What do you do when you want to be the best? You find out how the best got where they are. Learn how this Huddle House franchisee won a top franchising award in 2017.
When Angie Britton sets a goal for herself, she charts out a course toward success. She is a hands-on partner in the Cuba, MO, Huddle House franchise she co-owns with her husband, Kevin, and her in-laws. So, when Britton decided their operation was close enough in Huddle House’s annual list of top performers that they had a real shot at winning the annual Best of the Best award, she set her sights on the top prize. “Basically, to be the best, you have to beat the best,” Britton says. In this Huddle House franchise review, Britton explains how she discovered what changes she needed to make at her restaurant franchise to secure the win.
How long have you been at your Cuba location?
A little over 15 years.
What were doing before you joined Huddle House?
I was working at a bank. My husband, Kevin, was in the funeral business and also construction.
What drew you to the Huddle House opportunity?
To be honest, it was my husband that was seeking out something else to get involved in. He actually visited several Huddle House locations. We just really liked the concept of being able to watch people cook in front of you. We were already in a 24/7 business with the funeral home, and so I guess it didn’t seem like too far of a stretch to go into the 24/7 restaurant business.
What are your respective roles in the business today?
I oversee our manager. She’s in charge of the day-to-day operations, but I oversee her. I help her manage the food costs and labor costs and just daily operations. I take care of all the marketing, I do payroll, every aspect of the accounting. Of course, my husband and I get together and make decisions together, but he takes care of maintaining equipment and the building.
Do you and Kevin have any kids who work in the business with you?
Our kids don’t work in it now, but they both have. They started out pretty young doing dishes and picking up trash outside or sweeping the floors, whatever we needed them to do. They’ve both since worked as servers, but they’ve moved on to other things.
Let’s talk about your win at the convention for Best of the Best. Why did they choose you?
Well, we had been our region winners for six years, including this year. We’ve been on that stage for six years now. The prior year, we had actually won third place nationally. When we got third place, we made a decision, my husband and I did, that I would travel to the first-place winner’s store with my manager. The first-place winner was Rance Reese, and his restaurant is in Cleveland, GA. We spent a day and a half with him, just learning what they did to get to be the Best of the Best. They had an awesome operation, and we learned a lot from them about teamwork and the different things they were doing that made them the best. Then we went back and we implemented quite a few things in our store. We have always tried to be one of the cleanest stores out there. There’s always work to be done on that, but we always pride ourselves in trying to make sure it’s very clean. The staff is well-trained and well-equipped to provide excellent service to our customers.
Do you have any particular tips or secrets in terms of making sure your staff is warm and friendly and hospitable every time? How do you make sure that your staff is always what you need them to be?
We have about four employees that have been with us since we opened, and people are constantly telling us how warm and inviting and friendly they are. That’s a big key, having several long-term employees.
You must be doing something to keep those employees around for such a long time.
We’re just great people to work for! No, I’m kidding. I can’t really tell you for sure what we’re doing, but we’re really grateful to have them and they seem to really love working here. Because we are a family-oriented business, we just feel like we provide that type of environment to our employees and staff.
How would you say you feel about the direction of the brand right now?
I would say it has grown and improved tremendously over the last several years. When we first started, we were the most northern location. It’s totally different now. They’ve added a lot of other locations north of us and west of us.
In the past, there were times when we went almost a year without seeing anybody from corporate. We have much better communication now. We see someone every month or two. We talk to them on a daily basis. Our FADs (Franchise Area Directors) are there to support us. It’s just been a big, positive cultural shift. They’re asking, “What can we do to help you be a success?”
How large a town is Cuba?
It’s approximately 3,500. In the summer, we get a lot of activity because we’re right off of Interstate 44, and also Old Route 66 runs right through Cuba. We also have a lot of camping and river floating just south of us and around us, so we get a lot of traffic that way through the summer, a lot of tourists.
What does the competition look like in your area in terms of full-service dining, sit-down dining in that value area?
There’s really nothing in our area exactly like Huddle House, so even though there’s a McDonald’s and there’s a Jack in the Box and a Taco Bell and a Hardee’s, I don’t really see those as competition. There are no other concepts like us in our area. There is a truck stop right across the road from us, but we really don’t see a whole lot of competition here.
If you were to talk to somebody on the phone and they asked you what it takes to be a successful single-unit owner with Huddle House, what would you tell them?
I would say that being an owner-operator is really the key to success. Being in your store every day, meeting customers and having a hand involved in everything is probably the biggest key.
What do you personally find to be the most satisfying thing about being a Huddle House owner?
I love the flexibility with my schedule. You’re working a lot of times on the weekends and different times when most people would be off, but it’s nice not having to go to a 9-to-5 job. I do enjoy the customers that we’ve met, and we see our regulars very frequently.
And, you know, we offer a lot of jobs in our community. We usually have 20-23 people. We have a general manager and an assistant manager. And I would say 75% of our employees are full-time.
As a single-unit owner/operator who’s not really interested in adding more units, how do you define your growth goals?
Our goal right now is to become a million-dollar store, because Huddle House has a million-dollar club. We’re getting a lot closer. Last year, we did significantly more in sales than the previous year, so our definite goal is to just keep going in that direction and get to that million-dollar mark.
Do you have strategies that you would care to share? Is it about service? Is it about efficiencies?
It’s really just honestly following the system, and yeah, the customer service is No. 1. Getting the food out quickly, which is the efficiency model. We have to be able to do it quickly, turn those tables quickly. We have to be able to provide good food all the time, and like I said, great service. That’s kind of the goal, and just to keep building sales by getting repeat business.
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