#27: Brian Whitson & Allen Johnson – GM and Head Chef at Snooze A.M. Eatery
Brian Whitson and Allen Johnson Podcast Transcript
Neil Dudley: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Pederson’s Farms podcast. We are so excited you’re here. We appreciate you joining us. And we look forward to sharing these conversations with thought leaders from our industry. They’re going to paint a picture from every perspective – consumer, customer, vendor, employee, and peer – that I think is going to be super valuable, and we’re really excited to share. So, thanks for tuning in. Remember don’t tune out, and grab life by the bacon.
Everybody out there in YouTube land, welcome to another episode, show, conversation here on the Pederson Farms Podcast. It’s just a thing I love, I appreciate, and I hope you do too. I hope you find a chance, an opportunity to hear about our beautiful, awesome industry from thought leaders within the industry from each kind of sector, our consumers, customers, vendors, employees, and peers. By the way, welcome to the show AJ and Brian. These guys work with Snooze and specifically in a store in College Station. So, whoop, there you go Aggies. I don’t know, is that a way to do it? Yeah, gig ‘em Aggies. And they happened to be coming up just to get to know Pederson’s a little better, give Pederson’s a chance to get to know these guys a little better. Snooze AM eatery, go check them out. I’m telling you the bacon there is awesome. But let’s pick their brain a little bit. I mean, I’m just so curious about so many things that is like an everyday reality for you guys. Living and working and building a restaurant and servicing customers in today’s climate has got to be so interesting. So, my first question or the first thought that comes to my mind is how do you find time to come up to this plant and do this thing? As valuable as it is, how did you find the time to do that? I mean, is that easy?
Brian Whitson: Not exactly the easiest thing. We got to work a little earlier today to get the stuff done. We had the meetings but got the management team there at the table to hold it down. It’s a little slower right now during College Station with the kids in finals and things like that. But to have an opportunity to see one of our vendors firsthand, it was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up.
Allen Johnson: Well, and the fact that you kept tapping us on the shoulder and saying, “Hey, when you coming up? When you coming up?” that was the motivation right there to be like, hey, we need to get up there. We need to get up there.
Neil Dudley: Well, as I think probably anybody’s experiencing in business right now, labor’s short. It’s tough finding somebody to come be a part of your organization, be a part of the thing you do. I mean, that’s part of the reason for the podcast. Like I want anybody that’s ever researching Pederson’s to have access to a lot of information about our company so they can understand this is who you’re going to work for, this who you’re going to work with because we need that help. I mean, we can’t do what we do without it. And I just imagine in a restaurant space, what you guys do each and every day, you might have a little better deal with college being in town and finding servers and that kind of stuff. But what about line cooks? Are they running out of your ears? By the way, AJ, tell everybody what you do and the role you play with the company, and Brian you too, or Brian first. I don’t care.
Allen Johnson: Hey, my name’s AJ. I’m the head chef of Snooze AM Eatery in College Station, Texas. I’ve been with Snooze for about six years. I started off in California, but I just want to make one thing clear – I am from San Antonio.
Neil Dudley: Yeah, there you go. Hey, man, there are a lot of Californians in Texas these days.
Allen Johnson: You’re not joking. But actually, Brian and I worked together in California. So, we already had a relationship, working relationship before we got back to Texas.
Neil Dudley: Now, did you move here for work, or were you’re trying to get back to Texas? I mean like how did that play out? Now, I’m sorry. See this, you got to forgive me because I start chasing rabbits too quick. Go ahead and finish telling everybody about your story. I’m cutting you off.
Allen Johnson: Well, actually my wife got a job offer with Texas A&M, and for some reason, Texas does that to you, it’s always calling you back home. So, we took the opportunity. I actually left Snooze to come out and move back home, and my wife got a really awesome job after grad school. And then the cards just played out. I got a phone call a couple months later saying, hey, we’re opening up College Station Snooze. Do you want to be the head chef? Brian’s going to be your GM. I mean, what am I going to say? No? That’s just a magic formula. Next thing you know, here we are, working together again and it’s been a blessing. We have the same philosophy about how we- I mean, I’m sure you agree, it’s all about the people. It’s all about the people that work with you day in and day out. And without them, you really have nothing because you can’t do it all yourself. Brian?
