Written by The Business Journal Staff
Javier Gomez, Chief Operations Officer,
F&M Restaurants, Inc.
How did you come to establish F & M Restaurants, Inc., Javier?
Before, we were H&S Services, which stands for Howard and Sterling. There were two partners and they got together and built Rally’s in Fresno in 1998, and they used to own Jack’s Car Wash and Rally’s together. Then in 2008 and they went their separate ways and I took Rally’s and the other took Jack’s.”
How have you grown since then and how do you see F&M Restaurants growing in five years, Javier?
We have 11 locations in the Valley and added another location four years ago in Los Banos. We opened Memorial weekend in 2010. In the future I would like to be in Tulare and Visalia and in the south Valley area.
How has Rally’s automated back office system improved operations and made your job easier, Javier?
At any point I could go and log in from any computer. It’s called Restaurant Technology Integrated (RTI), and it’s a reporting live stream operation on anything going on in your restaurant. It gives you a sales comparison from last week and last year and projected sales for the rest of the day. And not only sales, but if you’re missing a hamburger patty, it will tell you how many you should have. You enter the count and it gives you inventory of what’s missing. Every morning you look at the report and analyze what’s going on with the food process. Is it going to waste, is it unaccounted for, is someone taking? It kind of takes the math away from us and not only on the food areas but also on labor.
What is your target demographic and why, Javier?
We’d like to target 18 to 24 year-olds; construction workers, people that work in the field, people who are physically active. At that age group, they don’t take their health too seriously. They’re going to and from work. They don’t have time to eat at home and they want something quick and fast and something to fill them up. The other target group is young soccer moms. They come and pick their kids up from school and they don’t have time to cook.
Nine of your general managers were recently sent on a cruise as part of the Rally’s Presidents Club. What accomplishments and talents does that recognize, Javier?
It’s just top sales, and the sales increase from last year. It means the hard work we’ve been doing for the last four or five months paid off. I plan for the future as far as promotions and price point. I look at weather and the forecast as far as commodity, how everything is coming along. It just shows that the work ethic I’m doing is in the right track and I’m getting the people I need to. Do I go on television, do I do a paper draft or door-to-door?
What do you find are the most effective marketing strategies? Do you rely on online review sites like Yelp or Angie’s list, Javier?
I do. With the basic knowledge everyone has, they go to Yelp. It reviews your restaurant really quickly, positive or negative. I know that we’re on Facebook and there’s really positive feedback on there. We’re not on Twitter yet but that’s where we’re heading next. But any social media we’re using means we’re reaching our target of 18 to 24 and they use their smartphones, but we’re also looking at television. We might not get them instantly, but it’s awareness. They see our commercials three or four times in a program and the next time they get hungry they keep us in mind.
What do you attribute to your success as a business owner, Javier?
Dedication to being out there with your people. My managers are the ones making the business happen. I look at myself as a coach on the sidelines talking to them. Every other Tuesday we talk about successes and opportunity and discuss where we need to be. Any issue that comes up and they’re the first ones to tell me this coupon doesn’t work, this promotion doesn’t work. I give credit to my mangers. They’re the ones out there dealing with customers, dealing with vendors. I tell them ‘I’ll take you the distance. You handle the business as high as you can’ and ‘don’t let the business manage you. Manage the business.’
What advice would you give the next generation of entrepreneurs following in your footsteps, Javier?
People like to say ‘it’s my money, it’s my intent, it’s my income.’ I think they need to think of the people helping them to be entrepreneurs. The lower paid employees are the ones that are going to make you or break you. You treat them good, they’re going to do good for the business. Let them know you appreciate them. Businesses sometimes underestimate the work they do.
What was your first job and what did you learn from it, Javier?
KFC. From there on I started learning customer service. I feel the product is not always as standard as you would like, but if you give them customer service, they’re going to come back. If you treat them bad, you could give an excellent product but they’re not going to come back because you didn’t give them respect they deserve.
What are your roots in the San Joaquin Valley, Javier?
Born in Mexico. Came to the U.S. at four years old and grew up in east L.A. I came to Fresno in the year 2000. It’s very easy to commute here. The traffic flow is very easy. You don’t have the saturation of homes being on top of homes and cars being on top of cars.
What do you like to do in your spare time, Javier?
I’m very active right now being with kids. I have a 10-year-old that plays soccer and a 15-year-old that plays softball. She’s on a traveling team. She just finished the season for Edison and now she’s in a traveling team for softball and we travel up north to Modesto and Stockton and in the south we go to Bakersfield. I’m dedicating time to them now. I’m in the position I am after another person took over my position a few years back and I’ve had more flexibility to spend time with the kids and that’s something I neglected to do for years.