Business is Boring is a weekly podcast series presented by The Spinoff in association with Callaghan Innovation. Host Simon Pound speaks with innovators and commentators focused on the future of New Zealand, with the interview available as both audio and a transcribed excerpt.
If you want to see the power of great execution, walk into any of the hospitality offerings that our guest today has brought us.
You might think a burger is a burger, but that is until you’ve been to Burger Burger. Consistently named a top option in town, their great ingredients, atmosphere, energy and engaged team have made their affordable treat a household name, with half a million plus diners served a year.
Before that, Mimi Gilmour introduced the Mexico restaurants, growing fast and taking that mix of tacos, fried chicken and fun across many locations to a successful exit. To talk ideas, creativity, execution and big goals delivered, Mimi Gilmour joined the podcast.
Let’s look at one of these goals that you have, which is a very cool goal – to be the best workplace for under-25’s. Am I phrasing that correctly? The most inspiring?
I guess the biggest challenge in hospitality in New Zealand is the mentality of the workforce, because it just hasn’t been given the respect that it deserves for so long. This is a bit of a generalisation because I did go to art school, but there’s a lot of ‘Be a lawyer, be an accountant, get a proper job’, and I don’t really know what that means.
For me there’s a bit of a flow-on effect. Because it hasn’t been respected, the young generations that are the workforce and that don’t feel respected working in the industry don’t treat it in a respectful way, which means our service levels aren’t on par with a lot of the international cities that we’re surrounded by, therefore they don’t get paid very well and blah blah blah. I’d heard over and over again ‘Our biggest problem is our staff’, and I just didn’t want that to be the case. It’s like ‘Why?’ I want our team to be our greatest asset.
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Instead of focusing on ‘how do we control these annoying kids?’ we wanted to figure out how to find great young kiwis and give them wicked opportunities, and for them to see the benefits of working in hospitality. Let’s make that our focus, because if we have an engaged and energised workforce then everything else becomes easy. We’ve revisited that again recently and set ourselves a goal of revolutionising the burger chain and one of those goals is to offer extraordinary financial opportunities, and that was really important for me.
If we wanted our staff to see a future in hospitality then we needed to be able to provide them with a financial opportunity that would support a lifestyle or a family once they got to the top. If you go down the franchise route, or all of these other options, you’re talking to a different category of people. We wanted to know how to find a way to motivate this generation to stay here and to work with us and to push this whole industry into a new perspective.
So you share information about the costs, the profits and the business. That’s what we do at Vend and coming into Vend that was amazing. All of the information was available, and that was so empowering. That must be even rarer for under-25’s in a hospo job to have that kind of information sharing.
We’ve just got a training specialist on board, we’re going to build an entire BB University online, and that’ll be beyond what they do day-to-day. Hopefully that’ll be things like personal and financial tools, because I think they need to understand – and I think it’s important for us to have them understand – that we respect them enough to teach them how a business works, otherwise they just see the money pouring in the top, and so the way that we’ve decided to financially motivate this next generation will be through a profit-sharing scheme. But in order for them to understand how they can manage that and realise as much value for themselves as they can, then they need to understand the mechanics of a business. They need to know that, they need to see it, and they need to understand it.
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