2016 Restaurant Refresh: Fred LeFranc on Growth Strategies

Fred LeFranc is president of Results thru Strategy, Inc., a consultancy that focuses on helping companies and C-level executives identify and implement strategies that deliver long term sustainable success for their companies. As a change agent, LeFranc aids executives in modifying their behavior to hone in on their natural strengths. This allows them to focus their efforts and achieve extraordinary results. LeFranc’s aptitude in strategic planning, leadership training and business development has aided numerous companies achieve increased sales and profits. He has served on the boards of restaurant and technology companies for over 30 years. Well known for his role as a restaurant industry leader, LeFranc combines direct knowledge of operating a restaurant with an inherent talent for business and acute vision for growth.

Venga: How do you help restaurants?

Fre: I work with two types of organizations­ – smaller emerging companies, and larger legacy ones who have lost relevance. We aim to unleash the potential of growing brands and companies that need revitalization. With emerging companies who are interesting in scaling, I help them by establishing guardrails for growth and making sure they scale properly. With the larger brands, I help revive the company by assisting them with the transition from a Boomer centric strategy to one that targets Millennials.

Venga: How do you help restaurants transition their strategy from Boomers to Millennials?

Fre: Boomers are the ones who created those casual dining chains, like Chili’s and TGI Fridays, while Millennials’ tastes and expectations drove the fast casual revolution. Millennials are typically more adventurous diners who prefer to order on their own terms. They have have a different relationship with technology – millennials are always on devices.

Venga: If you could give a restaurant one piece of advice on appealing to the Millennial audience, what would it be?

Fre: There’s not one exact answer because it really depends on the brand, the menu, and the location of the restaurant. Restaurants need to make Millennials think that their brand is interesting. They might have to tweak certain parts of the restaurant to become more appealing  like having smaller plates, different flavors, and appetizer/bar menus. Millennials are in an uber world so businesses have been developing other creative ways to use their restaurants to accommodate this need for an Internet­ equipped third space. That being said, restaurants shouldn’t just abandon Boomers. It’s a hard business trying to appeal to both groups – sit down restaurants are some of the most difficult ones to achieve this broad range of appeal. Some QSR’s have done a good job of this like Chickfila, In-N-Out Burger, and Starbucks. McDonald’s is facing this dilemma today – they’re trying to appeal to everyone, and in turn, pleasing no one.

Venga: What advice to do you have for emerging brands?

Fre: It’s so important for emerging brands to start with a specific brand purpose. They need to be able to identify who they serve, why they exist, and why it matters that they exist. It all comes down to the Triple Bottom Line – good for consumers, good for the community, and good for the brand. Sweetgreen has done an excellent job of this. The brand needs to know how big they want to be in five years and build a strategic plan to achieve that. McDonald’s said ‘yes’ to too many things – growing concepts need to say ‘no’ to a lot and ‘yes’ very sparingly.  

Venga: Why do you think emerging brands fail?

Fre: I think one of the main reasons is the business’ desire to expand as fast as possible. A company should never grow faster than they can grow their people. A restaurant’s ability to expand should be measured by their ability to develop good recruiting and training programs – not based on how many leases they can sign. The brand’s purpose is so important. When I interview someone I use that as a filter to make sure they fit. Training programs are an instruction manual on behaviors that will affect the guest experience. Management needs to tell staff why they’re doing what they’re doing and how the guest should feel. It’s about treating guests a certain way and not just about serving food and drink.

Venga: What technology should every restaurant have?

Fre: The tech landscape is a quadrant made up of back of house, front of house, digital marketing, and analytics. Restaurants need to collect and interpret their data to do a better job of targeted marketing to their customers. Operators should take the time to understand what they want the guest journey to be so they can deliver. Venga is able to analyze OpenTable, reservation, and customer buying behavior to create insights from this data.