Brian Whitson: Three years with Snooze. I just had my three-year anniversary over Thanksgiving, heard a lot about AJ talking about Texas and San Antonio and those areas that he grew up in while we were working together. So three years, got a fortunate opportunity to get out of California and open another restaurant. I opened the one in Orange, which is closest to Disneyland, wanted to get out of California with my family. My daughter’s 10 years old, and I wanted to give her a different side of life. I grew up in Wyoming for a good four to six years back when I was a kid. So, I wanted to show her another side of life. And surprisingly got another partnership with AJ and wanted to develop the culture that we had out in Orange and bring it out here. As AJ said, we’re very much into our people and invest in them and want to make sure that we have a diverse group of people so that way our guests, when they come in, see that everybody has a place at our table.
Neil Dudley: Yes. We just got- we’re recording this in early December, somebody may be listening to it. It may not launch till later into 2022, but the Our Table is a theme we talked about a lot in November, just around Thanksgiving, and the idea is so valuable, so important to make your employees, your consumers, your customers, your friends in the industry understand we’re open to everybody. I’m not sure every single company is that way or has historically been that way. It’s certainly a piece of today’s reality in which I want consumers to know that, I think you guys want– and it’s not, I’m not just pretending. I want them to be able to feel it, see it, and understand that that’s a true statement.
Brian Whitson: Yeah. We have what call compass points. We have that symbol throughout our restaurant, on our walls and on our stitching inside the fabrics of our booth seats and stuff. And one of those compass points is individuality. We want to make sure that the team that’s coming in, we’re not trying to mold them to anything but to the best of their abilities. And so, we really want our teams to be able to express who they are. So individually is what we’re looking for.
Neil Dudley: And you can feel that in the restaurant. Look, folks, if you’re hearing this and you’ve never been to a Snooze, go check it out. I mean, that atmosphere he’s mentioning, you can feel that that’s a true statement; that’s genuine. All right, so we work together on bacon. How many people don’t bacon? That’s a loaded question. You’ve got to call that a loaded question. We’re just talking about including everybody at the table, and I’m talking about excluding anybody that doesn’t like bacon. Now the facts are I think bacon is one of those kinds of foods that is so versatile. AJ, you might could even speak to this a little bit being a chef, and its uses and the way you can put it on the menu. What do you guys think about that? I’m putting some words into your mouth. Do you agree?
Allen Johnson: Oh, a hundred percent. I mean, you can do so much with bacon. I mean, so I’m half Chinese, and my mom’s from Taiwan and just what she’s taught me to do with a piece of pork belly is you can make it crispy, you can braise it, cut it in chunks. It is such a versatile- and it really will absorb the flavor of whatever. We put soy sauce, star anise, garlic, ginger, just let it braise for a few hours and then sear it, so it’s got a little crust on the outside and then you cut into it.
Neil Dudley: You’re making me hungry.
Allen Johnson: And then it just falls apart or melts in your mouth. But just like you said, it starts before all that. It starts at the farm. Are they being humanely raised? I mean, are they being taken care of before we take their life? I mean, I had a valuable lesson as a young cook, my overcooked duck breast. And this was out in Northern California. I was working with Todd Humphreys, and I’ll always remember this. And it was supposed to be medium rare, and I cooked it medium, and I couldn’t of had a second thought in the world about it. But I got pulled off the line and I got sent home. The reason why I got sent home is because I didn’t think about that this duck actually gave its life to come to this table, and I am just going to disregard it and not give it any respect whatsoever. And that’s why my chef was disappointed in me, because I didn’t give that animal any respect. I guarantee you after that day, I do now. And I think that’s what I try to teach my guys. Don’t just- all that hard work from the farm to here, at the warehouse to the distribution, there’s so many hands that are involved in this whole process, and the minute you disregard it or you take it for granted or don’t put any appreciation to that whole chain, so many people have worked so hard, and not only that, but the animal gave its life to be at this table and you’re going to disrespect that process and that whole thing, that’s what kind of hurts.
