How Christian Mouysset Solved the Biggest Challenges with his Restaurant Business by Systematizing it!

Are you facing challenges with your business and can’t seem to keep up?

In this interview, Christian Mouysset the cofounder of Hummus Bros reveals how he was able to solve the biggest challenges with his restaurant business by systematizing it and how that has enabled his business to thrive without him!

Christian Mouysset the cofounder of Hummus Bros

 

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In this Episode You will Discover:

  • How Christian was able to create a system for his staff’s scheduling.
  • How Christian was able to create a system for tracking food quantities at each restaurant.
  • Why Christian believes that if a problem happens more than once, you must find a solution for it.
  • Why Christian believes that staffing is one of the most important issues in business.
  • How Christian tracks student discount vouchers and other marketing efforts.
  • How Christian uses lottery-style promotions to attract more customers.
  • Why Christian believes in helping employees understand the value of systems and what benefits it brings them.
  • How Christian was able to create a company has the best staff retention of any restaurant in London.

 

Noteworthy items Mentioned in this Episode:

  1. The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries

 

Episode Transcript:

OWEN: My guest today is Christian Mouysset and he is the co-founder of Hummus Bros. Christian, welcome to the show.CHRISTIAN: Thank you, thank you for having me.

OWEN: So what exactly does your company do and what big problem do you solve for your customers?

CHRISTIAN: So we’re a chain of restaurants that was setup in 2005 in London in the U.K. So what we specialize in doing is serving hummus has a base with different toppings and accompanied with pita bread. And we operate four high street units as well as pop-up restaurants in corporate entities like JP Morgan or Goldman Sachs.

OWEN: Awesome. So how many full-time employees do you currently have?

CHRISTIAN: We have just over 50 employees now.

OWEN: My listeners always want to know the skill of my guest’s business. So what was last year’s annual revenue and probably what do you expect to do this year?

CHRISTIAN: So last year we turned over about 2.1 million pounds, which would be about three and a half million dollars. And next year we’re projecting to do three and a half million pounds, which would close to five million dollars.

OWEN: Awesome. And so this interview for the most part is getting guests like you who have systematized your entire business to talk about how you did it. And we know now you’ve been systematized. Your business runs without you. But let’s go back. Talk about what will you say so far has been the lowest point in business and how bad it got?

CHRISTIAN: So, I’d say the lowest point was probably when we got started in terms of how challenging it was in particular to schedule the staff. That was really arranging what staff would work when was our biggest challenge. So for example when initially started we would put a piece of paper up in the restaurant and it would just say, “Employee number 1 would come in at noon and work till midnight.” And it would go through all the employees like this. The big challenge with this was that people, one would need to come into the restaurant to see where they’re working, and to see what schedule would be. And if there was a change to the schedule, it was very hard to notify them. You’d have to call them, send them a text message. So it was really inconvenient in that sense. So once we setup our second restaurant we realized that, that just wasn’t possible. So what we started doing is sending around an Excel spreadsheet by email. That caused confusion and that there were different versions of Excel of the file, and people would constantly be late or thought they would work in one branch but were working in the other branch. So, that just caused numerous problems. So that was on the staffing side. And on the food side, what needed to be made for each restaurant. So as hummus is not made to order you have to soak the chickpeas, blend them with the tahini and lemon juice, and that takes time, that’s done overnight in a central kitchen. So how does the central kitchen know what each restaurant needs to have? What we would do at the end of the day is the restaurants would call the chef in the kitchen and tell them, “This is what I’ve got left. This is what I need for tomorrow.” And that was a horrendous process because it would take time to discuss everything, there’d be mistakes written down, and it was very confusing and a big waste of time for everyone.

OWEN: Yeah. You also mentioned that one of the issues was of raising funds to run the business too.

CHRISTIAN: That’s right. Like any small business when you get started– In my mind, running a small business is about running experiments, it’s a series of experiments. Some are success, some are failure, and when one works, you replicate it. But when you go to an investor, you tell them you’re running a series of experiments and some might fail, they’ll look at you and be like, “I’m not sure I want to invest in that.” Just make them all happen and work. So, it’s challenging for them to get them around to seeing your vision and buying into what you’re looking to create in the long run.

OWEN: And so you’ve mentioned some of the challenges that you had initially and we’re going to talk now about how solved some of them, specifically staff scheduling as well as the full tracking problems. Let’s talk about what you did to solve the staff-scheduling problem?

