Meet Frances Allen, President & CEO at Checkers & Rally's. Frances received the 2022 Silver Plate Award in the Chain Limited Service category and was nominated by The Coca-Cola Company.
Interview: What Drives the Nation's Top Foodservice Operators?
We asked the 2022 Silver Plate Class to share some perspectives and words of wisdom with the industry. Find out what Frances had to say about her passion for foodservice, career accomplishments and what it means to be part of a legendary group of operators.
How did you get your start in the foodservice industry?
I got a call one day from a headhunter I trusted who asked me if I’d be interested in becoming the CMO of Dunkin Donuts in the USA, which at the time, was an iconic but sleepy, regional brand with lofty aspirations. After a career selling a wide variety of products (soft drinks, snacks, cosmetics, etc.), I loved the idea of selling an experience as well as the chance to make this brand a household name nationally, which we managed to do with our “America Runs on Dunkin’’ campaign and our focus on establishing Dunkin as the nation’s preferred coffee brand. I joined just before the financial crisis in 2007, and while it was a tough couple of years, I loved it and realized I had found my professional home in the restaurant industry.
What do you enjoy most about your career in foodservice?
The people are a huge factor for me. The foodservice industry offers an amazing opportunity for people who work hard to realize their dreams. I love hearing the individual success stories, like the General Managers who were the first in their family to send their kids to college or own their own home; franchisees who arrived in the USA with nothing and built a strong business for themselves and their families, and so many other incredible stories of hard work and perseverance paying off. It makes what I do every day important and rewarding. As an industry and at Checkers & Rally’s, we provide opportunities and change lives.
I also love that the foodservice industry gives us immediate feedback on how we’re doing. I like getting our daily scorecard, and working through the interdependence of business functions, such as the mutual reliance of Ops and Marketing to work together, or the HR and Ops roles coming together to support our people. Exploring the “unintended consequences” of every promotion and working through those details to get 1% better every day makes my job always exciting and always different every day. Variety is a big part of the appeal. It’s always changing. I love that there is never a dull moment in the restaurant business, and always a new opportunity or challenge to work on.
Tell us about your biggest career accomplishment.
I think my biggest career accomplishment was leading the revitalization of Denny’s. I had the opportunity to help the Denny’s brand and organization re-connect with its core Brand DNA and remember what made it special and unique. Denny’s is “America’s Diner” and that’s a wonderful space to embrace. A place where strangers talk to strangers, and everyone is equal. We used that positioning as a guiding light for everything we did. We watched the brand grow (and it continues to grow to this day) after being nearly written off by the industry, and that was, and continues to be, immensely rewarding for me.
How have you kept yourself and your team motivated this past year?
I joined the Checkers & Rally’s team just a month before the COVID-19 pandemic began. Because of that timing, I got to see how immensely talented and resilient our executive team was, and still is, under pressure. In fact, the prevailing characteristics of the whole organization are a can-do spirit and willingness to give 100% that is inspirational. As a result, we have been able to tackle the tough issues with great agility and creatively overcome obstacles, while simultaneously delivering on initiatives that will transform the brand for the future. The key is communication, communication, communication. As an example, the executive team meets daily for one hour to share ideas and address the most pressing initiatives of our brand so we address barriers fast, course correct in the moment where we need to, and keep projects moving on track. We also hold an All Hands call every week to make sure everyone above GM level knows exactly what’s going on, how we are doing, what decisions we have made and why we made them, and we get to celebrate successes and people.
What advice do you have for someone new to the foodservice industry?
Operations is king, so if you want to learn the business, you have to understand how the restaurant works – basically, walk a mile in the team members’ and managers’ shoes before you do anything else. Develop empathy for the people who are working so hard in our restaurants day in and day out. A wise Franchisee once told me, when visiting stores make sure you leave them better than you found them. In other words, have a positive impact every time you touch the restaurants. Understand the dynamics of the business so you can assess unintended consequences. Listen with open ears.
What does being an IFMA Silver Plate recipient mean to you?
I am both humbled and proud to be placed alongside such luminaries in the industry. The Silver Plate recognition says to me that I made a difference to the people I’ve worked with, which is what is important to me.
What is your favorite meal?
A Checkers & Rally’s Big Buford with our Famous Seasoned Fries and a Coke, of course! But when I’m not near one of our restaurants, I love a good Cobb Salad or BLT (in fact anything with bacon works for me!)
2023 Nominations Are Open!
Click the button below to fill out the online nomination form.
NOTE: You will be able to save your form and work on it later. Make sure to submit it prior to the deadline of November 18, 2022.