Neil Dudley: That’s a great story, like that’s the snippet for this episode. It illustrates the value of somebody actually taking the time to teach you and give you a little bit of pain. So now you’ve learned that, you’re repeating this story. So, shout out, what was his name?
Allen Johnson: Chef Todd Humphreys.
Neil Dudley: Chef Todd Humphreys, shout out, I hope you get a chance to listen to this because AJ remembers a thing you taught him and he’s passing that on to other people. I bet Brian has a story like that. I certainly have stories like that. There’s just so much value in putting that little bit of time into somebody and then they can pass it along. So as leaders in companies, I think it is huge to think about that. Like if you’re listening and you’re a leader, listen, everybody’s a leader. I don’t care what position you play in the company, you’re leading in some way. Think about how you can slow down enough to offer somebody that opportunity to get better. And sometimes that means sending them home, cutting their pay, giving them a real thoughtful critique.
Allen Johnson: Yeah, it was a good lesson. I mean, hell, I’m speaking it 20 years later, and I’ll never forget it. And I tell that story quite often.
Neil Dudley: I think it’s so valuable to consumers. Anybody that walks into Snooze to have a meal, there’s an AJ in the back that cares that much. There’s a Brian that’s helping make sure that AJs are getting the tools that they need. Like, is that even how it works? Like what is your role? What do you do? Let’s transition maybe more to a GM kind of position and tell us a little bit about that.
Brian Whitson: Well, making sure that all the different teams are working at their peak and are having fun. You can tell when people are having fun, the food tastes better. So, we try and make sure that everybody in the back is enjoying each other and enjoying the experience, but then maximizing their opportunity and doing things the right way. We talk about creating perfect plates. But then we talk about how you want to have- or we’re talking about bacon, well, we’ve probably got six or seven different ways that you can add bacon to your dish to optimize that flavor profile and optimize your experience with us there at Snooze. But for me, I’m making sure that the host team is inviting you with a smile and making sure you know you feel welcome, that we’re fortunate enough to have you come through our doors. Then we’ve got our serving team that’s making sure that they’re attentive to your needs whenever those happen to pop up and they’re describing the best things that we can offer and trying to make sure that you have the best breakfast you’d like to build if you were at home, but we’re going to do it for you. Then we’re making sure that the team’s getting that- or the kitchen team’s making sure that they’re getting the food out in a timely manner, so it’s hot and fresh, making sure that the managers are walking through, making sure everybody’s doing things the right way. And we’re having those personal experiences at the table to make sure you feel like you’re walking into our home, which happens to be our restaurant and you’re welcome, and we hope to invite you back, whether it be two days later, a week later, or maybe you catch the one over in Austin or you make your way up to Kansas City, and you’re going to find that you have the same experience and hopefully the same kind of culture in those restaurants as well. And with the GM’s role, we’re trying to make sure that we’re holding up the standard that all the other Snoozes are hopefully holding up as well.
Neil Dudley: Yeah, I mean, you have to play that role of connecting to the mothership and helping make sure your store is in line with all the other stores. It’s such a, it’s just a big thing, a big project to run a company that size, that dynamic in that many different locations and keep that consistency. So, it’s really a kudos to the upper management of Snooze and just as that flows to store managers, chefs in the back, line cooks, service team. I mean, it is just beautiful. Brian, do you have a book or would you have a podcast, like how do you make sure you’re on top of your game?
Brian Whitson: Oh, before I’m going to bed, I’m running a list of what I need to do in the morning. As soon as I wake up, I’m checking that list and checking it twice. I’m not St. Nick, but I’m doing it twice. And then I’m getting in and I’m saying hi to everybody and making sure that they know what they’re supposed to be doing. And then I’m checking in with the people above me to see if I’ve facilitated everything they’re looking for, if they’ve got expectations they want me and AJ to pull through for the team, that we’re making sure that we’re talking about those things first thing and then hitting those deadlines. But I’m not much of a list guy. I like to more of like you give me something, I pull it through. You give me something, I pull it through. I see something, we work on it, we get it through. AJ, I can’t say enough, how fortunate that I am to have my chef AJ with me for the second time around because we went through those growing pains of how do you look at things? How do you look at things? And we worked those things out to where now we’re pulling things through pretty seamlessly.
