George McKerrow is the Co-founder and CEO of Ted’s Montana Grill, a classic American grill serving made-from-scratch dishes in an eco-friendly environment. George opened the first Longhorn Steakhouse in 1981and co-founded We’re Cookin’ Inc. in 1996. He received the first Lifetime Achievement Award from the Georgia Restaurant Association in 2007 and was inducted into the Atlanta Hospitality Hall of Fame by the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau in 2008.
Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:
- George McKerrow describes what makes Ted’s Montana Grill unique
- George talks about opening the first Longhorn Steakhouse and starting We’re Cookin’ Inc.
- George explains how he started working with Ted Turner to make bison meat more popular
- How George managed to keep the business thriving during the pandemic
In this episode…
Most restaurants fail within the first year. What’s the key to making your restaurant last? Or making it a national success?
Co-founder and CEO of Ted’s Montana Grill, George McKerrow, discusses his journey of founding multiple successful restaurants. With host Chad Franzen, George talks about the risks he took, how he met his business partner, and why he is passionate about bison.
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Chad Franzen 0:20
Chad Franzen here co-host for this show where we feature top restaurant tours, investors and business leaders. This is part of our SpotOn series. SpotOn has the best in class payment platform for retail and they have a flagship solution called spot on restaurant, where they combine marketing software and payments all in one. They serve everyone from larger chains like Dairy Queen and subway to small mom and pop restaurants. To learn more, go to spot on.com This episode is brought to you by Rise25 We help b2b businesses to get ROI clients referrals and strategic partnerships through done for you podcast. If you have a b2b business and want to build great relationships with clients, referral partners and thought leaders in your space. There’s no better way to do it than through podcasts and content marketing. To learn more, go to rise25media.com or email us at [email protected] George McKerrow is Co-founder and CEO of Ted’s Montana Grill a classic American Grill serving made from scratch dishes in an eco friendly environment. It’s based in Atlanta and has 39 locations across 16 states. In 1981. George opened the first Longhorn Steakhouse, and then in 1996, he co founded We’re Cooking Incorporated, which now has two successful fine dining establishments in Atlanta, Georgia received the first Lifetime Achievement Award from the Georgia Restaurant Association in 2007, for his years of service to the Georgia restaurant industry, and in 2000. In October 2008, he was inducted into the Atlanta hospitality hall of fame by the Atlanta Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. George is a great pleasure to speak with you. Thanks for joining me, how are you?
George McKerrow 1:51
I am great. Thank you very much for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Chad Franzen 1:55
Good. Hey, thank you so much. So just before we get started, just tell me a little bit more about Ted’s Montana grill. What do you feel makes it unique?
George McKerrow 2:04
Well, Ted’s Montana Grill was conceived by my partner Ted Turner and I, to bring introduce bison to America’s table. And we basically add four pillars to our decision to go into business together. The first was to save the great American bison, which belongs on the Great Plains and across the North America, where it’s a unique species. Second of all, was to help all of the bison ranchers that had gotten into the business and were struggling financially with actually selling their product. Oftentimes, that’s it, that’s an issue, the marketing and selling is different than to manufacturing and growing. And second, third of all was, Ted is, at the time, the largest landowner in the United States, he still owns nearly 2 million acres in primarily in ranch lands in the western part of the United States. So he was operating 15 Bison ranches, and he’s the largest bison rancher in the country, if not the world. At the time, he too, wanted to create a financially successful and stable business so that his future generations could hold on to those properties. And last but not least, was to do that, through creating a group of, of unique restaurants that feature bison as our primary product, and build a restaurant group that we could both be proud of. And that was profitable. And I’m happy to say, after 20 short years, and for many years in the past, we’ve accomplished all four of those goals.
Chad Franzen 3:47
Yes, very nice. Congratulations on that. So there’s a lot to get into with Ted’s and we’ll get back to more about Ted’s in just a bit. But first, tell me a little bit about your history in the in the restaurant industry. How did you get started?
