Tags: heart of business

We Hosted Rodney Couch the CEO & Founder of Preferred Hospitality, Inc.

We Hosted Rodney Couch the CEO & Founder of Preferred Hospitality, Inc.

Beyond • February 8, 2019

Rodney Couch doesn\'t just have the typical story of going from the dishwasher in a restaurant to running the whole place. He worked his way from the ground up and found a way to do things differently in the service industry. Now, with transparency on their side, his company Provider is disrupting the contract foodservice industry. Trust is not something easily earned in the environment that we currently live in. Profit is not a bad word, but it does and can be abused by vendors and contractors. People are very suspect. That\'s one of the core initiatives that I have when dealing with customers. We need to earn their trust and that doesn\'t happen overnight. It can happen, and when it does happen, you find yourself in a very collaborative relationship. If you prefer to read, the transcript is posted below: 00:14 Andy Shore: Hey everybody, welcome back to the Heart of Business. I\'m Andy Shore, here, as always, is my trusted co-host, Daniel Miller. 00:19 Daniel Miller: Hello everybody. 00:20 AS: And we have an awesome guest for you today. His name is Rodney Couch, and he is the founder and CEO of several restaurants, contract food service, all sorts of stuff. We did it during our lunch break and I know I was ready to go eat afterwards. We sampled some of their restaurants and they\'re quite good. 00:42 DM: Very, very good. 00:43 AS: And he\'s got a great story and they\'re doing some fun stuff and disrupting the industry. So, we were excited to talk to him. Before we get started, I wanna remind everybody about the Benchmark Starter Plan. For up to 2,000 of your contacts, you do your email marketing totally free, let you get started, start sending those first emails, start building those relationships with those subscribers. Check it out, benchmarkemail.com. Let\'s get rolling. 01:06 AS: So, how you doing today, Rodney? 01:08 Rodney Couch: I\'m great, thank you. And yourself? 01:10 AS: Oh, we\'re doing good, doing good. We\'re recording on a Friday, and happy that that\'s finally here, it\'s been a long week. But we\'ve got you here and we\'re excited to talk to you and hear more about everything you do. So, you\'re the CEO and founder of Preferred Hospitality, can you tell us a little bit about that company? 01:30 RC: Sure, yeah. We started our business back in 1989 with the seafood restaurant called Market Broiler and developed a number of those retail brands across the State of California. We\'ve also started a contract food service division, where we\'ve been serving other clients in mostly the educational sector, with some government and schools and others. And so, that business has grown over the years. And then we also have a chain, or involved in a chain of restaurants called Blue Water Grill where I\'m a general partner and we have eight restaurants throughout Southern California under that brand, mostly at water locations. 02:24 AS: Very cool. And where did you get started in the food service industry? [chuckle] 02:29 RC: Well, I started at the ripe old age of 15 and a half. Back in those days you could get a motorcycle license and get a permit at school that would allow you to work. And so, I took my first job as a dishwasher at a group called Lord Charlies, which was part of the C&C organization. And I really enjoyed working in the restaurant environment, it was much like in athletics, very much a team style environment, and so it just stuck. I stayed in the restaurant business my entire career. 03:14 DM: That\'s great. What do you think are some of the best qualities that one can get from working in the restaurant industry? 03:23 RC: Well, it\'s one of those things that you don\'t get taught in school. In today\'s public school system, most of what you learn is through reading and memorization. And actually in the work environment, particularly in restaurants, what you learn is team or collaboration in solving problems and working together. And that\'s something that, I think, most athletes enjoy. There\'s no one in team, there\'s just the group as a whole that participates to achieve high-end results. And as a leader, that\'s mostly what we do as leaders is organize teams to strategize to best deliver a customer experience, and not something that one person can do in a restaurant or a contract food service environment. We really need to operate with team to get results. 04:28 DM: I worked myself in the restaurant business for many years, and when I first got started at a very young age I never really thought what I could really learn from this and how that can help me later on in life. Going in there I\'m like, \"Oh, I got this job and I gotta wash dishes and clean floors and serve people.