sales per man hour.

John Kinnunen:                 Sales per man hour. I'll have to look into that, that's ... All right, so like you were saying you do the sales per man hour, okay. I've never heard of that. I'm going to look into that. Well I wanted to thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me. Like I said thank you again for being my first boss and dealing with me and my 16 year old attitude and looking back on it I always say to myself if I have a bad employee, that's my-

Todd Tompkins:                Karma coming [crosstalk 00:21:59]

John Kinnunen:                 Yeah, that's Karma coming back to me. I still don't think I was that bad like some of them but again thank you for taking the time. Like I said, I compare every ... it's crazy to think what an influence your first job can have on you for the rest of your life really and your first manager. I try and take what you taught me when I was that young and I try and do that for the kids that come walking through my door because a lot of them it's their first job and I try and show them a work ethic as much as I can, as much as their parents let me. We try and have a good time and really the pizza industry, even the restaurant industry when I worked at Chili's and everything, it's kind of like a family. You rely on that person ...

                                                It gets kind of hectic, it gets kind of stressful in the kitchen and it's crazy you're relying on that person to have your back when it gets times like that when you're in the trenches and you're crunch time and you're digging yourself out and at the end of the night you guys might get a little heated with each other at times but at the end of the night you guys know you're all friends, you guys are all laughing and ... I don't know, there's been so many people that have come through my door that I'm still in contact with even after they've left. A lot of them come back later on in life and I just wanted to say thank you and hope you know how much I appreciate everything you did for me and thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me. You're my first interview, I wanted it to be that way because you were my first boss, so thank again.

Todd Tompkins:                I do appreciate the opportunity John and it has been a pleasure to come and just kind of reminisce a little bit and give you some insight on the way things used to be and the ways things they are now and hopefully the success and the way things will be in the future so best of luck to you and your team here and I'm sure we will be in touch. Thanks again.

John Kinnunen:                 Thanks.

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