George McKerrow 4:00
Well, I got a job in high school flipping pancakes and Uncle John’s Pancake House. And like many other CEOs and successful restaurant tours, we always kind of start out there in the trenches. So I was a busboy, dishwasher and later Cook, Island, Uncle John’s, and Uncle John’s Pancake House and I went off to college. And I studied pre law and thought I wanted to be a lawyer. But I went to school from 1968 to 1972. And I had second thoughts about law school when I graduated. So I did what I knew how to do. I went got a job in a restaurant. And I started there as a as a barback. And, and bartender and I at a place called smugglers in and I enjoyed it very much. And I remember my father came down and said, Gosh, what are you doing with your college education I just paid for I said, Well, Dad, I’m having a lot of fun. I’m making a lot of money. I’m meeting A lot of girls, I’ll go to law school next year. Well, that was 1973 and I’ve never gone back to law school and I’ve spent into business ever since. From there I took a unique job down in the Shenandoah Valley run in a small family owned restaurant called the log cabin supper club, quickly learned what I didn’t know about managing and owning a restaurant, went back and got a job with a company called Victoria Station restaurant. actually never had any in Colorado, but it was one of the founding fat casual dining steak houses so to speak of steak and Ale cleaver Charthouse Victoria Station. We ended up with over 100 restaurants. And I went to work for them in 1975 and worked my way from assistant manager to regional manager when I left at the end of 1980. Shortly after that, 1981 I founded the original longhorn steakhouse on Peachtree Road, which in August turned 40 years old.
Chad Franzen 6:06
Yeah, that’s amazing. So we’ll get into Longhorn as well. There’s there’s a lot to get into with you serve. But first, what what is it about the restaurant industry that was so appealing to you, you know, probably when you’re young law school is kind of a prestigious thing to do. But you’ve not only stuck with it, you’ve stuck with it for your your entire, you know, adult career, what is it that so appealing to you?
George McKerrow 6:28
Well, I love being of service to people. And frankly, I love seeing people happy and satisfied and feeling better than they did when they walk out the door than they did when they came in. But it’s you know, our business is is an art form. And people don’t understand that we’re the only industry that orders receives, manufacture, sells, produces, delivers and collect forks product all in one day. And we’re only as good as the number of guests that come through the front door each and every day and voluntarily take money out of their pocket, spend it on nourishment, and food and hospitality. And so, you know, it just got in my blood. I love our business. I think our business is highly misunderstood, misunderstood, and disregarded by many. You know, it’s it is a unique business, like I said, and remember, pre pandemic, and I’m sure post pandemic, were the second largest private sector employer in the country. And we were providing more than 15 point 6 million excellent jobs in 2020. And we’re well on our way back to that. And so I think, again, it’s an industry I’m proud of. It’s a unique industry, it’s creative, it’s fun. And you know, if you’re, if you’re lucky, you can make a little bit of money. How have
Chad Franzen 7:54
you been able to kind of keep the we are here to serve the customer in perspective, you know, you’d think, well, when you’ve been around for this long, and you’ve kind of run, you know, hundreds of restaurants, how do you still kind of keep that attitude where you’re there, you know, worried about specific customers?
George McKerrow 8:11
Well, I think the end of the day is the customers our paycheck. And all we have after all hard work, long weeks, long hours, holidays, all we really have is a reputation. And if you deliver on your promises have great food, great service, a great attitude in a spotlessly clean restaurant, and you give people Genuine Hospitality. And you treat them with respect, and you make them have a very memorable experience when they dine with you. They become your marketing arm and they go out tell all their friends and you have a successful business. If you don’t do those things, you fail. And the truth is that 95% of all restaurants, that open fail in the first year. And so we are a very unique business in that we’re winning our customers every day. And the only way we win them is to give them you know, a reason to come back. And so I love to meet and greet people at the front door of Africa as a CEO, and past chairman and other executive positions I’ve held and still hold. I missed the day to day of being in the restaurants and I spend a lot of time visiting all of our restaurants and saying hello and goodbye to the customers who are welcome in front door as if they’re coming into my own home.
Chad Franzen 9:40
So you you as you mentioned, you opened the first Longhorn Steakhouse in 1981. That was 40 years ago, you would have some of you would have experience working in steak houses but you opened your first one in 1981. Can you tell me how kind of that process went for you and how it came about?