\" But like you say, the valuable lessons that that can teach you to work in a team, to be efficient, customer first, there\'s no other place that the customer is first more like in the restaurant business. You screw something up there, they\'re coming to your place to have an experience. So, yeah, I value a lot of what you say about... There\'s a lot of team building in the restaurant business itself. 05:15 RC: I read a restaurant staff from the Restaurant Association that reported that over 50% of the citizens in this country have worked in a restaurant at one point in time or another. And I think that really bodes well for the hospitality that is important in every business. Customer service is essential no matter what type of business you\'re in. I think most of us cut our teeth in the restaurant business, which is the epitome of the intimate fellowship with other people. Sharing a meal is something that we\'ve been doing as Americans for a long time. 05:54 AS: Yeah, absolutely, as people continue to get lost in their phones, that opportunity for social interaction and learning those skills is important. But in prepping for the episode and doing some research, what about that experience you had gained, made you believe that it was possible to go out on your own? 06:14 RC: C&C Organization was where I first cut my teeth, and I was in [06:21] ____. But I went on from there and worked for a number of other restaurant groups, including Red Baron and Taco Bell, a couple others, but I did work for a company called Seafood Broiler, where right out of high school, I was hired in the... And we grew that restaurant group from six restaurants when I joined, to, I think, 32, and that\'s the company that in fact, we did sell to Red Lobster. And during that time... You know, I mean I love my job, I was recognized as one of the the best leaders in the organization, and never thought twice about changing companies or moving on. 07:09 RC: But when the company decided to sell, ACCOR sold to Red Lobster, and it was kind of a turning point for me, where either I could, A, start over and prove myself to the new management team that was operating the restaurants, or it was an opportunity to start fresh and not face that threat again of having somebody buy out the group. And so, the decision was quite clear at the time and so I started looking for opportunities to open my first restaurant, drew up a business plan, raised the capital, and what can I say, that the rest is history. I was fortunate enough that the first restaurant I opened was a success, and that was in October 19th of 1989 and that restaurant is still successful to this day. 08:08 DM: Yeah, that\'s amazing. So just to kind of get a timeframe, that was right around 1988 or so? 08:20 RC: It was October of 1989. October 19th, 1989 was our first day of operations at Market Broiler in Riverside. 08:28 DM: Very interesting. And out of curiosity, has much changed in regards to how you define and set up a location for a restaurant, its menu? For some of our listeners here, that may be wanting to open a restaurant, what\'s been some of the changes from when you\'ve done that, to now, of what it really takes to start a restaurant? 08:57 RC: That\'s funny that you ask that question. A lot\'s changed. 09:02 AS: I\'m sure. 09:02 RC: Simultaneously, some things never change. What doesn\'t change is the value proposition of what a restaurant offers. The ambience, the quality of the food, the service, the cleanliness of the restaurant, the entire value proposition. When it gets to the point of reaching an art, and that\'s when the culinary experience is at its best. People know a great value when they see it. And they through word-of-mouth, flock to a restaurant that provides those things. And typically my experience has been, is when you do a good job, there\'s typically a margin there. 09:54 RC: On the other hand, what\'s changed is the economy of restaurants. And I think the biggest change that I\'ve seen in my career is the moving away of full service, or full service casual restaurants or full service restaurants at large and the shrinking of that marketplace, and the movement towards fast casual restaurants, and the reason is, one is price, it\'s a lot less expensive to operate and the prices at fast casual restaurants that don\'t have full service is more of a value. But second, the hurrying of America, everybody is so busy. The convenience of getting better quality food than you would get in fast food in these fast casual restaurants has really caused an explosion in America of these type of restaurants. 10:57 AS: Yeah. And you\'d add in the Uber Eats and all that, that you can get it delivered to your house while you\'re driving on the way home, it\'s nuts, it really changes the dynamic of the customer and the restaurant experience. 11:11 DM: Yeah, what advice could you give on staying on top of those trends, as Yelp comes into the fold and social media, and all that stuff that plays a role in any businesses, but especially in the food service industry? 