BC96: Luke Mandola, Jr., Sr. VP of Fuddruckers – Leadership, Process & Culture

This week’s guest is Luke Mandola, Jr.   Luke is the Senior Vice President of Fuddruckers, home of The World’s Greatest Hamburgers.  In this podcast, Luke talks about the Fuddruckers 8-step process known as The Stairway to Burger Heaven, and about leadership and their championship culture of FCCPPST.  A former baseball standout for the Tulane Green Wave, Mandola is one of the most sought-after leaders in the restaurant industry.

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Cain: Hey how are you doing? Brian Cain, your Peak Performance coach here. Thanks for checking out this episode of the Peak Performance Podcast. Today our guest is Luke Mandola. He is the Senior Vice President of Fuddruckers, the world’s greatest hamburgers. Today we’re going to talk about the Fuddruckers stairway to burger heaven, their process that they follow – especially step one, growing human capital, and then step two, the championship culture of the Fuddruckers brand.

Luke, thanks for taking time out of your ridiculous schedule to join us and talk about the Fuddruckers brand and how you guys are growing that human capital and championship culture.

Mandola: Well, Brian, first and foremost thank you very much for having me. It’s an honor, pleasure, and privilege to be sitting with you today. Thank you for the opportunity.

I would like to start off by first mentioning how we lead with our core values. We lead with our seven core values at Fuddruckers: focus, courage, commitment, pride, passion, service, and teamwork. We incorporate our core values into our day-to-day operations. We work our core values into our daily huddles with our teams all over the globe both in the United States and internationally. We believe that if we lead with our core values everything else will fall into place. With your assistance we’ve been able to inject our core values at a faster rate than what we were doing before we were working together. So for that I appreciate it and thank you and it’s been a blast as well.

Cain: My pleasure. Talk about the stairway to burger heaven and your process for how you guys are going to build the brand of Fuddruckers and really focus on that first step of the eight, growing human capital. Why is that the first step?

Mandola: Well everything revolves around people. It’s the people and the process. The most important part of our business (as we are in the hospitality business) is people. You have to have good people to drive the engine.

We put together and eight step process for success to sell the world’s greatest hamburger. We can go through the eight steps if you want. The first and foremost step in our process is grow your human capital. That involves around both our teams, our employees, our corporate leadership, our CEO, our COO, everyone on the same team is on the same page – you have to have good people. Or for you athletically, you have to have good players in order to be successful.

So we are into both personal and professional development of every single person in our company. We desire and we want to be one of the industry leaders for our employees to work for. We want our employees to work for us and be happy working for us. That is one of our goals.

Cain: You talk a lot about growing human capital. Is there anything specific that you’d share with the listeners of the podcast – which are going to be mostly college coaches, high school coaches – that you focus on when talking about human capital? Such as are there weekly conference calls? Are there books that you give to your team to read? Is there anything that you do specifically that you would say “this is how we grow the human capital at Fuddruckers?”

Mandola: That is a great question. I’d be more than happy to answer that because that is kind of our sweet spot right now. In establishing the championship culture that we are putting together we are trying to humanize the company (so to speak) and want to make sure that every single person is comfortable with every single person in our company. One of the ways we do that is further education. Leaders are readers. Readers are leaders. It can go either way and we stress that in our company. We send out monthly leadership books and CDs to our leaders so they can cascade down to other team members.

We incorporate some of the Daily Dominator in our day-to-day operations like you wanted us to do. We use that exercise. We’ve also used The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon and several other books. We do monthly book reading sessions and we make sure that our area leaders are in harmony with our units’ general managers at all times and they’re on the same page.

Cain: So for the coaches that are listening to this that might be confused a little bit if they’ve never worked in the corporate sector you’re looking at you as the Senior Vice President as maybe the head coach and then you’ve got your 10 area leaders from around the country who would be (if this was a football example) your offensive coordinators.

Mandola: Correct.