George McKerrow 9:58
Well, wow, we failed before we ever open, but I’ll just say this at the beginning. I frankly, I have learned more from my failures and a half for my success. I’m an entrepreneur at heart. And I enjoy a tolerance for high risk. So I was had left Victoria Station, as I said, as a regional manager. And I went to work with a friend of mine in the recruiting business in specifically in the restaurant business. And I quickly found out how much I hated nine to five Monday through Friday sitting behind a desk. And so I I, another friend of mine came to me and said, I’ve got an idea for a new restaurant, it’s Texas Honky Tonk saloon, highly successful in Austin and Dallas and Houston. I think we ought to spread it out across the country. I’ve got the investor and I’ll give you a big piece of equity if you’ll come on and operate the restaurants with me and I said, Great, went down and studied the restaurants and learned as much as I could about them. And I found them to be unique was unique time 1981. John Travolta, Urban Cowboy, there was a great fascination with the West at that time, Western cuisine in particular. And so the timing was right. You also had the major chains that I discussed the toy station steak, you know, Cleaver, losing their market share through
what we won’t go into for reasons. And then you sort of had the family Ponderosa Bonanza steak houses which were really fast, casual, right, you stood in line and take your tray and they bring you a steak out. It was really low priced and low quality. And so I saw an opening in the market for high quality, fun, unique Roadhouse atmosphere, which is what these restaurants called the Hofbrau in Texas had. And so we agreed to a partnership and I quit my job and got a job as a bartender, once again, back to my trade, and to pay the bills and I went about building the restaurant. And I found a location on a 40 mile an hour curb and one way driveway and an old yellow front adult bookstore, and on Peachtree road near Atlanta, so hardly a great location, but it was affordable on my bartender salary. And we designed and built the first restaurant and got halfway through it and my partner disappeared. Turned out he didn’t really have the financing that he thought he had. So I had two choices, I could go back and get a job with a big company as a regional manager, or I could follow my heart, my dream and finish what I started, I chose the ladder. And I went got two investors plus my father, and we re capitalized the company. And we opened it in August of 1981. And we had 300 of our closest friends in for free food and beverage to celebrate. And the first day we did 14 lunches and 21 dinners. So we quickly did what so many restaurant tours failed to realize realize that we were not going to be an overnight success. And unfortunately, we didn’t have any reserve cash, which I would recommend anybody start to restaurant, make sure you have plenty of reserve cash. Because we basically went broke. So that was the second time right? We’d gone broke once with the first investor. And now we were on the verge of going broke again. But oftentimes, I sent Burke’s I had to let all the employees go. Oftentimes, I agree, you’re at the front door, took your order, cook your food, made your drinks, delivered your food, collected your check, and slept in the restaurant. And I just believed in what I was doing. And about by January or February of 2000 of 1982, we were earning a really positive reputation. And by the end of the year, we had a successful business. We got some great press and publicly relations, which I worked on also to build awareness. And 22 months later, we opened the second Longhorn. And within the first 10 years, by 1992, we had 30 Longhorn steak houses across the southeast primarily in some franchise units in there. And we took the company public. And we took the company public in 1980 92. And in 1994, the end of the year, we missed our earnings, and our stock plummeted by 70%. reevaluated the company, again brought in some well known operational excellence in management and started the company off on a positive trend and 1995 We purchased a company called bugaboo Creek Steakhouse, which was from the Northeast bugaboo Capital Grille, which we still own. And, and, and several other independent restaurants. We merged those two companies to form where hospitality. I retired in 2000. And the company was sold for $1.4 billion in 2007. To Darden, proud of the fact that most of the top management including the CEO, team, Lee, all came to work with us at rare hospitality in 1995, and 96. And there’s now running the largest full service restaurant company in the United States with multiple brands and Longhorn is 540. Plus Restaurants today, a $2 billion company and second only to Olive Garden within their portfolio. So it’s been a great history. The fundamentals of the company are alive and well. They still believe in the things that I believe in, and they’ve done an outstanding job
Chad Franzen 16:04
with it. When you open to that first one, and you were kind of a one man, a one man show doing doing everything. Did you ever imagine the idea that it would be around 40 years later and be as successful as it’s been?