11:25 RC: Without speaking to it specifically, I would say that any leader needs to be looking at organizational change as something that they have to accept and adopt. Every organization is constantly changing and the restaurant industry is no exception to that. You have to adopt changes and stay relevant, and if you don\'t, you\'re out of business. 11:55 DM: Yeah, absolutely. And I wanna kinda shift gears a little bit and talk more about provider, \'cause in our research and heard a little bit about what you guys are doing there. I mean, my experience in college, I remember my parents buying me a food plan and going to the cafeteria and they\'d get no refund at the end of the year if I didn\'t use all of the plan. So we\'ve been going to the convenience store that you can use your meal plan for and loading up on cases of water and Gatorade and snacks, and all sorts of things. And there is a McDonald\'s you could use it for that would just be treating friends to food because like I said, it wasn\'t going back to my parents or anything, or who knows where that money was going? And what you guys are doing with your contract food service operation sounds like it\'s looking to change all that. 12:52 RC: Yeah. The Contract Food Service Division was something that I tripped into, if you will. I was a member of the board of directors of a large church in the Riverside market, and there was a movement in the mega church movement to incorporate food service. And so my pastor asked me, \"Hey would you consider running the food service operation here and leading it?\" My first response was, \"No, that\'s not why I go to church, to work. I go to church to worship.\" But after I thought about it, I was really convicted. If not you Rodney, then who? And so I decided that I would lead the charge, and that... But it was important to me to memorialize the contractual agreement in which we were more of a steward over the program as opposed to a contractor. And you might think that that\'s a subtle difference, but to me it\'s not subtle at all. I don\'t think that universities or businesses should be bifurcating the responsibility and letting a contractor determine food prices, food quality, service, operating hours, all of those things that are important; aesthetics, to a well-run food service operation. 14:29 RC: So what I did that was a little bit disruptive is I organized a contract where in collaboration with the leader of this particular church, we, together chose and decided on, what was best practices for that particular business? And things worked out fairly well. We were earning a fee for doing what we know how to do, which is to, well, run restaurants. And the clients that we were serving were getting first class, best of breed restaurant practices. And so, that morphed into a collegiate account called Cal Baptist University, and we were brought on to alter the trajectory of the current food service that was operated by one of the big contract food service companies in America, Sodexo. And so they hired us and I basically deployed the same model for them, and we\'ve seen, over the last 15 years, this university has grown from less than 2000 folks on campus to over 10,000 folks on campus. And the food service budget is 15 times what it was, instead of operating one outlet, we\'re operating nine outlets with three additional outlets coming online in the next year, year and a half. 16:05 RC: And so it\'s just really been an exciting time for me because I get to exercise my gifts and hospitality in a way that helps strategically the university accomplish its long-term goals of attraction of new students and retention of students. And we were fortunate enough this year and in the last few years, to be rated second best in California and I think seventh or eighth best in the country for the type of program that we\'re operating. And all that with the university really controlling the cost of what program they wanna offer. And that\'s just been exciting to be able to serve them and accomplish the things that we\'ve accomplished together, has just been very rewarding for me. 17:02 AS: So to go from zero to hero for an industry that seems like it\'s already pretty well established, what are some of the big differences that your program has versus the others? 17:19 RC: Well, I think one of the differences is clearly the perspective that we bring to large contract food service accounts. In retail, it\'s every guest every time. In the contract arena, that sentiment is not always every guest every time. And so, bringing this retail mentality of just doing a great job with each and every guest, and you\'re only as good as that last meal that you serve, that\'s really structurally helped us in the contract food service arena, because typically in the contract arena, it\'s not operated to the degree that we operate in the retail sector. I think that\'s one of the big differentials for us, is just the level of hospitality service quality that we serve to each and every guest in the contract business. 