Allen Johnson: It’s a good marriage, it really is.
Neil Dudley: I mean, the truth is, like I talk about Cody a lot, the president of Pederson’s, he and I graduated kindergarten together, and we are a great yin and yang. Part of how we work together so well is we really know each other so well. My wife’s in the business, his wife’s in the business. So, we’re kind of like working in this company 24/7 in every way. Without those good relationships, you can’t have some of the open dialogue that you really need to have, all of that stuff. I think that’s there at Snooze too. I bet you go to every store team, they’re going to have similar relationships, or if they don’t, they’re working real hard to build it.
Brian Whitson: We would hope so.
Allen Johnson: It’s hard. It takes work just like a marriage, but we also have a- it’s really cool that sometimes it’s just totally non-verbal; we can just look at each other and know exactly what each other’s thinking and know where I need to be or where Brian needs to be.
Brian Whitson: Or if he’s not there, I know I need to be there.
Allen Johnson: I mean, it’s a great partnership and extremely lucky, coming back home and then have a good partner like this. It is tough. You wake up early in the morning and try to do the best job you can.
Neil Dudley: I say retail, restauranteurs, chefs, people that work in that kind of business, like I said this a bunch of times – my daughters are going to have to wait tables in their life before I really support them financially in any endeavor because they need to go experience what that’s like. I was a bar back in a restaurant, so I got a little taste of it. I think learning how to be a part of a wait staff, a part of somebody that is your job to deal with unhappy customers, help them get happy, make sure they’re happy before they ever get unhappy. It’s like that stuff is so valuable. It is in business in every way.
Allen Johnson: Absolutely. Just that anticipatory move, being able to see, okay, that person needs something before they even ask for it.
Neil Dudley: Well, Brian sets the tone when we come to the store. So, everybody, the story is me and my wife and our family, we were in College Station for a football game. We were leaving the hotel, everybody’s hungry. The kids said, “Let’s go to Snooze.” So, we got on the little app, signed up, got in line, and well, we get to the restaurant and that little app thing wasn’t working, or the girl’s like, it’s still going to be another hour wait. And I’m like I got in line on the app, so I didn’t have to wait; I don’t have time. She’s just kind of like, well… I’m like– so then I start playing the card, well, we make the bacon that y’all use here. So, what I thought was so good about that is she took that information, ran it up the flagpole, took it up with management and said- the next thing you know, I got a table. I thought that was just really a great truth that somebody was able to think a little, there might be more to this than just no, this is the list, this is going to be this way. That’s got to be tough because as a consumer, I hate the wait.
Brian Whitson: Yeah, I’d like to think that in a perfect world, we’re able to accommodate everyone, not just because of our relationship before- our business relationship. But those computers, those apps, those things all have glitches, and we try and do right by the guests because we know on a Saturday or Sunday, people are going to wait an hour to two hours for our breakfast. And that’s why we’ve got to be in sync to make sure those perfect plates that we were talking about earlier are going to be there so we can continue to have that two hour wait. And in those opportunities where we can shine on somebody who’s having a difficult experience with the app and it looks like it’s going to get dark, if we can be that sunshine, and say we’ve got a table right here. And then look how it turned out. We had a great experience for about an hour and a half with you in the restaurant. We were able to get chef AJ out from behind the line to come out and meet-
Neil Dudley: I mean, where I was really going with that whole story was Brian set the tone in the restaurant. Look, the gal letting us in was trained I felt well; she just totally took great care of us. We got to the table. I was like, “Hey, could you see what kind of bacon’s back there? I’m just curious, is it ours?” Well, next thing you know, Brian’s there. So Brian’s now- I see him in the restaurant moving around. I understand he’s the GM. Wow, cool, I got right to the top of the food chain in here. AJ’s brought out. That was just a beautiful experience, and I think you nailed it perfect there. I’m not trying to represent that I got special treatment. I think I got normal treatment. I mean, that’s just how everybody gets took care of every time there’s that chance to do it.