George McKerrow 16:21
Well, that wasn’t my original plan. My original plan was to own a series of Longhorn steaks, restaurants, maybe five to seven of them right here in Atlanta. I was only 30 years old. So I’ll just say this. Have plenty of cold beers and lots of golf and lots of fun. And I also had a plan which I did do it for a few years, which was to find other friends and partners and partner with them in unique individual concepts. We chose not to go that route bought those two out just focused on long horn. But the end of the day is no i i felt like we had a winner on our hands. I wouldn’t have stuck with it. I think I helped deliver it to be a unique and interesting concept. I mean, the industry credits Longhorn with having started the cowboy cuisine trend and the owners of Outback attributed as an Australian version of Longhorn and at one point there was nine publicly traded companies that were basically Texas Roadhouse is that we’re very similar to if not direct copies of Longhorn. So I’m proud of it. And I think there’s lots of people along the way they’ve contributed to that. Certainly not just me.
Chad Franzen 17:44
And then in 1996, he co founded we’re cooking, which has two award winning restaurants in Atlanta. How did that how did that get started, you were kind of in the midst of all that other stuff at the same time?
George McKerrow 17:56
Well, I’m uniquely I, I like to move pretty quickly. And again, I told you, I was an entrepreneur. So I had my eye on some really unique properties around Atlanta canoe is three and a half acres of English walking gardens on the river. It runs through Atlanta. So unique historical site that was first built 1945 After the war, and there was several others. And I just wanted to get into a new level of business, which was a fine dining, more upscale business. And so I put together a partnership and we purchased that restaurant site and opened up an Alice Waters farm to table locally grown locally sustainable restaurant 1995 proud of the fact that it’s 26 years old today and go go and strong. And so we were unique again, being farm to table locally sourced, primarily organic restaurant. Before it was cool. Aria was a unique facility. Little Bistro, fine dining, we opened in 1996 is as a attempt to be a Michelin three star restaurant. It’s highly successful today. As REM, our chef partner Jerry classe Gala, is one of the best chefs in the United States recognized as such, and he runs a very fun, unique business over there. And, you know, we have a lot of a lot of things to be proud of there too.
Chad Franzen 19:41
As we mentioned, you co founded Ted’s Montana Grilll with Ted Turner in 2002. How did that partnership with Ted Turner come about?
George McKerrow 19:50
Well, three ways. Number one, Ted was trying to introduce bison to America’s table and so he formed a bison company. To sell it retail, he was the largest Bison Ranch country at that time. Having over 30,000, head of bison, there was about 300,000, head of bison alive in the marketplace, I just want to point out that there’s roughly 100 plus million cattle in the United States, there was 300,000 Bison alive in the world. So you get the picture. So very nice, unique business. And Ted wanted help bison ranchers and help bison in general, save the species. And I know it sounds unique, but the best way to save the species was to put it on the table. So that would be ranch. Because if it was left in zoos and parks, and it would the animal husbandry just doesn’t work right that the species would be extinct. And so he introduced it, I fell in love with it as an alternative red meat, protein, because it’s half the fat cholesterol of beef, it’s top five foods women should eat for iron replacement. It’s a very unique a man, omega three fatty acid light, you know, a unique product and native to North America. And so I had this idea in the back of my mind brewing all the time about a gourmet hamburger stand, so to speak again, before gourmet hamburgers, but really unique kind of western themed. But specializing in in 20 Different kinds of beef burgers at the time was always in my brain. And then you have the convergence of the fact that the industry started to suffer. And it wasn’t working out, like I said earlier. And so I went to Ted and said, I knew his daughter and and son in law, Lauren Rutherford quite well. I didn’t want to ever have to go back to Wall Street or an m&a banker, and deal with all that goes on with that there’s nothing wrong with just not my cup of tea. I’ll leave it at that. And I mean, mostly because I think the only thing predicted about the restaurant business is unpredictable. And Wall Street, and bankers want predictability. So I think we’re like oil and water. But anyway, so Ted was, at the time very, very wealthy, worth nine or $10 billion. I felt like he had bison, which was a unique product. He’s an entrepreneur. He’s a local Atlanta guy. And he had the ability to finance our growth without me ever having to go ask for money from anybody else. So I put together a white paper. And we presented it to him. And he said, I love the idea. We shook hands in May of 2001. And we’ve never had a contract. I’m the only partner he’s ever had. And we’ve had a wonderful 20 year partnership. And we’ve accomplished our four pillars that we set out to accomplish and we’re both very proud of what Ted’s Montana girl has done.