18:24 DM: That\'s great. And I\'m sure going into this new arena with provider has helped in the other side of the business too, you flex muscles a little differently. Maybe even just in the relationships you have with your vendors. I\'m sure it\'s helped you grow everything just using like I said, flexing new muscles and thinking about things from a slightly different perspective. 18:48 RC: And that\'s probably another point of differentiation. What we\'ve gleaned in this business is that the competitors that we operate with, in the contract arena, they\'re certainly not as transparent with the financial information as our model has proven to be. And so there\'s a lot of learning that takes place with our clients, in terms of what is best practices, what is your actual food cost, what are labor costs? We manage those things in the retail environment because we must, in order to be successful, we have to keep control over each and every cost of operating a restaurant, \'cause there\'s just... There\'s not that much margin in restaurants. 19:44 RC: So when we activate those costs in the contract arena, it delivers the same type of results that we deliver in the retail sector. But again, one of those differences is that not all the large contractors disclose what their real costs are to their clients. So we found that in meeting with new clients, oftentimes the most negotiated part of the discussion is about price. We try to take price out of the equation by building a contract that gives us what we call our stewardship management fee, and then by sharing with 100% traceability and transparency what the costs are, the risk is taken out in regards to price. So we spend majority of our time with our clients talking about best practices, how to achieve strategic results, as opposed to incessantly negotiating price each and every day we serve them. 20:55 DM: Yeah, I think transparency really is one of the strongest tools businesses can have and it\'s way underused because the world we live in today with social media, phone chat, email, they have so much access to your business, for brands to be transparent upfront and with their customers, helps build that trust that is what gets you loyal customers. 21:16 AS: Yeah, I\'ve been reading a lot about how businesses can clarify their company message and how to be customer-centric, and the two main things that they do focus on is people buy not what they think is the best, but what they understand the best, that is gonna solve their problem. So there may be two competing services, one works way better, but the other one explains it better, the person is more likely to buy that one, \'cause they clearly understand what they\'re getting into, the value proposition cost and so forth. And the other main thing was, people don\'t really worry about price, what they\'re worried about is being played. So it seems like you guys have the perfect recipe of setting the customer upfront, being transparent, clear. And by doing that, that shows the success that you\'re having. So, yeah. Congratulations. That\'s awesome. 22:11 RC: Well, thanks. Trust is not something that\'s easily earned in the environment that we currently live in. We\'re a fallen people and so none of us are perfect and so many of us have been abused and taken advantage of, and it\'s certainly like that in the business environment. Profit is not a bad word, but it does and can be abused by vendors and contractors, and so people are very suspect. So that\'s one of the core initiatives that I have when dealing with customers, is that we needed to earn, earn their trust, and that doesn\'t happen overnight, but it can happen. And when it does happen, you find yourself in a very collaborative relationship, all strategically shooting for goals that your client has, in regards to their overall business and their core competence. And while as stewards, we use our core competence to deliver the type of program that best suits their needs. 23:26 AS: Yeah, definitely. And so what\'s next for you, guys? Is it more restaurants and expansion and getting more schools for the contract food service? Is there bigger ideas in the works? 23:38 RC: No, I think it\'s stay on the continuum that we\'re on, operate where we operate best, which is in the hospitality sector, certainly, we want to grow both the retail and contract food service components. We think that it\'s really important to have both. We like cutting the teeth of our leadership in the retail sector, and then moving those leaders into the contract food service arena, where each and every guest experience is extremely important, that\'s working really well for us, and I think it\'s worked for quite a few contract food service companies historically, some of the best have been incubated in the retail sector, where every meal, every time is critical. 24:33 AS: Yeah. I think that\'s great. You guys are clearly on to something and it\'s working, so congratulations and keep up the good work. Wanna thank you for spending time to talk with us today. 24:45 RC: Well, thanks a lot for your time, that was fun. 24:47 AS: Thanks everyone for listening and we\'ll catch you next time, bye guys.


