BREW keynote: ‘Just because you have a pinball machine doesn’t mean you have culture’

    For Walk-On’s Founder and CEO Brandon Landry, culture at his restaurants is a top priority. 

    As a former “walk-on” for LSU basketball, Landry estimates he played seven minutes total on the court his senior year. There are 40 minutes in each basketball game. 

    “And I would do it 1,000 times over,” Landry told the crowd attending Entrepreneurship Day at the Raising Cane’s River Center this afternoon. “Everything I learned about being a part of a team, I learned from that experience. I knew through my contribution at practice, that I was making that team better.”

    A hypothetical scenario he often poses to staff is this: it’s 7:30 p.m. on a Friday night and there is an hour-and-a-half wait. The manager walks out, how bad will that shift be? Usually, the staff says it won’t be that bad. But if Landry poses the same scenario with the dishwasher walking out, people groan that it will be bad. 

    “The dishwasher—usually the lowest guy on your totem pole—that’s your walk-on,” Landry says. “That’s the most important piece of your team.”

    Landry advises that companies take deliberate steps to establish a company culture, though he warns it takes more than buying snazzy toys for the corporate office to have a culture. 

    “Just because you have a pinball machine doesn’t mean you have culture,” he says. “Culture is a goal that everyone on the team is living and breathing every day. It’s no fluke.” 

    He credits the company’s culture and staff as major reasons the brand has been able to grow as it has into new markets. Walk-On’s currently operates five corporate restaurants—all in Louisiana—as well as some 30 franchise locations nationwide. A restaurant in Montgomery, Alabama opened two weeks ago, and another is set to open in Birmingham later this month. 

    There’s not a set sales volume goal when determining a new location, Landry says, with Walk-On’s in smaller markets performing just as well as in larger ones. More important is the franchisee’s character. 

    Currently, there are more than 150 new locations in the works for the company, though Landry’s not in a rush to open them all in one year.  

    “We’re not a brand that can open 70, 80, 100 restaurants a year,” he  says, adding they’ll probably open around 20 locations in 2020. 

    Other quick Walk-On’s facts:

    • Each store averages $5 million volume each year
    • Food makes up about 70% of sales
    • Lunch makes up 35% of sales
    • Per person average spends $17.50

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