Allen Johnson: Well, it’s funny because I think it was a couple months ago, they’re like, AJ, your wife’s out. I’m like, oh, I’ll be there in a second. And when you came by, it’s like hey, Neil from Pederson’s- Really? Okay! I’ll be right there.
Neil Dudley: Yeah. Well, so what’s really front of mind for you guys these days? I like to ask this question because I know I just have a jaded perspective. Like, I don’t know, I’m not in the restaurant business. I don’t need this restaurant to run each and every day for my livelihood. I need this bacon plant to run each and every day. I know what’s front of mind for me. What’s front of mind for you guys? For somebody listening that’s just a peer of yours in the industry or wants to be in your spot someday or is just thinking how can I solve problems for Snooze, at the store level, what’s a hot topic?
Brian Whitson: For us right now being only four or five months in this new community, it’s setting up the roots with the community. We do a lot of volunteering. We do a lot or outreach to make sure-
Neil Dudley: Geeze, you are talking about a thing I don’t even think about. I wouldn’t even have thought about that. And I feel like you open the doors and here they come. No, you have to go build relationships.
Brian Whitson: No, they are coming because of the standard that the other 49 of our Snooze locations have set, and we try to continue that. But we realize that it’s the community that’s going to be coming out to us. I mean, we’re good, but we’ve got to be more than that. So, when things are getting slow, we’re trying to find groups that haven’t had a chance to meet us. And then we’ve got ravers who are people that come in once a week, once every three or four days, we’re making sure that we know their names and having that experience with them. Our community partners too, we have boys and girls club and the sustainability chapter over at Texas A&M and Pederson Farms and things like that, that we want to make sure that we have healthy relationships with them but that we’re giving more than we’re taking. It’ll come back in other ways. And we really want to make sure that our team- we talked a little bit earlier about how hard it is to hire people and make them stay. We still have 90% of the people that we had when we opened five months ago.
Neil Dudley: That’s great. That’s a great testament really. It really is.
Brian Whitson: Yeah. We’ve got a lot of people that are always coming in and asking if they can work there. We just want to create an environment that people want to come either work and be a part of to make it better, or they want to come in and dine and make it better. But either way, we’re just hoping to have more of those relationships.
Neil Dudley: Yeah. And I just thought in my mind, shout out to the founders of Snooze, the upper management of Snooze, because you guys are just rock stars. Really you are. And I imagine there’s people all over- and you don’t build a company with these kinds of rock stars in it without caring, like genuinely caring, genuinely wanting what’s best for you guys and the clientele, the people that come and eat there. So, it’s just a beautiful thing. I hope to shine the light on Snooze. Of course, we appreciate your business; it goes without saying. But the fact is we’ve not always bought your product from Pederson’s and you may not always forever buy it. We still have to work on this relationship. We have to make sure we’re delivering consistent quality and what you need. Either way, I’m very excited for the listeners of this podcast to get to hear from a couple of guys that are running a store that are serving people in College Station. And I would imagine you guys, just the sky’s the limit.
Brian Whitson: Yeah. Well, we appreciate being part of your story and we look forward to telling your portion in our story. We talked about the founders, Adam and John. This is a 15-year-old story, but we’re the story tellers of their story. And that started in Ballpark, in Denver, Colorado, and they had a tough couple of first years, but their determination allows us to be here sitting across from you today, and the story continues. But we look forward to your chapter.
Neil Dudley: Yeah, that’s right. We certainly do. As part of this, you guys are thought leaders, so I just kind of want to try to get as much as I can out from- So how does somebody- AJ, let me ask you first and we’ll probably ask the same question to Brian. How does someone be a superstar for you? Let’s just say I’m a person and I’m like, man, maybe I want to be in the restaurant business someday. And is it a good idea to try to just work up from the bottom, like whatever the bottom is because then you understand all that? How does somebody become a superstar for you?
