Establish Your Systems. Make sure there are systems in place for training and development of employees, operational standards, and short-term and long-term goals. This may seem like a mundane task, but you will thank yourself when there are steps in place!
In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of dealing with crisis and how to adapt and overcome. The context of this series is the physical and financial fallout that resulted from the COVID 19 pandemic. Crisis management is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases, it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Doug Doyle.
Co-Owner of Fired Pie, Doug Doyle, has spent his entire career in the restaurant industry, including the past 40+ years in the pizza world. Doyle graduated from The University of Denver with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and went right into the restaurant business beginning at Houston’s as a server. He quickly became a trainer. His first management position was at California Pizza Kitchen where he served as both a Kitchen Manager and General Manager opening multiple restaurants around the country. Over the years, his responsibilities increased and he was promoted to Regional Director of Operations with responsibility for 18M dollars in sales and over 25 managers. He was recruited to Benihana where he learned about Japanese cuisine and service and later returned to the pizza business after moving to Phoenix to work for Fred Morgan as a Regional Director of Operations. Doyle and his business partner Fred Morgan are now the proud owners of 20 Fired Pie locations, a fast-casual pizza concept. Fired Pie recently celebrated seven years in business. The locally owned restaurant allows you to take on the role of chef by picking and choosing your own type of dough, sauce and topping. They also serve customizable salads and Mac ‘N Cheese. Visit a location nearest you at Firedpie.com.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
In 2013, when my business partner Fred Morgan and I first started on our journey to founding Fired Pie, I took out all of my retirement, against the advice of my financial advisor, and put it all into the business. We didn’t take a paycheck for seven months, and during this time we opened four Fired Pie’s.This meant we had to hire quickly and train new employees, while navigating new technology and staying relevant amongst a sea of fast casual restaurant. Seven years later, we still pride ourselves on being a locally owned and operated fast casual chain that has grown to 20 stores.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
We both started in the restaurant business at the age of 15. Fred started as a dishwasher in a steak house, while I got my first restaurant job as a line cook at Sizzler’s in Southern California. We were used to working the long, hard hours the restaurant industry demands. Knowing this, we knew it was going to be a tough road ahead and what it would take to succeed. When things get tough, our drive and passion for what we are doing is always there, knowing we are responsible for the livelihood of 350 employees. Through this, I think we’ve never lost sight of our vision to offer our customers quality ingredients and a truly customizable experience.
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
When we first came on the scene, we were the first custom, fast-fire pizza concept in Arizona. We knew we had a unique concept and together as business partners we are constantly navigating challenges and changing consumer demands. Being in the business for so long now, little surprises us anymore and we’ve learned to not get too high off the easy times nor too low off the tough times. Our resilience and grit are what led us to our current success by knowing what it takes to succeed in this business.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
In our first year open at a local Mall, we were open on Thanksgiving Day and stayed open all night during the Black Friday shopping craziness. I had originally thought it would be fun to work all night with our young employees but quickly realized at 3 a.m that graveyard shifts were no longer for me! I learned it’s important to delegate the graveyard shifts and that was one task I have no interest in doing again. However, I gained so much respect and appreciation for our employees who are able to work the Thanksgiving all nighters!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Our bottom line at Fired Pie isn’t just about expanding but ensuring that our customers receive the best service and food quality possible. We use old family Italian sauce and dough recipes as well as offering premium ingredients. We also stay on top of new trends such as plant-based meats, gluten-free and vegan options. Executing operations is crucial to our business.
Fred and I are very hands on and work side by side with our store teams on a daily basis.
We place a large emphasis on staying local and supporting our community. We are proud of the fact that this a company we started on our own and are able to compete with the big franchises. We support local charities, schools, and little leagues. We love that fact that people involve us in the community, and we are such a big part of our customers’ lives.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
For those looking to succeed in this business, I would suggest you have a lot of experience and a solid business plan going in. You need to surround yourself with great people with a positive attitude, for when the challenges arise. To avoid burnout, it’s important to have fun with what you are doing, but it’s also great to have a partner to takeover when a break is needed. Especially in the service industry, guests need to see smiles on faces.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Both Fred and I worked at California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) for over 17 years and we are so honored to have the Former COO of CPK, Fred Wolfe, as our mentor. Fred Wolfe has provided us with invaluable mentoring and consulting advice throughout the years and has been able to give us an outside perspective on our business.
We also brought on Abby Anderson as our CFO almost five years ago. Abby has brought great experience to Fired Pie and has helped us evolve from a small company to where we are today.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Yes! At Fired Pie, we serve the community throughout the year with fundraisers through Phoenix Children’s Hospital, No Kid Hungry and welcome the community to raise money for local charities. Local 501(c) charities and can choose any location and we donate 20% of the funds they bring in.
Throughout the recent pandemic we have donated large catering packages to hospitals as a thank you to our healthcare heroes. We implemented 50% off days for healthcare workers and first responders. We also had a free entrée day as a thank you to police and fireman where we had the pleasure of serving over 750 meals in one day! It was a such a rewarding day and I believed it was a great lesson to our employees.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why.
- Have a solid business plan
- Have financial resources and more! It will always cost more than planned.
- Have experience. Just because you have passion, doesn’t mean that will be enough. Make sure you have experience in all aspects of your industry before launching your own company.
- Surround yourself with great people. Surround yourself with great people who share your passion as well as your vision. This will also make your experience more enjoyable.
- Establish Your Systems. Make sure there are systems in place for training and development of employees, operational standards, and short-term and long-term goals. This may seem like a mundane task, but you will thank yourself when there are steps in place!
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I wish there was a way for us to benefit restaurant industry employees more. So many of them have been hit so hard during COVID-19 and I’d like to do more to help them with education and ongoing training. I’d love to start a program for economically or educationally challenged employees who are passionate about the industry, and develop their skills to allow them to have a successful career in the restraint industry.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!