CHRISTIAN: No problem. So my background when my business partner and I studied computer science at university. So we went into something completely different. But it was very useful in terms of our solution to the problem of what staff is working when and how to schedule them is that we thought let’s build a piece of online software. So it was hosting on our website, people could access it from anywhere in the world obviously. And now we have 10 locations and everyone can login, see where they’re working. If there’s a change, it notifies them automatically by email or by text message. They don’t need to come into a branch to see what the piece of paper or exchange different versions by email, there’s just one person and it’s all online. So it makes it so much easier to communicate it. You don’t need to call each employee to tell them where they’re working and when. So it really, really made a huge difference in running the business.

OWEN: And for the full tracking what solution did you have?

CHRISTIAN: So, there’s something similar. What we did was at the end of the day the restaurants would weigh all the food, they’d fill in, they’d write it all down on a piece of paper and then login to our website and complete a form online with all those quantities. The kitchen would then receive that information. It would compute it all over the 10 locations so they’d have one webpage, they’d open up it would say, “This is what you need to produce in total and this is where you need to send it out tomorrow.” So there’s no more writing down the wrong number or miscommunication and wasting the chef’s time writing down all these numbers.

OWEN: And one of the things I want to do is now I got kind of what you did to solve the two problems you mentioned, but I always want to take my guest back to the very point when the issue was happening to tell us the first thing you did to kind of solve the problem. So when you realize these two problems what was the first thing that you thought to yourself that you needed to do in order to solve them?

CHRISTIAN: So, we sat down with my business partner with some of the members, the staff. We were asking them and they had complaints about it was unfair because they didn’t know when they would be late. They were late but it wasn’t their fault because they didn’t have the right version. So we started bouncing ideas around as to how it would be possible to solve this. So, the initial solution was Excel, and we thought, “Okay, we can email that around and that will make it a bit clearer.” And people initially thought that was the right solution, it was quite easy, they just opened their email in the morning, they could see where they’re working. Quickly we realized that it was just like as soon as there was a change there would be 2 or 3 versions of Excel and that was just a mess again. So that’s where we thought the only way to get it is to have online version where there’s just one solution. So we started building that from scratch. The initial version had bugs in it, was difficult in terms of– it didn’t solve all the problems immediately. And over the years, so we’ve been running now for 8 years, we’ve improved and build on it significantly. So now, you can see contact details of the employees. If you need to find a replacement, it suggests replacements. There’s training manuals in there, there’s health and safety manual. So that is really being built up over the years. And every time we have a new idea, we just add to it.

OWEN: And one of the things that you mentioned during the pre-interview is that each time you guys have a problem, now of course, you ask yourself, “How can we make sure that this never happens again?”, and you guys use that as a prompt to start building a system around it.

CHRISTIAN: Totally. So what this approach in terms of solving this stuff taught us was like, “You can have a problem once, that’s fine, and you solve it there and then. If that problem happens a second time you probably got to build a system for it because it probably means it’s going to happen on a regular basis. So, what that means is that we were saying, “Okay, we’ve got events happening on a regular basis.” So, initially we just put it in a calendar and again, it was by paper, it was a bit confusing. So then we built a system that it would not just be a calendar. You would put the name of the event, the contact details of the people. But it would also start communicating to the kitchen this is what you need to produce for it. Same for we have a lot of tall groups that come from the U.S. and meet in our restaurants in London. And so we built a system so that the tall leaders would know which restaurant they’re eating at, the restaurant would know how many people to expect, what time, their contact details, the amount of food we needed to process. So again, that was solving that problem. I’ll give you a third example is one about the bookkeeping. Restaurants will have the amount of paperwork you get in, for deliveries of the food, the drinks, the electricity bills, and all these information that’s coming in being sent to each branch. What we started doing is getting the manager to, everytime they receive some goods they would check the goods obviously, then enter the invoice online through our system what was received at what price. And what that did for us was that our bookkeeper can check all that. It’s all listed in one place so she doesn’t need to re-enter it herself and check it. She can just go down the list, see the list, it’s correct. And it can also notify us if suddenly the supplier decides to increase the price, which they might do without telling you. So we get an email notification immediately. You receive these goods, the price yesterday was 1 pound, today it’s 2 pounds, what happened? And we can get onto the case of the supplier.

