In our on-going Meet Our Team series, we take time out this week to meet our new Chief Operations Officer (COO), Bill Bartlett! While he’s only been with the Shuckin’ Shack franchise team for one year, he’s already been a major influence on training and operation systems that have been implemented recently. He was also influential in the roll-out of the Hinge learning management system we discussed last week. We sat down with Bill to ask him nine questions to learn more about his background and what the future looks like for Shuckin’ Shack Oyster Bars:
Q1: When did you start with the Shuckin' Shack Franchise and what was your career experience like prior to joining them?
A: I started with the Shuckin' Shack franchise team just over a year ago. I have spent my life in the hospitality industry, performing in every role from clean-up kid to COO. I have opened more than 160 restaurants around the world. I’ve led small companies and those with over 8,000 staff members. I've been directly responsible for all operational departments, including marketing, HR, IT and Training.
Q2: You started as Vice President of Operations and were recently promoted to Chief Operations Officer - how does that change your involvement with your Shuckin' Shack franchisees?
A: I don't see it changing my interaction with our Franchise Partners. Here at Shuckin' Shack, from the Founders to the entire support center team, we are all very involved in the success of the business. We feel if you lose touch with your operators, that's when you start to breakdown culture, performance, and communication. All three that are so valuable to achieve the results we are looking for.
Q3: The Shuckin' Shack franchise is truly unique compared to many other seafood restaurants, how does that present challenges from the perspective of restaurant operations?
A: It’s just the opposite of presenting challenges. Matt Piccinin, one of the co-founders, and Jonathan Weathington, our CEO, have taken Shuckin' Shack from the shores of Carolina Beach and developed it into a simplified and fun restaurant operation. Our smaller foot print, just 2,200 - 3,000 square feet, allows our partners the ability to hit the ground running, perform consistently, and provide guests with a great experience.
Q4: One of the key elements for the ongoing success of "The Shack" is truly establishing a coastal beach vibe locally - how do you instill that experience with each new location?
A: Again, simplicity. Everyone of us, including myself, has the same desire to live a beach kind of life. Now as we go inland with locations, it is no different; everyone wants to wear flip flops, t shirts and shorts, and head to the beach. Shuckin' Shack brings those beach vibes to inland hometowns.
Q5: Since you started with the Shuckin' Shack Franchise team, what's the one project that's been successfully implemented that you are most proud of?
A. Training new franchisees and their staff. We all have been working diligently to improve in this area; from how we train to the tools we use. We currently have our communication platform up and running for the the entire organization called "The Hinge" . It houses all our training materials and more. Partners have access to all recipe and menu build cards with the a push of a button. Staff members can take quizzes right on their cell phones. We can monitor how our Franchise Partners are doing with their staff training right through the same platform.
Q6: Shuckin' Shack has a "Lifestyle Guide" they share with potential franchisees during Discovery Day. Can you briefly describe "the Shack" lifestyle to those considering this restaurant franchise?
A. The Lifestyle Guide was a true collaboration of many. It helps us build a culture with everyone understanding and living the vision we have for the Shuckin' Shack restaurant franchise. Our potential franchising partners actually get to feel a bit of that Carolina Beach coastal vibe through the guide. This restaurant business is tough, with a ton of competition, and not much to set you apart anymore. Our differentiator is our lifestyle and the ease of execution that allows us to turn new guests into long term regulars.
Q7: Your team is on track to have 20 Shuckin' Shack Oyster Bars open by 2020: Tell us what the next few years looks like in terms of on-going unit growth and brand expansion.
A. Matt and Jonathan brought me in to think big. With this franchise support team, Shuckin' Shack is poised to move across the United States. Jonathan has the plan mapped out and I am going to make the plan happen. I want Shuckin' Shack Oyster Bars to be known from coast to coast.
Q8: Having visited all Shuckin' Shack seafood restaurants, and understanding what's working best across them, can you identify a single, most critical factor necessary for local market success?
A. Before I would answer that question with location, but all the good locations were taken. With Shuckin' Shack, having a smaller foot print, the great locations are still available. It’s a strategic advantage! Secondly, Franchise Partners that have a passion for their community, guests and for this business, and are willing to show it each and every day.
Q9: As the new COO of Shuckin' Shack Franchising, what is one of the most important improvements you want to make in the next few years to ensure the future success for your franchisees and the Shuckin' Shack brand?
A. Do I have to keep it to one? There are so many! A project I am just now developing is the most efficient restaurant opening process for our franchise partners. With over 160 openings under my belt, you would think I know how to do this - but for a new franchise partner, this may be their first or second restaurant opening. I believe we can make a near stress-free opening process, and help support our Partners through this ramp-up process, and on to successful restaurant operations more quickly.
We wish to congratulate Bill on his recent and well-deserved promotion to COO and thank him for taking the time to answer our questions about the future of the Shuckin’ Shack Oyster Bar restaurants. Our 17th location opened this past weekend, but we still have opportunities in North Carolina! If you have an interest in bringing “The Shack” to the thousands of seafood lovers in and around Greenville, NC, and Eastern Carolina University, please watch this brief video and request our new Franchise Information Kit!