Allen Johnson: I think I’m going to go back to being a good person. Actually, I just had an interview the other day where someone just was talking about applying for an Aquatech. An Aquatech is a fancy word I like to call a dishwasher, so, an aquatic technician. He’s like, “Well, I don’t want to be just a dishwasher.” And I was like, whoa, whoa, hold on. It’s not just a dishwasher, man. You can’t talk down about that position or those people because we’re all equal. And I think if you have that mentality as a young person in this industry, coming in and respecting everybody, I think that goes a really, really, really long way. I mean, that’s how I did it. The first thing I do is I observe. I keep my head down. I work really hard. I mean, my dad was in the military for 30 years and he beat that into me, like respect and work hard. Yes, sir, you got it. But keep at it and fail, fail a lot, but embrace the failure. As much as it sucks at the time, it’s teaching you a really, really valuable lesson and pay attention to those lessons and don’t make the same one. If you do, then reevaluate your career choice.
Neil Dudley: You’re right. You’re absolutely right. At that point, you might be finding out this isn’t your niche, this isn’t where you really- although you may think it is, it turns out it’s not, because it’s not just this thing that’s kind of naturally flowing for you. That was all so beautiful, so true. I had another thought, but I’ve lost it. So, Brian, how does somebody be a superstar for you in your mind?
Brian Whitson: For me, it starts with want to – you want to be here, you want to perform, you want to do your best, and we can see that with your actions and the way you show up. If you’re showing up five minutes early, if you’re staying 10 minutes late, if you’re pre-busing your tables, if you have that hospitality- You can hear people who talk about hospitality, live it. If they’re not talking about it, they’re probably not forwarding those actions. And then there’s an urgency of action. How fast are you trying to make sure that those guests are taken care of? How fast are you helping your team members? How fast are you making sure that your side work is getting done? Some of our best team members have been people that came in with no experience, but they had the drive and the want to, and if you can see that, you get them in your system and develop them and see which ways they want to go, push them in the directions that they want and have the most energy towards, and then you’re going to find the best rewards from them. So, for me, it’s want to and urgency of action coupled with things that AJ has already discussed.
Neil Dudley: Sure. That’s great insight from a couple of guys that are living it each and every day. I mean, you guys are interviewing candidates, you’re hiring candidates. You’re having to make all those tough decisions that come along with people that don’t fit. Hey, it’s okay you don’t fit. I mean, I had a guy on the podcast that I was talking to who lost his job, and it turned out to be the very best thing that ever happened to him. He started his own business and now he’s right where he wants to be, loves what he’s doing. So, some of that, I like to say it’s not ever really failure. It’s only experience, and experience is so valuable, like do not diminish the value of that experience.
Brian Whitson: Well, that’s the thing too, with us, is we understand as a restaurant that most of the people are passed through kind of people. Like AJ and I are career people, we want to be with Snooze, we’re going to be with Snooze. We hope that you’re with us on the ride and you stay as long as you want. But for most people, we’re passing them through. So, what can we do for them? Well, we can make them better for the next people and we can make them better for the guests and the team that we have with us and we’re going to do right by them, and they usually do right.
Neil Dudley: Yeah. One of the greatest compliments I could imagine you get is somebody calling up and saying, “Anytime anybody quits, send them my way. I’d love to hire that person.” Because you’ve made them better. I think Pederson’s- I think about that. Now we don’t pass through- We have a certain kind of small amount of turnover that’s happening. A lot of people just stay with us because we’re in the country, they live here, they’ve got ties here, this is where they want to raise their kids, stuff like that. But that is definitely a goal. It’s a basic, I don’t know, component of what we do, and that is try to always make everybody better so they’re more valuable. If you think about it that way, you are putting more into the economy even as future- Like it’s sad when the really good people leave and go do something else because that leaves a hole in your business that somebody else now has a chance to step into and now play a bigger role. To me, that’s all exciting and just one of those great things about business that makes it fun for me.