OWEN: So definitely you’ve given us some kind of overview of the different systems that you have. And one of the things I want to do is kind of go like a deep dive into as many systems as we can talk about that’s behind the scenes in the business. So imagine your business being kind of like a conveyor belt. On one end there’s probably somebody who’s hungry and want to eat something and interested in hummus as the meal they want to eat. And on the other end is that person being converted into a raving fan who loves you guys and are talking about you. But there’s behind the scenes a bunch of things that are happening, a bunch of systems that are in place working to make that transformation happen. And I want you to just walk us behind the scene in as much detail as you can to what’s making this transformation happen.

CHRISTIAN: So it really starts from– So we’ve talked a bit about the staffing, which in any restaurant in my mind and any company really is the most important agreeing– the people you have that they’re trained properly, that they know where to show up at what time, and they know how to deliver the service. So, what happens on each of those points? Training. When a new employee starts he or she will come in and there will be a training schedule on each task that’s expected of them. So it might be how to be the best waiter, how to be the chef, how to be the best checker, whatever position they’re working in the business. And they’ll be tasks and training points online that they start completing step-by-step, shift-by-shift, and that they know what’s expected of them. Similarly we talked about what time they would need to show up and how they check that. But also it is about being able to communicate to the customer what is in each of our dishes. So one of the big trends in the food industry at the moment is people who are lactose intolerant, or gluten intolerant, or vegan, or vegetarian. So they have a specific dietary requirement. How do you make sure that your staff is telling the customers the right information? How do they become a raving fan? By making sure that they are told exactly what it in a dish. If they have something they’re trying to avoid to eat or can’t eat, that they know that they waiter is able to tell them precisely what that is. Again, all that information is online, the staff can go and check themselves, they take what’s on a list the customer can’t eat and then it will list on our menu what dished they can and can’t have.

OWEN: So there’s a training aspect of, because you said the key ingredient is having the right people and then also being able to train them on how to do the work. So there’s a training aspect that you guys have systematized where they can always, regardless whatever information they need for what work they’re doing, there’s training around it and they can always reflect on that. What other system–

CHRISTIAN: Exactly. So the other big part of the business is all the food side of the business and that starts with finding the right suppliers, which obviously we’ve identified. But making sure that they continuously supply the right produce at the right price. So how do you do that? So everytime a deliver is received there’s a system that the person receiving it will check it visually, will check it for the quality, will report any problems with that which will be fed back to the supplier and will told “That was subpar. Please come, and collect, and replace that item.” And it they will need to enter the prices and the quantities received at what price so that we can check that we’re not over-ordering, there’s no wastage, and we’re ordering at the right price. So the price we agreed it would be supplied to us at.

OWEN: So you guys are using the inventory system to tag all that too?

CHRISTIAN: Yup. So our systems, we have all our suppliers logged online. All of the quantities are entered, what price they received at, and again there’s notifications that go out if there’s something that’s out of spec, whether the quality, whether the price, whatever. And so, that’s receiving the goods, checking the good, and the right price. Then there’s actually producing them. So all our recipes are again held online. So let’s say we need to produce 200 kilos of hummus. The chef can enter 200 kilos and we’re talking exactly what ingredients, the quantity of ingredients he needs. So there’s real good consistency in terms of how much food is needing to produce, and that it’s exactly the same as the day before. So that customers, when they walk in to Hummus Bros they know they’re getting the food as they expect it to be.

OWEN: They’re following the menu and the step-by-step guideline on how it should be made, even though they made it over and over again, they just made it over and over again, they just made always have to do that.

CHRISTIAN: Exactly, because the quantity might change, the staff making it that they might be, they’ll be going through training so they might need to like just be reminded just to check that every day is the same. There’s no diverging from what the recipe is. So once the food is prepared then it gets delivered to each of the restaurants. Now, how much does the driver knows where to bring at what time? Again, he just prints out quantity sheets, tells him what to deliver when and what time. He brings that to the store, and then the stores they know what to prepare in terms of how to put the dish together, how much hummus should be in the dish, how much beef should be in the dish, how much guacamole should be in the dish, and exactly what the customer should be expecting. So that’s through training, that’s also monitoring. So that way a portion, make sure that it’s the right amount, they weigh five portions at the beginning of the shift, 5 portions during the shift, 5 portions at the end just to make sure that they’re calibrating and making the food to the right spec at all times. And again, that’s reported and the managers and the operational manager will have a regular meeting to review that they’re on-target on all those factors.