Chad Franzen 23:14
Yeah, most definitely. Was it? Was it difficult to convince people to try bison? I mean, now it’s pretty, pretty common, pretty commonplace. But at the time, was it difficult to convince people to make that switch?
George McKerrow 23:28
Yeah, I think that was what the industry is, right? I mean, bison was more expensive and still is, um, it was also very misunderstood. You know, most people that have eaten bison, had, you know, gone out to Yellowstone Park or someplace and, and, you know, it’s because it’s so lean, if you overcook it, or cook it too fast. It’s basically like eating a piece of dehydrated shoe leather, right? And so the issue is bison needs to be cooked slow and low. And also, if you do cook steaks, or burgers, about half the time of beef, because it’s so dense, it doesn’t have a lot of internal fat. So I think a lot of people had gone out bought it. It wasn’t very good. Second of all, we knew we did some research and we found out you know, that wide said well reminds me of something. My husband drugged out of the woods. Isn’t that an endangered species? I don’t want to endanger Bambi I don’t want to eat Bambi, you know. So we had a big mouth decline, which is why we approached the business the way we did. We approach the business very uniquely, with with Ted with very deep pockets. We open six restaurants in the first 12 months of our existence. So we started the cons. We started the company day one, July 1 of 2001. Remember we had 911 in September, and we opened the very first Ted’s Montana Grilll in January of 2002. So roughly six months after we, the concept was conceived. I started with a blank piece of paper, very daunting and created the concept. Everything about it, uniforms, training, materials, food, right? Recipes, everything with a team of people. And we also take time went out across the country and secured real estate in Atlanta, Georgia, Columbus, Ohio, Nashville, Tennessee, and Denver, Colorado. And that was to test all the different markets. Denver was the highest per capita consumption of bison in the country, made sense. Western market, Ohio was a unique, Columbus is a unique Midwestern test market. And of course, we were known in Atlanta. The following year, we opened 12 restaurants, that’s 200% growth. The third year we opened 15, and on and on and on. And so look, the end of the day is Ted’s Montana Grilll is still to this day, the number one seller of bison in the country. So unique concept. And we can prove through research and national bison Association. Wherever we put a Ted’s Montana Grilll restaurant, demand and consumption of bison went up significantly. And the national press that we’ve garnered over the years, has created a nationwide market for Costco is the largest seller of bison in the country today, it’s in every major grocery store chain across America versus sort of being sold out of the back of the pickup truck of some Mom and Pop ranchers, essentially, when we started. So you know, Bison is here to stay there. 600,000 or more growing in the herd today. Ted’s herd is 55,000 or so. You know, it’s a highly profitable business for the ranchers that are in it. And there’s more getting into it all the time. And then our restaurants remain uniquely successful.
Chad Franzen 27:09
So besides good food, primarily rows revolving around bison, can you describe the experience you envision your customers having when they go to Ted’s?
George McKerrow 27:20
Yeah, so we harken back to simpler times. Were a chef driven restaurant that happens to serve classic American comfort food with a somewhat of a modern spin on it when I say that is everything comes in our back door fresh. The only freezer we have is for ice cream. And we have no microwaves or boil in the bag food in a restaurant. Unfortunately, many chain restaurants have gone to that. We’re cooking real food for real people. And I think it shows in the quality of the experience. When you order french fries at Ted’s it’s a whole potato. It’s cut, swash spun dry, and it’s fried over a nine minute cycle and delivered to you to your plate. When you order a burger setup or a salad. It’s a whole vine ripe tomato 12 months a year slice to order chop to order and put on your salad or on your burger setup. Croutons. 40 lemons for lemonade. When I say we’re a chef driven restaurant, we make everything in the restaurant from scratch, to order. And I think that makes us unique. Second of all, we studied architecture from the turn of the 19th century in 100 year old saloons and restaurants and in 19 119 10 you know a saloon was a was a very upscale building in in in a town many many times. And you find these unique buildings from caddies grill that’s been open since 1856. To you know, the saloons in Montana and Wyoming and places like that. So we started that. So we have an authentic architecture that’s classically comfortable, that’s unique to the time to a different time and a different place. And so we spend a lot of money on the decor and and build out of our restaurant. And then we staff it with the friendliest, most hospitable people in the industry. And we’re going to welcome you into the front doors if you’re coming into our home and we’re going to say come back and see us soon or so long or farewell or or travel safe as you go out the front door. So when we combine all that together, a unique menu totally fresh made from scratch food. The same applies to our bar I mean we squeeze fresh fruit fresh juices we make our own margarita mix we make our own Bloody Mary mix. You know we we have extensive wine and beer money. And by the way, we have great chicken, fish, poultry shellfish, other items on the menu. And a unique offering of lots of, of classic American comfort foods at Ted’s and so I think people seek to repeat their experience at Ted’s if we deliver on our promises.