Read More
Illustrating the Career of His Dreams with Armando Veve

Illustrating the Career of His Dreams with Armando Veve

Beyond • October 5, 2018

You don\'t wind up on Forbes 30 Under 30 list by accident. It takes hard work, determination and talent. All three of which Armando Veve has in spades. Armando is a Philadelphia-based artist and illustrator. His work has been featured in the New York Times, The New Yorker, Wired and many more publications. He\'s also been awarded two gold medals from the Society of Illustrators, which is extra special given that it\'s voted on by his peers. It involves a lot of storytelling. It\'s kind of like I\'m writing. I\'m a writer, but I do it through pictures. We discussed how Armando got his start as an Illustrator, some projects he\'s had along the way and advice he has for wannabe illustrators. We also talked about the opportunities he has for his work to come off the page and into art galleries, which creates a new experience for the viewer. Lastly, Aramando clues us in as to what his future might hold. 2:37 - On what it means to be an illustrator 5:16 - Talking about beginning his career as an illustrator 13:24 - The purpose that print publications still serve 21:30 - When he knew his passion was a viable career option and advice for others looking to do it 27:10 - The New York Times cover story he said no to


Read More
Man’s Best Friend’s Best Friend: Yo! Dog Walker’s Bob Morris

Man’s Best Friend’s Best Friend: Yo! Dog Walker’s Bob Morris

Beyond • August 17, 2018

Imagine coming home from a long day of work to find your dog excited to see you and well rested from a fun adventure with the dog walker … and the dishes piled up in your sink have been cleaned. Bob Morris, founder of Yo! Dog Walker doesn’t do that because he was asked. He does it because he cares and feels like it’s the right thing to do. Coming off a decade of touring around the country and across the globe with his band The Hush Sound, Morris found himself looking for a new adventure. What started as the realization that he could make some extra cash walking a neighbor’s dog along with his own has turned into a thriving business. He hired his friends that were also in and around the music industry to help them get some much-needed income in between gigs. Their creativity put to use in the fun updates they send their clients on walks or overnight stays. I don’t have kids yet, but I have a hard enough time leaving my dog even for a few days. The “pupdates” I receive brighten my day whether I’m out of town or just working a longer-than-usual day. You have to find the things about what you’re passionate about [within the business]. If you work hard and do the thing you don’t want to do for a little while, you can find people to do the parts of your business that are unappealing to you for the right price. 2:45 - Where the idea to start a dog walking business began 14:14 - On learning the business side of things 18:20 - Standing out in a crowded industry 25:50 - Understanding scalability and limits


