When Larry Reinstein took over as president and chief operating officer of Salsarita's Fresh Cantina last year, he knew he wanted to reenergize a well-respected brand in the restaurant industry. A pioneer in the fast casual segment, Reinstein hit the ground running. Salsarita's, the fresh Mexican cantina that signature burritos, Mexican pizzas, house-made salsas and seasoned tortilla chips, has more than 80 locations in 19 states and Puerto Rico.
Reinstein's previous experience in the industry is a positive indication of the company's future success. Reinstein served as president and CEO of Fresh Concepts, a multi-concept restaurant operating company. He also spearheaded the creation of Fresh City, an eatery that offers a variety of healthy menu option. Reinstein shares his insight on building a successful business below.
Q: What does it take to be a strong leader today?
To be a strong leader means hiring a team of champions. The objective is to hire people who are more capable than you are in each area, teach them the company culture and then give them the authority to make real decisions. Strong leadership requires a willingness to make the necessary decisions and taking responsibility when those decisions are incorrect. It is also about supporting and teaching your team to make certain they continue to develop. The team must know you are always there for them and the door is always open to discuss whatever they want.
Q: What type of managing approach do you utilize?
My management style is very objective-oriented. I believe in dates and deadlines to make certain we accomplish our objectives. At the same time, I believe in people and that each person brings something different to the table and must be managed accordingly. This requires a true understanding of what makes each person tick so they can be put into a position to achieve maximum happiness and success. Maintaining a strong team comes from having an open and collaborative environment where people work hard and play hard and know that we all really care about them.
Q: Have you been affected by rising food costs and gas prices? What have you done to combat these issues?
In general, the last year was a good year for food prices and a little difficult on gas prices. We are much more concerned about 2013, with the drought that has spread across much of our country.
Q: Do you have any unique programs or initiatives that you've put into place to propel Salsarita's forward?
Instead of implementing specific programs we have focused on what it takes to operate great restaurants that are providing truly special experiences. We have focused on fresher and more craveable food, hospitality both out front with our guests and from behind the line, and on running well maintained restaurants.
One program worth mentioning is rediscovery days, where we invite our franchisees and their management to come to the corporate office and spend time with our support team in one of our corporate restaurants and our support center. This has provided an opportunity to review the Salsarita's vision for excellence and to have people participate as we implement many new operations initiatives.
Q: What are your plans for the future? Do you have any top goals for 2013?
Looking ahead to 2013, operational excellence will be one of the biggest priorities of the system. The franchise business consultants are becoming operations experts and will be teaching our franchisees how to move their businesses forward from a quality and profit standpoint. We are also thrilled to have brought on Chris Bailey as the new vice president of franchise development. He will lead our process of attracting the right multi-unit franchisees to the system. Chris understands not just the quantitative attributes that are necessary to be a successful multi-unit franchisee but also the cultural and qualitative ones as well.
Want to hear more about Salsarita's business practices? Attend next month's Fast Casual Executive Summit to hear the company's CEO, Phil Friedman, discuss his secrets to increasing sales, his thoughts on franchising in the United States and abroad and how to gain and keep the "right" employees.