Chad Franzen 30:16
How has COVID affected Ted’s
George McKerrow 30:19
a lot of obviously, I mean, it’s, it was, uh, well, our whole industry was shut down, right. And so when you think back to March 16, essentially of 2020, every restaurant in the United States of America effectively went out of business. In many places, you could still offer to go food, but a canoe or ARIA isn’t in the Go food business. Nor is is a Ted’s Montana Grilll to speak up, we had a limited amount of customers, so we’d had to adapt. And we had to look at our business model in our menu and our offerings. And we get that we were fortunate to be able to keep our employees on the payroll the entire time. We were done shutdown as little as six weeks in places like Georgia and Florida, and as much as a year in places like New York. So it adversely affected our business. Here’s one thing people don’t don’t don’t understand, because we are a business that orders received, manufactures, sells produced and delivers product all one day and collect for it. Essentially, if you have two weeks, 14 day terms, you’re spending, you’re selling food today to pay for two weeks ago, bills, right. So a lot of people didn’t have big savings account, we’re conservative 14, we had a rather significant savings account. And so we were able to weather the storm of catching up on all the payables you had zero revenue for six weeks, while all your bills were due. You had to pay those in order stay in business. This is why so many restaurants failed and struggled. So we didn’t get any government assistance for months after the shutdown. And then you had the the advent of trying to get our guests back. I think our industry was unfairly considered the virus villains. If you go back and remember the map so that someone has COVID, and they’re in the restaurant, they’re going to infect, you know, 50 people around them and all the rest of it. Look, here’s what I’m gonna say to you, as an industry veteran, I’m protect our business a little bit. People don’t understand because of our unique could systems that circulate air to prevent from restaurant being filled with grease and smoke, we rotate air every 11 to 15 minutes out in and out of the building. So you breathe in fresh air all the time. Second of all, you are no more likely to catch the virus in a restaurant and you were down at the local Home Depot or grocery store, which stayed open. All of this stuff that was said about the virus living for weeks and days, and and on surfaces proved to be totally false, it was fallacious. Otherwise, you’d had everybody at Amazon dropping over dead from COVID, because they were all handling our packages. But remember, wash your packages before you let them in your house. Well, the supply chain doesn’t work that way. So all of that being said, our industry was devastated. And then we had to come back, which was slow. So if your employees work for hours on the schedule, if they’re an hourly wage earner, and you’re not busy enough to give them a 35 or 40 hour work week, they can’t really stay in the business. If you have tipped employees that work primarily for 25 to $35 an hour in tips, which is the case at Ted’s, and you can’t give them their shifts, or they are busy enough to make that then they can’t stay in the business. So we had a massive flight out in the business. And we’re still several million people short, there’s more jobs in the restaurant business available today. And by the way, it’s a foot fallacy also that we pay minimum wage or anywhere near it. Our average wages in the heart of the house at Ted’s Montana Grilll are over $16 and that includes starting wages, and are tipped employees are making anywhere from 25 to $35 an hour. So it’s it’s not the money. It’s just getting back into business and the rug was pulled out from underneath so many people. And it was so hard on management, our management was cooking and washing dishes and scrubbing floors and cleaning toilets, because oftentimes they were the only people on the payroll. And so it changed the dynamics of the business dramatically and we’re still in the throes of that today. And I would just remind people that I started as a dishwasher. So to Jean leave Jianli at at Darden Restaurants, there’s no glass ceiling in the restaurant industry. It’s a unique and fun business to get in and the potential economic rewards are equal to or better than any industry out there.