Brian Whitson: Yeah. We have a lot of leadership growth and leadership levels in our restaurant. We’ve got storytellers. We’ve got bobs – bobs are the best of the best within our company. Then we’ve got the storytellers who are the trainers for the new people that come in. We’ve got supervisors that are being groomed to become an entry-level manager or EGMs and sous chefs, and then moving up. And for us, there’s opportunities for regionals and things like that. But if you’ve got a room full of leaders, you can do anything. So, the more that we can have, the better we’re going to be.
Neil Dudley: All of this is so good. I hope if you’re listening, you’re taking some notes. I wanted to throw a name out here because I’ve listened to some of his stuff – Danny Meyer, have y’all ever heard of that guy or paid attention to any of his philosophies? What do you think about that stuff?
Brian Whitson: I loved it.
Neil Dudley: Why the pause? Why the pause?
Brian Whitson: Because I’ve got so many guys going through my head that it’s tough to differentiate which ones he does versus some of the other books that I’ve read, but he’s one of the leaders on how to make hospitality thrive in your culture.
Neil Dudley: So, name another one or come up with another one. I like to give those people a little airtime. Just, okay, so Danny Meyer, you could almost Google Restauranteur, you’re going to find Danny Meyer. You mentioned Chef Todd.
Allen Johnson: He’s not a restauranteur, but the Simon Sinek is a good one. I listened to him before he got really big. And I think I learned a lesson from him in listening to some of his speeches at conferences was the why. And you can get so many people to do so much more if you just take one second and explain the why behind-
Neil Dudley: You were doing it just a minute ago when you were talking about telling people why, explaining all the stuff that has to happen before this slice of bacon gets here for you to cook. Don’t burn it.
Allen Johnson: Exactly. So, I mean, there was a book that I read maybe 10, 15 years ago, and I still refer to it, The One Minute Manager. And that’s what I try to do. I try to go around to every single person every day, several times an hour and just spend one minute with them, whether that’s a one-minute praise, one-minute coach, one-minute reprimand, but I’m not going to reprimand you in front of everybody. Of course not. But I think it’s just that if you spend time- the more time you are with your people, the more productive they’re going to be. I mean, I can sit in the office and analyze how much bacon loss I have for the week and come up with a plan, but it’s much more effective if I take that information and take it out to the people on the line and be like, hey, jefe, look at this. We lost 15 pounds of bacon this week. Why is that? Well, because we’re over cooking bacon at the end of the day. So, let’s come up with a plan. Okay. Who wants to throw away two, three pounds of bacon a day? No, we’re going to end up chopping it and re-utilizing it.
Neil Dudley: Or you need to come back to the vendor and say, look, your specs are getting off. Like we’re getting slices that are unusable. It just gives you this little string to pull on and find solutions.
Allen Johnson: It was like the first time that we met, you’re like, “Hey, how’s everything going?” And I was like, “Well, it’s a little thin.” And I saw you pull out the notebook and you started writing notes right then and there. I mean, that’s invaluable. It’s huge. But I think out of everyone that I’ve been in touch with over my career and talked to and have been given advice, Chef Todd Humphreys taught me a lot about respect of the whole food chain. He was a real big forager. He would go out and forage mushrooms and all sorts of things. And that really opened my eyes to like respect the process, respect the food. And some people don’t think of it that way. Some people come in and it’s already pre-packaged, ready to go, and they don’t think about that whole process beforehand.
Neil Dudley: Sure. I appreciate y’all so much for just getting on the mic and just letting me ask you questions. You just off the cuff, it gives people a little insight into Snooze. It gives people insight into who you guys are. I kind of like this so much because somebody listening, who knows who that might be, could think, man, that’s somebody I’d like to be, maybe I should go start working at a Snooze, and I’m going to get access to these guys and access to that education, that experience. So, if you’re out there, if you’re thinking about it, I encourage you to do it. Look, if you want to be in management of a store, if you want to get into upper-level management in a company ever in the future, you’ve got to do what these guys were just talking about doing. Pay attention to other people. Like you don’t know it all. We all have to learn. I need to learn every day. These conversations teach me so much.
