For instance, cost pressures can be cured through strategic purchasing, he notes. Another strategy to adjust to the pressures of the industry is the use of technology. For millennials and younger customers especially, this is important. TGI Fridays has made itself available through multiple online ordering apps and it allows customers to pay with Apple Pay and a few other phone pay apps. It also has a Fridays app, where people can order and pay directly.
Another investment is a new point-of-sale tablet device in restaurants, which not only has ordering and pay functions, but collects real-time data based on customer feedback. But technology doesn’t come without its own challenges, Khan says the company has to ensure its workers are still engaging customers. “We have to train them to learn our product and talk a little bit because the young generation today, they’re not as interested in talking, they want to text,” he says.
Of the 900-plus TGI Fridays restaurants, Khan has only 30 franchisees that he deals with—most own multiple restaurants. From Khan’s perspective, this makes communication easier. He says he spent his first six months building a relationship of trust with franchisees. “We are talking. We are debating. And sometimes we agree. Even when we disagree, we still smile at each other because it’s a good game of trust that we play all day long. And when you have a trust, the business goes faster,” he says.
“Training is the most important thing any company can do, but so many companies ignore their training. They think it’s an unnecessary expense, but I think that’s the most important expense the company could have.”
In a nutshell, this is how Khan describes his leadership. He considers himself a collaborative guy who seeks to empower his employees. “A few months ago, I met the waitresses and asked them what their pain points were. How could I ease those pain points? They were so thrilled because this was the first time any CEO in their career talked to them about those pain points, whether it was in the kitchen, on the floor, wherever it wasn’t working.”
So far Khan’s approach seems to have worked. While the company is private and won’t disclose financial information, he said that the company had met his aggressive sales metrics for the year. However, there have been closings of TGI Fridays restaurants and Khan says it’s important to “prune” the maturing restaurant industry.
For the coming year, Khan says the company will revamp the bar section of its restaurants, looking for creative ideas to breathe life into that area of the restaurant. It’s also working with different corporate officers and franchisees to test new items for its menu. Not shockingly, Khan, whose thirst for education never ends, is also focusing in on constantly training his employees. He says this facet of a company often gets overlooked.
“Training is the most important thing any company can do, but so many companies ignore their training. They think it’s an unnecessary expense, but I think that’s the most important expense the company could have. Train your people on what you’re working on and to provide good, quality service. People can ignore a lot of [things], but if you treat them poorly, they will remember it forever.”