Chad Franzen 35:04
So you have now you’ve not only founded but you’ve successfully expanded in large detail, multiple brands, I can tell just based on your answers to my questions, that you’re still very, very passionate about the restaurant industry and about Ted’s, what are the keys to some of the longevity that your brands specifically have experienced? I mean, just talking about the 40 year anniversary of of longhorn steakhouse, I know you’re not involved with that anymore. But nevertheless, all of your brands have lasted for more than two decades.
George McKerrow 35:34
Yeah, I mean, Ted’s just turned 20 years old January. So yes, I think the uniqueness is understanding what the business we’re really in. The problem becomes when you start to look at, at restaurants as as a predictable. Business, right. In other words, we don’t manufacture widgets or clothing. Not, there’s nothing wrong with any of those businesses. But if you manufacture clothing, right, you put it out there and at full retail, and it doesn’t sell it, you mark it down, and it doesn’t sell and you mark it down, and then it goes to the outlet store. And you recoup at least to covers, it doesn’t spoil. If everything you sell spoils, right, we open a bottle of wine for a glass of wine for you. It’s only good today. Right? If, if we if we make fresh meatloaf or grind fresh burgers in our butcher shop for you today, and we don’t sell it. It’s not good past tomorrow. So we’re in a unique business. And second of all, we’re only as good as that last experience. I mean, it consumers grown to expect the United States of America, Great food, great service and a great attitude every time. And we can be overwhelmed. I mean, you know, especially as short staffed as we are. So when you talk about it, the passion for the industry is of being of service. And being willing to genuinely give people hospitality. I mean, I think I’m going to write a book 22 chapters long how to be successful in the restaurant business. Chapter One is it’s about the food. Chapter Two is about the service. Chapter Three, it’s about the attitude, chapter four, it’s about cleanliness. And that next 18 chapters say when in doubt, refer to Chapter 123 or four. It’s really a simple business and when we complicate it, or try to make it predictable. So when you talk to an investor, right, it’s like, well, let’s build a model. What if we build 10 of these? Well, I have a whole bunch of restaurants in my career, that I thought were marginal locations that are barn burners. And the most successful rates I’ve got, I’ve got several restaurants that are close today that I put as foreign to you was a dynamic, incredible location to build a restaurant. So you just never know. So it’s a high risk business with a small return. That’s the other part. I mean, we’re a 5% business, if we’re lucky. And people don’t believe that because they compare what they pay in the grocery store to what they pay in the restaurant. But the truth of the matter is that if you make if you spend less than 95 cents of every dollar that you bring in on overhead and operations and build out, and taxes and insurance and the rest of it, you’re a miracle worker.
Chad Franzen 38:25
Hey, it’s been a great pleasure speaking with you. You have some incredible insights, incredible experience. I have one last question for you. But first, where can people find out more about Ted’s Montana Grilll,
George McKerrow 38:36
go to Ted’s Montana grill.com. And we have a great website that tells our entire story and identifies all of our locations. Again, you can follow us on Instagram, you can follow us on Facebook, you can follow us in social media for all you youngsters out there. But I think if you go to our website, you’ll understand more and more about Ted’s and we appreciate your time today.
Chad Franzen 39:03
Great, great. Final question. What are some books or podcasts that you’ve enjoyed or even relied upon?
George McKerrow 39:12
Well, you know, I’ve read a lot of books over time. I haven’t rate lately really gotten involved in reading any business books. I mean, I go way back to to books like Good to Great and Who Moved My Cheese and some very simple stuff I was looking today. I was reading a unique book. Let me see here. I think I still have it on my desk. And it’s called the soulful leader. I think that leadership is is all about understanding the value of our team and our teammates and every human being we have a working for us. I’m not a podcast watcher, I’m going to be very honest with you. My wife is an avid podcast watcher. So she’s in the mental health business. This and any podcasts I’ve watched have been related to her business, not to mine. But I certainly probably should get out there and look at
Chad Franzen 40:11
more. That’s okay. That’s okay. Hey, George. It’s been a privilege and a pleasure to speak with you. Thanks so much. I really appreciate your time today.
George McKerrow 40:18
Thank you very kind.
Chad Franzen 40:20
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