Allen Johnson: Well, it’s funny. I think the first time that we met, Brian was like I want to be the best. I want to hit all these goals. And I was like not me, man. I just want to be right in the middle of the pack, kind of blend in with everybody. But unfortunately, I guess I don’t know how to do that.
Brian Whitson: He says he flies here, but he flies way up here.
Neil Dudley: And I bet over time and experience, you start to be able to sense that in people and potential candidates or even just a little while working with them. One of the more recent interviews of employees for Pederson’s is a guy named Alejandro and he’s come up through the ranks, and kind of the way he painted the picture was I wanted responsibility. Like I was totally ready, somebody give me responsibility. If it needed to be done, I would make sure it got done. I think that’s so valuable. Like if you want to move up, if you want to find ways to make more money, I think that people get driven by that. Take responsibility.
Brian Whitson: Yeah. I think one of the things that AJ and I enjoy most about Snooze and the work that we do is the development of people and getting people to new levels and stuff. And I know in my career, you just said Alejandro which took me right back to a gentleman 15 years ago who we hired on for a different company, but he was a busser, barely spoke any English. Ten years later, he took over my job as the general manager when I changed over to a different restaurant group. I know speaking with AJ all the time, he’s talking about getting Aquatechs to preps to line cooks, and that’s more of the conversations we have about getting people from A to B than it is anything else, just to maximize their opportunities.
Allen Johnson: It’s so awesome to see you put all this work into just the daily, but then, you give your emotion, your heart, and your soul to some of your people, and then they take it and run with it and then they’re successful. And then there’s no kind of payment like that when you see a cake cook become a head chef of your old restaurant.
Neil Dudley: See, that’s the kind of stuff that’s not monetary. That’s just life well lived. Gentlemen, thank you so much for your time. Let’s go get something to eat. Man, tell this story every chance you get. I’m going to tell your story every chance I get. Everybody listening, watching, go Google Snooze, Google their story, follow these guys on their LinkedIns or social media. I think just getting connected is so valuable to all of us because the truth is we need the feedback from the consumers, our peers, all that kind of stuff. It just helps us get better. We so much appreciate it. Thanks for listening. Come back again next week, next month, whenever you find time to listen to another podcast and hear what we’ve got to say because I just feel like we’re getting great people on here all the time talking about this industry from different viewpoints. Later.
Hey, everybody. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of the Pederson’s Farms Podcast. It’s been a blast bringing this to you, and I sure hope you enjoyed it and found value. If you did, tell a friend, share it out on social media, hit that subscribe button, or go check us out at pedersonsfarms.com. We sure hope you do. And thanks for being here.
Does your family ever argue about which restaurant to have breakfast at? Do you want to win that argument? Then you should try to gain a deeper understanding of YOUR favorite place! Snooze an A.M. Eatery is one of ours! Brian Whitson and Allen Johnson have a passion for greatness in their company, staff, service, food, and themselves. In this episode, they share deep insights into the challenges they face on a daily basis as well as the thought processes behind their decision-making. You can expect to go away with a better understanding of how this GM and Head Chef work together and what they value most!
Fun fact: They have nicknames on their business cards! Brian the “Biscuit” Whitson and Allen “Apple Jack” Johnson!
Visit us online at www.PedersonsFarms.com
(3:12) – Was it difficult to find time to come visit the Pederson’s Plant?
(4:35) – Introducing AJ & Brian
(8:35) – Bacon talk & kitchen war stories
(12:40) – The role of a General Manager
(14:48) – The importance of good partnerships & what working in a restaurant teaches you
(20:33) – What’s front of mind for you two at the store level?
(23:58) – How does someone become a superstar in the restaurant industry?
(29:20) – Thoughts on leaders in the Hospitality & Restaurant industries
(32:27) – Wrap Up & Final Thoughts
The Pederson’s Farms Podcast is produced by Johnny Peterson & Root and Roam.