OWEN: So we’ve gone through training, the receiving of food, which I’m also assuming when food is received it also takes that data into the accounting systems so that the bookkeeper can know what’s outstanding to be paid, stuff like that. And then also there is the system where people who actually making the food, they always have to follow the series of steps to make sure that it’s always the same taste, the same presentation, the same quantity. And I was also wondering, inside of the restaurant where the actual serving is going on, what kind of systems you have in place in there?

CHRISTIAN: So we’ll have the table which obviously is like to record all the orders, and it also workout how much food we should be using compared to how much food we have used. See what wastage we’re doing there. In the store they will use a lot of the systems like for example checking who’s going, who’s working where and what shop, what orders were supposed to be receiving. So a lot of people order through our website for deliveries. So we’ll have all that process going on where they’ll receive orders, they will notify them by phone that new orders come in, where to send or what time and when. It will notify them if they can expect a tall group. So if a group from the U.S. has booked in. Let’s say for 50 people coming in at 5 pm and what the menu that can expect because we work with different companies that have different menus. There will also be any bookings that they’re expecting, as well as any events. We host a lot of entrepreneur events, where entrepreneurs come in and we’ll discuss current challenges they have. So when we hold events like that, it might be a breakfast event, or it might be an evening event, what to expect, what the customers expecting to receive, what the deal is that we agreed with them.  So all that information they’ve got it in one place by just logging into our website and seeing what their deal looks like.

OWEN: Okay, so I’m asking the question now to see if– I know that a bunch of things that are happening, you have all built out with your own custom tools. But I’m wondering, what other tools do you guys use to get stuff done that’s probably integrated with the custom tool that you guys built. That way the listener can get some insight on this.

CHRISTIAN: Yeah. So apart from all the custom tools we’ve built we’ve used a lot of, absolutely, Google docs. For example, when we organize a manager meeting, what we’ll do before the manager meeting is we’ll open a Google doc with topics that we want to address during the manager meeting. We invite all the managers to it, and all of them populate this document before the meeting saying, “There are issues we’ve had. This is positive feedback, negative feedback we’ve had. This are issues that we’re looking to address, menu additions, etc.” And all that will be added into the document prior to the meeting, so that when we actually get to the meeting we’ve got a  clear understanding of what we need to cover. We just go down the list and say, “Are there any questions?” If there are any outstanding issues we solve them during the meeting. So something like Google docs which really is collaborative is really useful for us. We obviously use Google calendar, Google mail for all our mail requirements. So that’s really a software suite we use a lot of.

OWEN: Okay, so a lot of the Google apps software. And I’m curious, you talked about a lot of the things that are happening inside the engine where people come in, and they’re now being served and all that stuff. I’m wondering, do you have any systems to even attract people to come in the first place, like the marketing system, if you could talk about that.

CHRISTIAN: Yeah. What we’ll do is we often run a lot of offers. For example, one offer we do is where one of our units is close to a lot of universities. And what happens with university students is that every year you get a new batch of students coming in. So they might discover your restaurant or they might discover your restaurant on the last day. So what we do is in their [Unknown word 00:20:50]  pack, in the pack they receive in the first week they arrive there, we put a voucher in there for a free meal. And what happens is that encourages them obviously to try it. That we know that if they try it on the first day or the first week they arrive they’ll probably enjoy the food, and they’re hooked, exactly. But what we want to do is to see which universities that works with, or which universities have given out the flyers or not, we put a unique for each one of those, and we track how will return. So when a student brings the voucher in we’ll write down the unique code and log that into our system. So we see, “Okay, 30% redeemed it, or no one redeemed it.” So then we can call the university and say, “Well, how come no one’s redeemed it, we gave these vouchers out?” So then it prompts them to remind, “Oh, we haven’t given them out letters, we’re giving them out this week.” So things like that we really try to measure as much as possible any marketing we do to really see what works and what doesn’t

OWEN: I like that. And one more question about the system. When the person comes in and now being served, they love it. What systems do you have in place to try and get them back, to basically remarket them back into coming in? I’m just curious.

