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Building a social network at Brown’s Socialhouse

I try not to get in our managers’ way, but it can be difficult to determine exactly when to get involved and when not to be.

Peter and I are just now working on our sixth franchise, which should open in 2018 in Coquitlam, B.C. We’ve also put a deposit down for a seventh restaurant to be built somewhere in between Coquitlam and Brentwood, alongside a new SkyTrain rapid transit (RT) line. No exact site has been determined yet, but it will benefit from the higher population density that’s allowed near a transit station.

While all of my locations are performing very well, they are nonetheless very different from each other. Our Port Moody and Kitsilano units have big patios and are popular in the summer. The other three are in more central urban locations, where they can do well in winter and, especially, are stronger with the business lunch crowd.

Their footprint also varies, from 1,800 square feet for Kitsilano up to 4,200 square feet for Brentwood. My preference is in the middle range of 3,000 to 3,500 square feet with a patio, which is the case for Maple Ridge, Port Moody and Walnut Grove. With Brentwood’s larger layout, for example, it took us a bit longer to build up sufficient clientele to fill it, although it’s always been super-busy at lunchtime.

Managing multiple units
That may sound like a lot of locations to run, particularly across a large geographical territory. I work from an office in Brentwood, while Peter is based in Port Moody, and we travel to our various franchises to meet with our GMs. I would say I’m on the road two days a week.

I try not to get in the GMs’ way of doing their job, but it can be difficult to know where exactly that balance of management should be. I have to know when to get involved and when not to be.

My role has certainly changed since we went multi-unit. I now spend most of my time looking at papers or a computer screen, rather than managing a restaurant from the floor. I make sure we’re on top of any customer service concerns that come in through our ‘rant and rave’ website, I look at our financials, I deal with landlords and inspectors with regard to liquor regulations and I deal with lots of e-mails about design upgrades for our older locations.

The business dovetails well with my family lifestyle, although I still go through hills and valleys in terms of the hours I need to put in. When developing a new franchise buildout, for example, I get very involved and will work every day for weeks on end, including training new staff. That’s okay with me, as long as I know the end is in sight.

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