Anand Gala started out early with his dreams when he worked in his family’s Jack in the Box restaurants at age 8 or 9. He has worked in mostly all positions in the restaurant–from simple tasks like handing over of check presenters, to serving trays of food to customers, all the way up to the more intricate donning of a chef’s uniform and cooking in the kitchen. Working there with his mother and brother, he learned to dream big.
Today, Anand Gala is President and CEO of the Gala Corporation, recognized by Restaurant Finance Monitor as one of the 200 largest restaurant franchisees in America. The Gala Corporation have let go of Jack in the Box in 2007, but a whole lot of others took its place– 19 Applebee’s, 5 Famous Dave’s and 3 Del Taco’s.
Franchise Update interviewed him last month where he gave helpful hints on how to survive the economy, expand the market, and take care of customers. Our businesses can learn a lot from his valuable business insights:
Work hard for financial strength during good times, to allow financial stability during bad times. When asked how his company managed to expand to two additional restaurants during a down economy, Anand Gala declared that the company “had been lucky and blessed to be able to build a business with a conservative financial strength.” One of the optimal formulas to survive an economic slump, according to him, is “strong financial stability.”
Be flexible. In a very challenging economic environment, Gala believes that flexibility is needed to continue with a company’s growth. “Famous Dave’s understands the franchisee and developer challenges (these days) and has created incentives to minimize the risks we were all experiencing through reduced royalties,” he said. They give financial incentives to their partners to continue with their expansions, and help them put the restaurant in order – from the general conceptualization of the business down to the purchasing of menu boards and napkin rings.
Give utmost priority to the customers. Operating on a sound philosophical approach of outstanding customer service, Gala said that, “you can receive too much food, and get too much great value, but you can never get too much great customer service.” Great customer service is what that drives brands to achieve excellence, and is crucial to achieving customer frequency. “We focus on the guest, on the experience,” he added.
Continuously analyze the market. Gala said that “with each franchise brand, there are metrics and methods used to measure customer satisfaction, customer engagement, and customer loyalty. And they report back to us and use those results as a metric to drive our performance.” The Gala Corporation also deviates from many typical marketing ideas and concentrates on creative solutions – they realize that the market continuously varies and changes, so they make sure to find out how their guests are engaged. “It’s no longer a one-size-fits-all,” he stated.
Look around and learn. Gala said he tries to be a student of history. He realizes that there are plenty of lessons that can be seen outside of the restaurant industry in terms of marketing and customer engagement methods. “You’d be surprised what (marketing) tactics can be used. I get great ideas walking through grocery and convenience stores and observing how they are able to capture the customer’s attention and motivate them to make a particular purchase in a very short period of time,” he said.
Have a good eye. He says that he is not artistic or imaginative, but he has a good eye for creative and unique marketing ideas. It’s surprisingly easy for him to modify and adapt these ideas to his company’s present situation. The tool he uses? His cell phone camera. “I can’t remember everything I see but I can take a photo. I have a huge database of pictures of ideas from a variety of industries and in various formats,” he added.