CHRISTIAN: So, we have what we call this lottery system. So if people signup to our mailing list, we send out a lottery every week or every other week. And in the lottery they can win maybe a free meal, they can win a free salad, or a free drink, something from our menu. And what that does is that encourages them to come in, we’ll track which ones are redeemed. So if someone doesn’t redeem a lemonade we might give them a salad next time is that more value. And they don’t redeem that we might try to give them something else, or we’ll try to encourage them to bring a friend in. So we try to get them to increase size of the value of their spend, how often they spend it, or bring in new people.

OWEN: Awesome. And so, you’ve talked about a lot of the systems that you have in place in the business. But I’m curious, what challenges did you experience when you initially try to create the systems, and let’s talk about how you even solve some of them.

CHRISTIAN: So, there’s obviously the bugs in the software. When you write software there’s always bugs. The stuff we might not be using it correctly because they’re not been trained properly, or it’s not been built in a user-friendly fashion. So there was teething problems on that, that we had a Google doc where people could report bugs and issues that there were. So that these could be taken care of as in when they appeared. There were also constant improvements that we needed to make. So, people would come up with new ideas, managers at the meetings would be like, “Wouldn’t it be great if we were able to see all the staff’s telephone numbers in there?” So we wouldn’t need to save all the numbers to our phone, we could just look it up on the online system. So, things like that. And the idea was really to constantly think how can we make the business easier for us to run, but also for the staff to operate in it. To really make it as user-friendly and with free communication within the business. So, we’d build user guides, we’d make sure there’d be regular meetings so people would be updated. And we’re even looking now at creating a company wiki where anything people need to know about the company would just be logged into this wiki.

OWEN: Awesome. One of the things I like that you said during the interview is you said that in order to solve the problems with the bugs in the software you guys created a systematic approach to improving the systems which include the staff always reporting any issues they saw into your Google docs. The people who are responsible for building the software knew that this is where you go to get information about stuff that’s wrong with the software so you can work on it. And also you guys built user guides so that your employees you knew how best to use the software that you guys were building for them. And so another issue you mentioned during the pre-interview was the issue of communicating the importance of systems to your employees, let’s talk about that.

CHRISTIAN: So, the process would be this, you’d identify an issue, you build a system for it. But then you need to get everyone to understand and to use the system. And the most important thing is training them, making them understand how the system works. But more importantly, it’s really important to understand what benefits it brings them. And if they understand what benefit it brings them, then they are much more likely to use it. So for example, the scheduling system. There’s an incentive for every staff member to use that, because it means they won’t be late, they know where to be, and there’s a clear expectation. And they know it and we know it, and so therefore– Our staff lateness now is virtually zero because there’s no way of hiding behind something of not knowing. So there’s real incentive for them to use that. Same thing with entering the quantities for the suppliers, or entering the information in terms of the pricing, or in terms of the food they receive. Because these managers, I incentivize on the performance of their unit. If they report these prices and the prices have gone up, their performance will go down. And we are able to then say to them, “Because you reported this we were able to speak to the supplier and correct that. Had we not been able to do that you would’ve missed your target and therefore not get your bonus for this month.”

OWEN: Given the building systems and all that for the business, in a way it’s kind of challenging. How do you guys stay committed to this new direction given all those challenges?

CHRISTIAN: Because we see the benefits, both in terms of how the business is organized, how there’s less wastage, how there’s less miscommunication, we get much better staff retention than any other restaurant in London and probably in a lot of other places because [Unintelligible 00:27:10] but also because it’s very clear and very easy. We have a lot of employees that have been here with us for 6 or 7 years, and I think that’s very, very rare in a lot of businesses, particularly in restaurant businesses. So we’re committed to this because we’re really seeing the results of it. And it also means that my business partner and I can focus on where the business is going in the long run. Instead of having to deal with day-to-day issues of someone being late, or something not arriving on-time, or they’re being a problem, we can say, “Okay, let’s look at when projects do we want.” So for example, we’ve just written a recipe book which we’re releasing in 2 weeks’ time, and that would not have been possible if we were just like so focused on solving the day-to-day problems.

OWEN: Yeah, and I’m going to dive into that and ask you more details about it, what you’re doing now and what you’re focusing in on now that you have all these free time. But my next question really too is, you might have covered this already but what other systems do you already have in-place that enables your employees to know exactly what they need to do. I know you mentioned earlier the staff scheduling system, so that they know when to be at work. I know you mentioned the training guide system to show them how to do different things, based on the different stage or phase they are in the business. And employees being required to enter data basically when they receive food, and financial data as well. But are there any other systems that we might not have talked about that is very important for the listener to know?

