|Article first published as A Heart For Service: Interview with Bob Wright, COO of Charley’s Grilled Subs on Technorati.|
In September, Charley’s Grilled Subs opened their 100th restaurant on a military installation on Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Seattle, W.A. It was Charley Shin, Charley’s CEO and Founder, who, “was smiling the widest when the first soldier came through the lunch line,” says Bob Wright, chief operating officer of Charley’s.
A self-described “incurable patriot” despite having not served in the military, Wright shares a heart for service with both Shin and the international Philly Steak sandwich franchise’s employees, which he says, “makes the franchise’s relationship with the military so special.”
It’s this heart for service that Wright loves about Charley’s Grilled Subs and what attracted him to franchising in the first place.
“My grandfather always said everyone needs a job where they work for tips,” says Wright, who got his start in franchising as ‘the pizza delivery guy’ in college for Domino’s. Eventually, Wright became a Domino’s franchisee for about a year. “I’ve been there, too,” Wright says. “Nothing replaces that experience of being the business owner, of being responsible for every customer’s experience.”
Though his time as a Domino’s franchisee was short, it was his time as ‘the pizza delivery guy’ that was so influential in Wright’s franchising career. “I didn’t start out wanting to be in the food service industry,” he says, “but I loved it.”
Over the course of his career, Wright has had the chance to work with big-name franchises like Checkers, Wendy’s, Café Express and, of course, Charley’s. Though Wright’s original plan was to practice law. Today, he practices management. To him, serving as chief operating officer of Charley’s means he gets to develop, train and lead other to success. “For a quarter of a century, I’ve had the opportunity to serve others; whether it’s my team or franchisees. It brings out the best in a person.”
With Wright, his words express a continuous theme of service in the name of others, which is why he fits in so perfectly at Charley’s Grilled Subs. Charley’s makes its food to order. While this might sound obvious, it’s not—most food court establishments “assemble to order” as Wright likes to say. “We don’t put anything on the grill until you order it,” he explains.
This is because, like Wright, the people at Charlie’s believe “a good quality meal can make a difference in someone’s day,” he says proudly.
For those interested in becoming a Charley’s franchisee, the selection process is straightforward. Financial liquidity and wherewithal are necessary. Above all? “A heart of service,” says Wright. It’s important for potential franchisees to have adequate experience running a business in a managerial role. It’s not easy balancing the business side of the franchise and pleasing customers.
With all that said, “Charley’s has experience same-store growth throughout the recession,” says Wright. “Restaurant units have seen 13% growth this year and expect a 20% unit growth through to 2013,” he adds. Charley’s Grilled Subs has a growth model in place that still includes the bread and butter food court locations but specifically internationally, which are traditionally underserved.