Priority Profiles: John Rogers, former VP of Capital Purchasing, Red Robin
It’s one thing for a company to talk about themselves, but it’s quite another to hear stories directly from their customers. That’s why we’re introducing our “Priority Profiles” series, in which Priority will discuss projects with the client-side decision-makers responsible for their successful completion.
Recently, we spoke with John Rogers, former VP of Capital Purchasing at Red Robin restaurants about their company’s experience working with Priority.
Priority: So how did your search for a signage partner begin?
John Rogers: In 2013, we ran a 12 restaurant “Alpha” test, in advance of a system-wide remodel program. At that point, the project only involved remodeling the interior front-of-house and exterior signage. But we soon realized that the entire exterior of the restaurants – the full paint scheme, up to and including a major logo/design change on signage – needed to be included in the process.
P.S.: What were some of the unique challenges with this project?
John: This was NOT an easy signage package on any level. To begin with it involved, in some cases, 30 foot by 8 foot metal facades being lifted into place. Not to mention debranding the building and property of the old logo, then painting the building, and only then installing the new façade, wall, pylon and monument signs. But here’s the key point – throughout the entire process, the restaurants would NEVER CLOSE. So all of this work had to be completed either at night, or during the day without any impact on operations.
We looked at several possible vendors, through multiple stages of presentations, covering everything from their signage design translation on a new Red Robin logo, to their strategy for completing the full remodel project over the next three years.
Priority not only had by far the most comprehensive plan, they also executed it to perfection. We completed 88 remodels that first year in 2014, even though we didn’t really start until Q2. Based on that success, we selected Priority to manage our entire remodel program.
Whether the customer is looking to add signage to a new building, remodel a project or engage in a large scale re-imaging program as we did at Red Robin, Priority understands all the areas of the business that are necessary to accomplish that task with a quality product at a competitive price. They truly are Best in Class.
P.S.: What did Priority bring to the table that other vendors didn’t?
John: In my opinion, this industry has an over-abundance of signage companies who believe they can supply signs, but don’t have the necessary internal structure that is required for the execution of the entire signage program. That’s a key component of what sets Priority apart.
They also developed branding guidelines for the pitch that blew every other vendor away – from guidelines, to best practices, to a comprehensive design approach and more.
Andy Dykstra, their President, really sold the new signage designs and the program process to our senior management. COO Geoff Rosenbaum was also key to the process – providing the operating tools and leadership to the Program Management teams, then scheduling production and executing the PM logistics to pull it all together.
P.S.: What would you describe as the single most impressive aspect of their offering?
John: The fact that they provide a turnkey program proposal that includes so many elements. Just a few of the tools they put to work for us included:
- The GAP report, which was reviewed on a weekly basis with all of the Priority PMs and the Red Robin team. This was basically a week-by-week status of each project that was upcoming, in process, and completed.
- The Priority team also developed brand books by location, and tracked when they were submitted and approved by all decision makers. They also managed and tracked permit acquisition and project completion.
- Beyond that, they provided detailed best practices, decision hierarchies and scopes for each location, down to the day/hour when tasks should be completed.
- As the process and the program grew, they took advantage of lessons learned. They developed new or alternative designs that either resolved subjective ideas by senior management, or which value-engineered alternatives to reduce cost in material and/or labor.
- From all of this learning and evolution, Priority developed the Red Robin Branding Guidelines, which were then used as the basis for determining the signage package for all remaining 500+ corporate and franchise locations.
John: I cannot overstate the value that Priority brings to the table. Whether the customer is looking to add signage to a new building, remodel a project or engage in a large scale re-imaging program as we did at Red Robin, Priority understands all the areas of the business that are necessary to accomplish that task with a quality product at a competitive price. They truly are Best in Class.
We also asked John for his thoughts on some of the most important components of a successful signage program – and company.
John: Senior management must be 100% vested in your program. If they’re not, nothing else matters. When problems occur, (and they ALWAYS do), if there is no support at the senior level to resolve issues and support the customer, it’s over before it begins. Many companies will say they have this, but by involving Ron (D’Alessandro, CEO), Andy and Geoff from the beginning, as well as day-to-day, Priority proved their commitment. This is a baseline requirement for any successful program.
Beyond that, the two areas of the signage business that are THE MOST important to the ongoing success of any program are:
1. Great Internal Project Managers
The Signage company PM is the lead person responsible for the success and failure of each project. If this person is not actively engaged on a daily basis, (with the client, city, installers, general contractors and other teams), then the projects will have problems. It is critical that the Signage partner has the right type of person in this position.
They have to understand the complete signage process as well as potential “trip” areas. (Like city delays, landlord delays, weather, personalities, non-compliance to brand standards, best practices adherence, scheduling disconnects, etc.)
They must also be able to juggle multiple projects and NOT be thin-skinned. They need to have the right type of personality to be able to get things done.
2. Great External Installation Teams
The external installation team is equally important to the success of the project. This is literally where the rubber meets the road. They are the face of the company at the restaurant level. If this team does not have the right/skilled workers in place that have the appropriate demeanor to communicate with (and sometimes work around) general managers, general contractors, city inspectors and/or communicate issues when they arise and resolve them immediately, the project will fail. It is critical that the Signage Partner performs the appropriate pre-qualification of these outside installation teams, to ensure the success of the program.
Finally, Manufacturing Operations is critical. If Sales and Logistics cannot get product in time, none of this matters. Analyzing Dashboard reports to evaluate which locations with specific signage requirements were necessary, and at what date on the calendar, was constantly on top of Geoff’s mind. Further, he could forecast with incredible accuracy which specific sizes of signs as well as designs (cabinet, vs. channel letter, vs. monument) were most widely used. He built inventory in advance of the need so that we were never behind on product.
That is the kind of credibility that keeps customers coming back for more business.