We asked the Silver Plate Class of 2013 a few questions to get an inside look at what makes them the operator all-stars they are today. Find out what they had to say about passion for foodservice, career accomplishments and what it means to be part of a legendary group of operators.
Don Fox, CEO, Firehouse Subs
Fox received the 2013 Silver Plate Award in the Chain Limited Service category. He was nominated by The Coca-Cola Company.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I thoroughly enjoy the constant challenge of growing Firehouse Subs. During my 10 years with Firehouse, there has not been a single day that we haven't grown the brand, and not a single day has passed that I am not thrilled by the task of building and leading a great team that can keep the ball rolling. Along the way, I have had the great pleasure of playing a role in helping franchisees and employees evolve and mature in their roles. There is great satisfaction and enjoyment in seeing so many people succeed at what they do. On top of that, I have the pleasure of knowing that our customers are enjoying the best sandwich that money can buy. It's hard to say that it is even a job; I am blessed to do something that I truly love.
Tell us about your biggest accomplishment.
When I joined Firehouse Subs, we had 65 restaurants. I believe my biggest accomplishment has been growing the brand to 600 locations in a 10-year span, and at the same time, have our consumer attributes and operational measures at an all-time high level of performance. It is a challenge for most high growth concepts to maintain consistency over time, much less improve upon their culture and execution. Obviously, this only happens through a team effort. Nevertheless, I take pride in the fact that, from a leadership perspective, I have been able to create an environment and framework within which the team and brand can flourish.
What advice do you have for someone new to the foodservice industry?
There are many roles within the industry that you can aspire to, so as you plan your career path, focus on something that you really love to do. Then, no matter what your role is, you will find that the ingredients for success are the same: Work hard; never stop learning; set high standards for yourself; lead by example. Remember that the customer comes first, all the time, from the time you open the door until you lock it at closing. As you advance in your career, and you find yourself in a position of leadership for the first time, think back to your first boss and the impact that he or she had in your life. Whether that impact was good, bad, or indifferent (and it is almost always good or bad), vow to yourself that you will always strive to be the best first boss anyone could ever hope to have. If you do, it is the best contribution you may ever make to this great industry. In the end, whether you stay in the foodservice industry for one year or an entire lifetime, you will get out of it what you put into it…so make it count.
What does being an IFMA Silver Plate recipient mean to you?
By the time I receive the IFMA Silver Plate in Chicago, I will have spent every day of the past 39 years in the restaurant business. Along the line, I have had the privilege of working with, or getting to know as peers, a countless number of gifted, talented and passionate people. Many of those people would be equally (if not more) deserving of this award. So I feel incredibly blessed to have earned the attention and recognition of the esteemed group of industry professionals who determine this award. I have had many successes in my life, both personal and professional. But the IFMA Silver Plate stands as a treasured acknowledgement of nearly a lifetime of work and love of this industry. I accept the award as a challenge to continuously improve; it is through my future efforts that I validate my choice as a recipient. By virtue of my future deeds, I feel I will fully earn the privilege of being listed forever among the outstanding list of industry luminaries that have preceded me, and those yet to come.