Walid Jamal tells the story of the American Dream through his company, JHG Restaurants’ Michigan IHOPs. His family emigrated from Lebanon when he and his brother were young, and their first jobs in the U.S. were as server and busboy at their local IHOP. Later, while Walid and his brother were finishing college, the franchisee reached out.
“He said, “You guys were very hardworking when you were here, and I think there’s an opportunity. A location in Grand Rapids, Michigan, might be for sale. Would you be willing to consider it?” Walid said.
Rabih stepped away from a full-time job to pursue the opportunity, and Walid started working weekends while in college before graduating and jumping on board full-time in 2006.
Learning the Ropes
Walid said he and his brother were fortunate in some sense to get their start before the industry fully integrated technology. They recalled the days of the big old green books when journal entries, credits, and debits were written by hand. While he doesn’t long for the days of the past, Walid said it taught him the ins and outs of the business and how to roll up his sleeves to solve challenges.
After one year, the location they bought rose to an ‘A’ rating, and after two years, it became profitable. Still, Walid said they desperately needed a system to eliminate the endless manual labor it took to operate and grow the company. Today, they oversee four locations and, after recently purchasing franchise rights in Western Michigan, plan to grow that number soon.
Learning the ropes, especially at 19 and 20 years old, took a lot of trial and error, Walid said. The pair earned their MBAs and started looking for ways to operate more efficiently. As they contemplated overhauling the ship as they were sailing it, they began to spot opportunities across the business.
“The biggest obstacle that I saw was verifying that we’re operating our restaurants at their most profitable margins,” Walid said. “The challenge then becomes what kind of tools can you provide your managers to make the best decisions on what to order, who to schedule, and how to get better, faster data?”
In some cases, it took them as much as a month to produce a profit-and-loss statement, rendering that data almost useless. Moreover, Walid described reporting efforts as reactive rather than proactive, and often that reporting was hard for managers to understand and use in their daily operations. Finally, the business’ accounting processes were time-consuming, as was labor management, particularly scheduling.
Shortly after partnering with Restaurant365 in 2021, the team immediately began to receive truly actionable insights into the performance of its four locations.
“Today, we can run P&Ls much more quickly and have accurate, real-time numbers in front of us,” said Office & Financial Manager Michele Lurye. “From a manager and operational standpoint, the labor reporting has been invaluable. Our managers today have a better understanding of how to manage labor throughout the week so when the weekend comes, we’re not worried about overtime and excess cost.”
R365’s scheduling module has been especially useful, helping managers build weekly shifts according to historical labor data and forecasts. Managers can further sharpen labor costs by using actual versus theoretical reporting to find all sorts of variance, including when team members are clocking in too early or too late.
Across the back office, Lurye said efficiency and automation within R365, in many cases, enables her to halve the time spent on various tasks.
“Reconciling banks is 100% better than what it used to be,” she said. “We have 15 bank accounts, which used to take me a week’s worth of time. Now, I can get it all done in a day.
With the time saved on reporting and reconciliation, she can contribute to the business in various higher-value tasks, such as taking on a POS pilot program.
Having set the stage for expansion in Western Michigan, Jamal said he’s confident to undertake the push in partnership with Restaurant365.
“The beauty of Restaurant365 is that it’s almost a copy and paste to set up a new entity or a new restaurant,” he said. “So even if we go from four to eight locations tomorrow, we can do so efficiently and confidently.
“Furthermore, the adaptability and innovations of Restaurant365 are extremely important to me. I know there’s always a new tool or technology that will help improve my business, and I always want to be working with a company that truly serves its customer by making managers’ jobs and the company’s job easier.”