Session #10 of the Rapid Recovery Series, one of our most exciting sessions, was the CEO Panel that centered itself around ‘Driving Business Forward’, presented by Garland Canada and sponsored by PepsiCo Foodservice as well as moderated by Tony Chapman.
The session featured some of foodservice’s top leaders including: Susan Senecal CEO of A&W Food Services of Canada, Paul Bognar, President & Chief Operating Officer, Service Inspired Restaurants (SIR Corp), Juanita Dickson, President & CFO of Gusto 54 Restaurant Group and John Lettieri, CEO of HERO Certified Burgers.
This session consisted of a frank and open conversation about the changes and challenges each CEO and company witnessed and underwent during the COVID-19 pandemic, and a peek into what the future may hold for these major Canadian players upon reopening and recovery.
The hour-long session is filled with insights and a must-listen. To whet your appetite, we’ve put together a mini interview based on the session. Be sure to check out the full session recording here and download the session deck as well.
Tony Chapman: How did you pivot your restaurant operations when you had to shut it down?
Paul Bognar: We made the decision to protect management teams and we opened half of our restaurants in order to have some positive cash flow. We moved very quickly, going from takeout only to takeout and curbside and we leveraged the use of our app. We only have about 25% of the volume that we used to do under a full business however our takeout business grew from what used to be 5 – 6% to 25%.
Juanita Dickson: Initially, we had to lay off almost all employees and we were closed for two weeks. We were able to transition to be an essential service for takeout and delivery and we were very purposeful about who decided to bring back. We brought back our managers who understood the need to wear many different hats. Additionally, we implemented a marketplace to deliver pantry/grocery and kits to consumers.
John Lettieri: Over the past few years we’ve been concentrating on growing our virtual kitchens so we are growing our business without the traditional brick and mortar. This experience has been a double-edged sword for us as many of our distribution partners are not open right now.
Susan Senecal: COVID-19 has caused a major upheaval but it’s been an opportunity for A&W to try new things; our drive-thru business and mobile app ordering have increased and we put communication into place early on. Our team is in constant communication so that we can respond quickly. We have daily calls and we’ve been able to embrace the opportunity to learn and shift and put agile methodology into practice.