Cain: And in their store they have the general managers which would be their position coaches. So if you’re looking at it from a family tree (I guess) perspective or kind of a graph you’ve got the senior vice president and then you’ve got your next level which would be all of your area leaders and they’ve got their offensive coordinators that are the general managers of the store and then the players would be the people who are working in that store. Obviously the players being the most important piece in the whole puzzle.

Mandola: Absolutely.

Cain: They are the ones that are the face of the brand and the face of the organization.

Mandola: They are in the field.

Cain: They are in the field. They are in the battle. Luke, one of the things that has impressed me the most with you is your ability to connect with people quickly and deeply. Have you always been able to do that or is that a skill that you’ve developed over time that you’ve felt you need to have to succeed in this world?

Mandola: That is a great question. That is a deep question. I was given the gift to (I guess) connect with people and get on a personal level be it a CEO or a dishwasher. I just feel that all people are the same and I have a true interest in all people. I enjoy people. It’s a people business. It’s called a human being business we’re in. I just enjoy all types of people and learning about everybody. I think it’s important that they know how much we’re interested in them so they can perform better. If they know we care then they will care. That is kind of how I look at it. And then I do care.

My main mission is to 1, create a better company, and 2, increase sales – obviously people-driven. That helps us get to where we need to be. That is the first and most important process in the stairway to burger heaven. Without good people or good players you are not going to have a championship team. We both know that. We have competed long enough.

Cain: Can you take us through the eight steps of the stairway to burger heaven so that if people are taking notes, if coaches are taking notes as they are listening to this, this is exactly the eight step process that you believe is going to give you the best chance for success.

Mandola: I would love to. Thank you. Yes I would. We put this together – called The Stairway to Burger Heaven: Steps to Success – probably a year and a half ago. We did this to basically make it easy for our guys to go from step to step to step in order for them to achieve their goals or maximize their success.

Step #1 was grow your human capital. If you have good people that is Step #1, grow your human capital.

Step #2 is establish and enhance our championship culture. We are going to do that through our core values. Now I’ve got good people with core values that live our core values which are focus, courage, commitment, pride, passion, service, and teamwork.

After I have good people that have good values we move into [Step #3] the three R’s of restaurant renewal. They’re called the three R’s. It’s renewal, reenergize, and remodel. So we now have good people with core values and we have remodeled restaurants and we have reenergized people. So it’s called “bricks and mortars of the building.” So now the buildings look good. Now we have good people, core values, and nice buildings.

The next thing we are going to do is we are going to make sure in Step #4 that they are the cleanest restaurants in the world. The first impression you get in a restaurant is generally how it looks. We preach cleanliness. You can preach this in your locker room. You can preach this with your uniform. Look at the big leaguers. Their uniforms are perfect. Their cleats are clean. Their gloves are perfect. We want perfect practices daily and clean uniforms and clean restaurants. We have uniforms as well. We appreciate that every single one of our team members has their uniforms on, their nametag on. They take pride (one of the core values) in how they look on a daily basis.

Let’s go back to Step #1. Grow your human capital. Focus on a championship culture. Reenergize and remodel the buildings. Make sure the buildings are completely clean and look good so they are presentable to our guests.

Step #5 is increase an impact in up-sell. Get more out of what you are selling. Increase flavor profile and increase income by adding extra items onto the ticket. Give the guest cheese on their burger. Ask the guest if they want a shake. Ask the guest if they want onion rings. Increase impact and increase income by giving the guest more of what they want. Give the guy in the bullpen more of what he wants. Give the BP hitter extra batting practice. Give them more to get better.

Step #6 is hot food is good food. That is really important to me. It’s probably my number one step of the eight stairway to burger heaven steps. Hot food is good food. That means all ticket times under 10 minutes. I preach day-in-day-out communication, that once you get the order you’ve got to get the food to the guest in under 10 minutes. We live in a microwave society ladies and gentlemen where everybody wants it now. How fast? That fast. They want their food now. If we can communicate to our back of the house or our grill team or kitchen team to get the order, serve it to the guest in under 10 minutes, you’re making a guest happy. You are making a guest come in, count on us to get their food, to get the world’s greatest hamburger, and leave and get back to work or back to their families. That is Step #6.

