October’s Taste of R365 interview blog highlights our unsung hero of events and trade shows, Patti Lynn Walker. Patti spent a significant chunk of her career in the restaurant industry, rolling with the punches of each nuanced job she fell into, only to cross over into the restaurant technology sector and become Restaurant365’s Director of Marketing Communications.
Patti Lynn Walker, our Director of Marketing Communications, is the unsung hero of Restaurant365’s trade shows and events. When attending one, you may not see much of her face, and that’s her measure of success. When things flow smoothly and the team is well-equipped to welcome attendees with demos, merchandise, collateral, and more, it’s the result of Patti’s tireless coordination of each and every detail. But before her time at Restaurant365, she lived a busy life in which she wore many hats—from marketer to restaurant franchisee, along with all the nuanced jobs that comprise those titles.
With extensive experience in the franchise world, Patti’s perspective on the industry is invaluable to a company working around the clock to transform it. We spoke with her to learn more about her story in the restaurant business, her passion for success, and how the R365 platform is a game changer for those experiencing the same struggles she once did. Read ahead to get to know a bit more about Patti, her past successes and experiences, and how her undying love for restaurants motivates her daily work.
What’s your favorite food?
I love sushi, especially Unagi.
What’s your favorite restaurant?
I would have to say Mi Cocina in Dallas, Texas. This place has great food, fabulous margaritas, great operators … and I am dying to get the recipe for their Sunset Sauce. I cannot get enough of it!
How long have you worked at Restaurant365?
I’ve worked here for six years!
Tell us about your time working in a restaurant.
A close friend of mine acquired the rights to franchise a concept that, at one time, was a cultural icon in Austin, Texas. We had both worked with restaurant clients in advertising agencies, so we knew how to market a concept and build brand awareness. With that experience under our belts, we figured that the franchisor would be able to guide us from an operational perspective.
Once we got up and running, our restaurant had a wonderful menu and a cult following, which ultimately allowed us to expand to 23 locations. This experience was definitely a memorable adventure–rewarding and grueling all at once. There’s truly nothing like it! I wore many hats at different stages in the adventure, from finance to payroll, human resources, operations, purchasing, training, scouting new locations, coordinating buildout, and of course, marketing. You name it, I’ve done it!
Between the full-service agency experience and my time as a franchisee, I’ve been on both sides of the franchising equation and understand the challenges faced by both parties.
How did your career path lead you to Restaurant365?
I came to Austin to work at an advertising agency called GSD&M. My account/client was Brinker International, which included Chili’s, Macaroni Grill, On The Border, and several other concepts. This was where I was initially introduced to the restaurant industry.
I left GSD&M when I was presented with an opportunity to oversee a franchise that initially opened on The Drag across from the University of Texas in Austin. This is where I went full throttle into the industry: accounting, operations, payroll, HR, scheduling, menu development, purchasing, scouting new locations, construction, etc. Not just marketing, but overseeing the growth of the franchise.
While still franchising the restaurant chain, we merged with another restaurant group to form a larger company with a portfolio of “Austin Institutions.” This combined company was called Restaurant Freedom, and (in addition to our group of restaurant concepts) we eventually took on local clients to help them manage their businesses via the infrastructure that we already had in place. In short, we offered back-office restaurant services for smaller, local restaurant concepts that didn’t have the bandwidth or leverage that we had as a larger group. I worked with this company for 16 years.
I ended up taking a year off from working to focus on my son during his senior year in high school. He had to audition for different performing arts college programs around the country and I wanted to enjoy that process with him.
I was just about to get my resume updated when I received a call from John Moody, our Co-Founder and Chief Strategist, who had gotten my name from a professional acquaintance. I loved the restaurant adjacent opportunity and fully understood the impact that R365 would have so I jumped at the opportunity to join the adventure.
How does your daily work impact our business and the industry?
Currently, I have the pleasure of overseeing Restaurant365’s event program. We bucket the events into three categories: industry events, brand conferences, and R365 hosted events.
The work we do at these events allows Restaurant365 to engage with customers, prospects, and partners. Our team has the privilege of engaging the industry and building brand awareness, all while spreading the news that Restaurant365 can alleviate pain points and provide the data operators need in a timely manner.
What do you like most about working for Restaurant365?
Of course, I love our team and the company’s culture, but – for me – the real satisfaction comes from understanding the impact that Restaurant365 is making on the restaurant industry.
I’m not sure what the success rates in the industry are today, but at one point I read that 60% of restaurants fail within their first year and 80% fail within the first five years. Those are some grim statistics, but Restaurant365 is literally changing the industry by giving operators the timely transparency needed to make data-driven decisions. Having a daily P&L is an invaluable tool to any operator.
To this day, I get emotional when I see a Restaurant365 demo. It takes me back to the struggle of trying to understand what was working and what wasn’t when I was running a franchise business. By the time our monthly P&L report was generated, it just created more questions rather than providing answers. We would ask ourselves, “Is the data accurate?” Always followed by, “Let’s look into this,” which meant heading down a rabbit hole that consumed more hours than we could afford to spend on the issue. Often too much time had passed to track down and truly understand what happened so that we could adjust accordingly.
I love the fact that Restaurant365 represents a single source of truth, that we provide transparency to industry operators allowing them to make timely, data-driven decisions that result in a higher industry success rate.
What impact can restaurant technology have on the operation of a successful restaurant?
There are so many ways that technology can impact a successful operation. From the guest experience to the in-store execution to the above-store decision-makers, there are so many innovative technologies that are changing the landscape of this industry.
Restaurant365 saves time and positions restaurant concepts for growth and success. This solution’s accurate and timely reporting provides operators with a clear picture of their business’ health and allows them to make data-driven decisions.
What advice do you have for current restaurant industry workers looking to grow their careers?
Embrace the numbers. Ask your managers to explain how your actions impact the bottom line. Work with them to set goals and clarify expectations. Then be sure to meet regularly to follow up and track your progress.
You can start with a narrow focus and build from there. The restaurant industry operates on extremely narrow margins and understanding the data is key if you’re striving for a successful, fulfilling career.
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