Read More
Best of the Heart of Business

Best of the Heart of Business

Beyond • August 3, 2018

Well, one week is in the books with our daily (on weekdays) mini-episodes of Clues for the Clueless Email Marketer and Clues for the Clueless CRM Marketer. Now that we have three podcasts, it seemed like as good of a time as any to look back on our original podcast, the Heart Of Business. With a little over 100 episodes released, the Heart Of Business has seen some awesome guests, who are doing (or have done) incredible things. We wanted to honor some of our favorites … and some of yours! The truth is, we’ve enjoyed every single episode we’ve recorded. It’s hard not to when you get to speak with people who are passionate about what they’re doing with their lives. Thanks to everyone who has ever been a guest on the Heart Of Business and all of you who have been listening all these years! Andy’s Favorite Episodes Diamond Dallas Page: Wrestling with a New Yoga Business If I’m being honest, a large part of why this was so special is because of the voicemail that was left for my by DDP himself prior to recording. My junior high self was squealing on the inside about this episode. He did not disappoint. Nick Uhas: Beginnings, Big Brother and Beyond You ask Nick Uhas how he wound up on Big Brother and you first hear about how he started wrestling in Junior High, competitive rollerblading and how he crashed a fraternity leadership summit in Mexico. Somehow, it turns into a story of following the path presented to you and gaining confidence in your strengths. There Is No Shot: ImmunoMatrix with Kasia Sawicka Kasia Sawicka is the Neo of ImmunoMatrix. The one that did what has never been done before. During a college experiment, Kasia stumbled upon a discovery that might have major implications across the globe. Through her findings, she has made a patch that can deliver medications through the skin at a greater rate than was previously thought possible. She\'s got a growing list of awards and accolades that boast the significance of ImmunoMatrix. Daniel’s Favorite Episodes All About.com That Podcast with Neil Vogel Neil Vogel is the CEO of About.com. He talked with us about transforming a brand, chubby babies and content. With Andy on injured reserve, Engineer Claude and Daniel took the reigns for this great listen. Siri, Will You Be On Our Podcast? You\'d think being the voice of Siri could be the coolest thing a person could do. Then you learn that Susan Bennett also toured the world with Roy Orbison. She toured with a guy that was in a band with a Beatle. How cool is that?! The answer is very cool, and Susan Bennett is just that. Learn about the life of a voice actor and singer and how one can be the voice of Siri without even realizing it\'s happening. Energized By Grid Modernization Engineer Tirthak Saha Tirthak Saha is only 26 years old. He\'s been recognized by Forbes 30 Under 30, worked with NASA on origami-inspired satellites and won American Electric Power\'s Spark Tank Innovation Challenge. You may not have heard of him yet, but he believes that will change. So do we. Most Downloaded Episodes (Your Favorites!) Drive Change: Social Justice is a Dish Best Served ... Literally It seems more important than ever to tell a story like that of Drive Change. A force for good in our society aimed at improving the lives of its employees, maintaining a conversation on social justice and serving delicious food. Drive Change brings its cause straight to the people taking its food truck, Snowday, on the move with a message. You see, the food truck employs formerly incarcerated young adults and gives them support, on the job training and assistance in achieving the future they desire. Did I mention the food is amazing? I don\'t have to because the awards are piling up ... as are the mentions in every \"best of NY\" list on food trucks. Drive Change co-founder Roy Waterman and his team deserve all the accolades their food has received and more. In a world of hashtag activism, it seems as important as ever to give a platform to the individuals taking action to work for a better tomorrow. 1,810 Seconds with 2-Second Lean\'s Paul Akers Paul Akers had to go to Japan to become fully immersed in Lean culture. Thanks to him, all of us need not leave our desks. To say we were excited to speak to Paul and hear his story is an understatement. His Lean Journey is one of positivity and joy, albeit not with a few bumps along the road. We talked to him about his own company, FastCap, and how they have benefited from implementing Lean. EasilyDo: Stay On Top Of It All Think about all of the things for which you use your smartphone. Calls, email and texting, sure, but what else? You calendar, the internet, social media. Shopping? Transportation? Business? These days the list can go on and on. EasilyDo is like having an assistant that lives in your phone. It integrates with all of the tools you use in your life to stay organized and get things done. We had a great talk on how the tools in your life can be used more efficiently. It\'s something all of us can stand to do. Most Played Episodes (More of Your Favorites!) The Fan Experience with Kevin Browning, Umphrey\'s McGee Not many bands can tour for more than a decade and a half and still bring something new to the table each and every time. Umphrey\'s McGee has delivered unique fan experiences unseen by most others in the music industry. We chat with Kevin Browning, who manages strategy and development for the the band. Listen along and see how you might conjure up some out of the box ideas for your business. Millennials & More with Michael Price Michael Price literally wrote the book on millennials. Hear how his book, What Next? The Millennial’s Guide To Surviving and Thriving in the Real World, came to be and why he felt he was the one to write it. Hear his thoughts on millennials, who they are and what they are capable of. You Can Dance If You Want To ... at Dance With Me Alex Samusevich co-founded Dance With Me Studios with Maksim Chmerkovskiy of Dancing with the Stars. He took a lifelong passion for dance and turned it into a business that also allowed him to share it with others. What started as a conversation about being able to pursue one’s dreams in business and in life that was uplifting and inspirational turned into a look at using what you have, creating great content and doing it all with a DIY approach. Tell Us Your Favorite Do you have a favorite episode that we didn’t include here? Tell us in the comments!


Read More
Really Good Episode with Really Good Emails’ Matt Helbig

Really Good Episode with Really Good Emails’ Matt Helbig

Beyond • July 20, 2018

Spoiler alert: Your hosts of the Heart of Business podcast are really big email nerds. Not surprised? That makes sense. That’s why it was inevitable that we’d invite the folks behind Really Good Emails to join us on the podcast. Matt Helbig did not disappoint us. We talk about what the site is and how it came to be. Matt also offered some intel on the advantages of having a passion project. If you ever wanted to know what email marketing professionals consider to be really good emails and which one makes them cringe, this episode is for you. The number one thing that rings true when we look for emails that we always come back to is that the content serves a customer more than the company. That always kind of holds true with all the different emails. We also looked to the future and discuss what email marketers have to look forward to. 1:12 - What is Really Good Emails and how did it begin? 6:28 - Tips on managing a side hustle 9:14 - How to communicate when your whole team is remote 11:52 - What makes a really good email? 16:20 - What in an email campaign makes them cringe? 21:55 - Matt’s hopes for email marketers 26:21 - Where Matt got started with email marketing


Read More
1 2 3