Step #7 is if you execute all seven steps to perfection or close to perfection you will absolutely increase your sales and build a better business which is ultimately what we all want to do. Every single person listening to this is competitive. We just want to be better. If you work these 7-8 steps on a day-in-day-out basis in the restaurant you will be better.

Step #8 ultimately in our industry is increasing restaurant operating profit. That is kind of where we make money on our bottom line PNL statements. It’s like wins-losses if you are a coach. You want to win more than you did last year. You want to make more money than you did last year. You want to increase talent more than you did last year.

Let me summarize the eight stairway to burger heaven steps real quick for you one more time. #1 is grow your human capital, that is personal and professional development on a day-in-day-out basis. #2 is establish a championship culture. #3 is the three R’s of restaurant renewal; reenergize, renovate, and remodel. Always make sure your buildings and your fields are up to code, they’re up to speed, and they are presentable. #4 is the cleanest restaurant in the world. We pride ourselves on that – which is our core value, pride. #5 is up-sell to increase flavor profile and income. #6 is hot food is good food. Everything comes out of the kitchen efficiently and promptly in order to ensure guest satisfaction and increase frequency. Get them back to the restaurant. Get them back to the ballpark. #7 is increase sales. #8 is restaurant operating profit.

Cain: If you could talk maybe a little bit more about that championship culture and the FCCPPST process that you’ve talked about and what the definitions are of each of those core values that would be great.

Mandola: Absolutely Brian. This is how I believe. This is what I live every day and this is how we live everyday in our Fuddruckers world. We call it the stairway to burger heaven championship culture and it’s printed in every restaurant in the world. It’s on chips, it’s on pens, it’s on emails. We live our core values day-in-day-out and that is what we believe will get us to the next level.

Core value #1 is focus. We focus on one burger at a time, one guest at a time, one meal at a time.

Core value #2 is courage. We say we should do what you should do before you do what you want to do. DO what you should do before you do what you want to do and have courage to do the right thing.

[#3] Commitment is all in all the time. We talk about brand commitment or team commitment. Commitment is all in all the time.

[#4] Pride is personal responsibility in daily excellence.

[#5] Passion is a sense of urgency to be positive and achieve greatness. Have passion for your brand, have passion for yourself, have passion for your families and your Maker. Just have passion in life and be excited about it because people feel the passion.

[#6] Service is a big one for us. Exceptional people serving exceptional people.

[#7] Last but not least is teamwork. Together everyone achieves more. Or like I like to say, teamwork makes the dream work. We’ve all heard that one but we preach that.

Cain: Absolutely. Teamwork makes the dream work and you can’t have teamwork and success without leadership. So, Luke, last question here (as I know you’ve got to get to the airport here) is what is the number one habit that you do that trains you to be a leader? The number one thing you do. You already talked about leaders are readers so that might be the answer, but is there one thing you do consistently that you feel helps your leadership more than anything else?

Mandola: Good question there, Brian. Good question. That is good on the spot here. I would say that relentless consistency day-in-day-out is what I’m good at. I am a routine guy and routines will set you free. If you get up and you have relentless consistency and you preach your message day-in-day-out. In my business (which is the restaurant/hospitality industry) just like coaches or athletes you have to execute the fundamentals on a day-in-day-out basis if you want to win. Our fundamentals are our core values and our stairway to burger heaven steps. Your fundamentals in your sport are what you do on a daily basis.

I’ve got to lead by example and make sure every single person in my organization knows that every single day I practice what I preach and I lead with relentless consistency day-in-day-out to be the best we can be on a daily basis. If they see that, if they see me modeling that behavior, they are going to follow that and they are going to know I have passion for the brand and we want to be the best we can be.

Cain: Luke, I appreciate you taking time out of your schedule to talk a little bit about leadership and the stairway to burger heaven process and the championship culture that is making Fuddruckers separate themselves from everyone else as the world’s greatest hamburger. Normally I would end this with a handshake but we are going to go this way.