CHRISTIAN: So, we have quite a few so I’m thinking about which ones we haven’t mentioned now. Well, one very important part of retail businesses is looking at the data. So by that what I mean is for example, let’s say you have a bunch of customers that are always just buying the main course. So, is there a way you can get them to buy a lemonade with that, or buy a salad with that, or a buy a dessert?

OWEN: Upsells.

CHRISTIAN: Upsells, exactly. So there’s two ways of going about that, the first way is to train your staff and saying, “If someone orders a main course, always suggest to buy a lemonade.” Encourage them that. The other way is to say, “You know what, we’re going to give all our customers this week a free lemonade”, and let’s see what happens next week. And you have to have very precise data to be able to do that. We will run regularly, especially when there’s a new product coming up, let’s give it away to all the customers this week and see what happens next week. So we have an awesome gluten-free chocolate brownie, which is amazing. And most people don’t think of trying it because we’re Hummus Bros, they don’t think of a place serving hummus would be having such a great brownie. So we will often, just one week and say, “Okay, this week we give it away for everyone”, and next week let’s look at the result. If we see that suddenly was an uplift of 100% from chocolate brownies then we know, “Okay, we should run that again.” So looking at the data, looking at the systems that generate this data and analyzing, and what decisions that helps us to make is critical for retail business.

OWEN: And I’m glad you mentioned that because based on what you’ve been saying so far it seems like you do a lot of tracking of data. Did you guys build a custom tool to track your data, or are you using a specific tool? If so, name the tool.

CHRISTIAN: So we built our own till system and tracking system behind it. Because we couldn’t find when we started a tool that was good enough out there. There was nothing that we felt addressed all our needs. And the reason I say that is because our tool that tracks it can, say for example, the employee that was working on this till managed to generate this average spend, and upsold this percentage of the time. So we’re able to give that employee real-time feedback on their performance. There’s one of our tools that has 4 tills and we can tell them which one performed the best out of those. So, there’s a lot reporting on a daily basis from the performance of each of the stores the previous day both in terms of sales, in terms of wastage, in terms of staffing. There’s an awesome system that we rely a lot on is the mystery shopper. So how does that work is a customer will apply to become a mystery shopper, which means that they can come to our restaurant, they need to sample some food, inspect the restaurant in a way, and then file a report with 60 questions at the end of it. And what the customer gets in exchange is that we pay for their meal. And that’s invaluable, because for us it means someone external tracking. Because if I walk into the restaurant and the staff recognize me obviously their behavior’s probably going to be different. If it’s someone they can’t recognize and they don’t know who it is, and that person is able to give us a real report on how good the food was, how polite the staff was, how clean the toilets was, how the music was, the volume and the quality of the music, the aspect of the restaurant, and the way in and the way out. Whether they were greeted warmly when they came in, and whether they would describe how the menu works and upsold, etc. So, it really is an awesome way of being able to give our staff a good report at the end of their shift.

OWEN: What I like about what I’m hearing so far is one hand you work with your team to figure out what the issues are and then you create systems to solve the problem. And then show them systematically how stuff should get done. But on top of that now, you now add in a layer of tracking and verifying, that not only do you know that you’ve built systems in place to make sure that work gets done. But there’s now this other place where you’re tracking and verifying that the results are getting delivered. And so far you talked about the employee performance way of tracking. Can you dive into that a little bit? Because I think you mentioned during the pre-interview how you make use of managers as well to rate employees.

CHRISTIAN: Yeah. So part of the training and part of the rating that we expect from our managers is– So, they’ll receive a new member of staff, and then they’ll have guidelines in terms of what they should be training them on and to what level. And each level they will be asked to rate the performance of the employee on the tasks that were asked of them. So let’s say it’s one of our baristas, so they’ll say, “Are they able to make an espresso? Are they ale to make a cappuccino? Are they able to make a latte, etc.” Each of the hot drinks will be listed and then the manager will check here and will say, “Yes, they can”, tick that off. And if two managers agree that the person has completed all the task of that level that employee goes on to the next level and so on. So there’s a real feedback mechanism from the manager about the employee which ties in with the training, and helps us build a workforce that we know we’ll be able to give the right service to the customers.

OWEN: That’s awesome. And so now that you have all these free time, I’m just curious, what’s been the longest time you’ve been away from the business?

CHRISTIAN: There’s so much to do because we find new projects, probably like two and a half weeks is the longest.

OWEN: Yeah, I like that too because the reality is when you are passionate about your business, you want to be there and work on it. And in this case now you are actually there building systems and continuously looking for new ways to improve business. And then going back again and building the system, and that increases the value of the business over time. And I’m curious, how is your company now being transformed as a result of systematizing the business?

CHRISTIAN: So, it really freed us in terms of being able to look at future projects. So I’ll give you few examples of what we’re working on at the moment. So one, which I just mentioned early on is the recipe book. So we’ve wanted to share the recipes that we use in the restaurants because we, A, it’s a new product that we can sell, but also it gives the customer a feeling that the brand has grown up, that it’s really arrived, that it’s not just about we’ve got a chain of restaurants but we also now have books. The further step from that is we want to start selling the raw ingredients that can help make-up those recipes and have them under the Hummus Bros brand. So we’re talking to suppliers to do that. We’re looking to franchise in universities around London. So we’re talking to big franchise operator about getting that process in place. Our ultimate ambition is really to get a retail product in the supermarket. There’s a lot of work in terms of how do you manufacture it so that it’s got a bit more shelf life than what it has in the restaurant, how do you market it, and all those kind of projects. We would not be able to spend time on them if we were just dealing with the day-to-day running of the restaurant.

OWEN: And I want you to also share that story, because just so the listener can understand the benefits of systematizing your business. The Wardour Street story, I think, just to remind you of the story about this very location where more than 8 other businesses that bought space and they now rented space and they failed in the last 5 years. And I think you guys came and were able to make things happen with other people and now able to. Can you share that story, so that the listener can–

CHRISTIAN: Yeah. How we started the business is initially we started operating in markets around London. So my business partner and I met at university, and then we thought we should set-up a business together because got on and we shared this love for hummus. But we thought, are other people really going to share that same passion about the product, are they really going to like it, are we just crazy in coming up with an idea that’s not going to fly. So we tried the end markets first of all, we saw that people really bought into it, they started selling it. And when we started seeing good feedback on that we thought we’ve got to find a high street location, a proper restaurant. So we chose one of the best streets in London which is Wardour Street, and we found this empty unit which we couldn’t believe was empty because it was sort of good deal, it was in an awesome location, we thought this is too good to be true. So we did the deal, we signed the deal, and we got in and started operating. And after talking to our neighbors we found out that 8 other businesses had tried operating in the same unit in the previous 3 or 4 years and each one of them had failed within a short amount of time. And it had got to be known like the unluckiest spot on Wardour Street. And we were like, “Oh my god, this is like–”

OWEN: Is there a curse in this place?

CHRISTIAN: It’s never going to work. And we worked tirelessly, and we worked really, really long hours at the beginning. And it was 7 days a week. And this was before we systemized. And we realized bit by bit that it was just not sustainable, we would not going to be able to build out this business if we didn’t put these systems in place. And we did, and we’re still operating 9 years later in that property.

OWEN: Awesome.

CHRISTIAN: And on that street I think we’re probably 2 out the 50 restaurants that are the same from 9 years ago.

OWEN: I really want to share that story so that the listeners understand that there is power in actually taking the time to create systems around what you do in your business. And also, from a personal standpoint, how will you say your personal life has been transformed as a result of you systematizing your business?

CHRISTIAN: Well, the biggest transformation is actually being able to spend time on what you want to spend time on in the business. But, you can easily get bogged down in the detail. And the rule I said earlier on where if a problem comes up more than once you probably should put a system in place because that means it’s going to start taking your time and waste your time. You might have to spend 5, 6, 10 times the amount of time to solve the problem with the system than it’s just solving on that time. But you know that, that system means that it will be solved forever, which means that you could spend all that future time on projects that you actually enjoy. And contribution to your business that will actually make a difference at the end of the day. Instead of just running after your tail all the time just solving the problem that happened yet again because you haven’t put a system in place.

OWEN: And so now, you’re alluding to this area, but now that you have so much free time what areas of the business are you focused on now and why?

CHRISTIAN: So, I think the most important value that we’re trying to build in the business is really a brand the Mediterranean food sector in the U.K. So that might be obviously high street restaurants which we’ve done. It might be through recipe books which we’re just doing now, it might be through franchising, it will be through supermarket products, it will be through looking at other merchandising. That might t-shirts, it might be food products, it might be items for your kitchen, utensils for your kitchen. So there’s a lot of value in creating the brand that then helps you sell products that aren’t just like hummus-related or food-related on the high street. So, a lot of my time I spent now I spent on developing the brand, speaking to the press, look on our social media strategy, getting the word out, getting customers to really become, as you were saying, “How do you get a customer from walking in to be a raving fan that then goes and tells all their friends about us. So, this is like the number 1 item task I want to spend my time on, really to like get raving fans and expand the business in that way.

OWEN: And so what books do you feel have influenced this way of thinking about, for you– How building the business the way, or your life around creating systems or what you do. What books will you say have influenced this way of thinking. And if so, name the books and why?

CHRISTIAN: So, I think The Lean Startup is an excellent example, which I’m sure a lot of your listeners probably have read and a lot of your contributors probably mentioned. The ability and on the system, I think that the whole idea–

OWEN: The book by Eric Ries?

CHRISTIAN: Yeah.

OWEN: Okay.

CHRISTIAN: And the whole idea of getting a minimum viable product out there, especially when it comes to a system, it’s not about building the best system, it’s about getting the minimum viable one for your stuff. And okay, you’ll improve it in time, and okay, we’ll have bugs at the beginning, and okay, it won’t be perfect. But if we start solving the problem and you can build up on that, in my mind that’s most of the work done effectively. And that’s a huge influence. I think there’s a lot of books but that’s more programming books and let you know to solve it, what algorithms, and how to approach programs especially in terms of everything to do with databases. But I think The Lean Startup really would be the number one.

OWEN: Yeah, definitely. And so, what’s the best way for the listener to connect with you and thank you for doing the interview?

CHRISTIAN: Well, thanks for having me on the show that’s great. If they go to our website hbros.co.uk or email us at info@hbros.co.uk I receive those and we’re more than happy to share our experience and to give any assistance or any guidance on any problem that you listeners feels we can help them with, we’d love that.

OWEN: And so, we come to the end of the interview, and I’m wondering, is there a question that you were wishing that I asked you during the interview that I didn’t get to ask? And if so, post the question and the answer.

CHRISTIAN: I think it was pretty thorough. I’m just thinking, looking back at what else we’ve discussed. Well, I guess one question that I would have maybe have asked is would you have done anything differently?

OWEN: What do you have done anything differently?

CHRISTIAN: I think the one thing I would have done differently is, let’s say if I was starting now with this experience what I would do is realize from day 1, you’ve got to go into any business you’re thinking of doing knowing that you need to automate beforehand. It’s not just about– when we did it we did the research about the food, we did the research about how to do good service, we did research about what recipes, ingredients, etc. But we put no thought and no research into how to run it so that your business runs efficiently and on autopilot so that you can focus on the growth. And now I would say that probably would be the number 1 item I would research and think about, and clearly layout, “Okay, this is my strategy in terms of this is how I’m going to make sure that this business runs as much as possible on autopilot. So, that’s the one thing I do differently.

OWEN: Thank you for sharing that. And so, I’m speaking to you the listener who’s been listening to the interview all the way to this point. And so, if you’ve enjoyed this interview I want you to leave us a positive review on iTunes, and to do that you go to sweetprocess.com/iTunes and leave us a positive review. And also to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes. The reason you want to do that, leaving us a feedback, is because the more people who read the reviews that you leave the more you expose this podcast to other entrepreneurs out there and they come around and listen to it. And the more inspired we are to go out there and get guests like Christian to come on here and share how their business has been systematized and you learn what happens behind the scenes in their business. And also, if you know another entrepreneur that might find this interview valuable, please share with them. And one last thing, you are at that point in your business where you’re tired of being the bottleneck you literally want to get everything out of your head so your employees know what you know and they can get stuff done without you, then signup for a free 14-day trial of SweetProcess. Christian, we’re done.

CHRISTIAN: Awesome. Thanks a lot Owen, that was awesome.

 

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Here are 3 Steps to Take After Listening to the Interview:

  1. Identify recurring problems and bottlenecks in your business.
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  3. Create a system to manage, train, track and schedule your staff.

 

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