Finagle A Bagel’s Management, Organization, and Production Finesse
“We don’t have a traditional corporate organizational chart,” states Heather Robertson, Finagle A Bagel’s director of marketing, human resources, and research and development. When she hires new employees, Robertson draws the usual type of organization chart showing the copresidents on the top and the store employees on the bottom.
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Then she turns it upside down, explaining: “The most important people in our stores are the crew members, and the store manager’s role is to support those crew members. Middle management’s role is to support store managers. And the copresidents’ responsibility is to support us,” referring to herself and her middle-management colleagues.
In short, the copresidents and all the people in corporate headquarters work as a team to help the general managers (who run the stores) and their crew members. Every store strives to achieve preset sales goals within budget guidelines. Higher-level managers are available to help any general manager whose store’s performance falls outside the expected ranges.
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Moreover, each general manager is empowered to make decisions that will boost sales and make the most of the opportunities to build positive relationships with local businesses and community organizations. “We want our general managers to view the store as their business,” co-president Laura Trust emphasizes. “If a general manager wants to do something that will alleviate a store problem or increase sales, we give him [or her] the leeway to do it.”
Many Bagels, One Factory
Although the copresidents decentralized authority for many store-level decisions, they achieved more efficiency by centralizing the authority and responsibility for food procurement and preparation. For example, headquarters handles payroll, invoices, and many other time-consuming activities on behalf of all the stores. This reduces the paperwork burden on general managers and frees them to concentrate on managing store-level food service to satisfy customers.
Finagle A Bagel also decided to centralize production and supply functions in its recently opened Newton facility, where the factory has enough capacity to supply up to 100 stores. “We outgrew our old facility, and we wanted to find someplace we could expand our operations,” co-president Laura Trust explains. Production employees prepare and shape dough for 100,000 bagels and mix 2,000 pounds of flavored cream cheese spreads every day. In addition, they slice 1,500 pounds of fruit every week. Then they gather whatever each store needs—raw dough, salad fixings, packages of condiments, or plastic bowls—and load it on the truck for daily delivery.
Baking Bagels and More
Once the raw dough reaches a store, crew members follow the traditional New York-style method of boiling and baking bagels in various varieties, ranging from year-round favorites such as sesame to seasonal offerings such as pumpkin raisin. In line with Finagle A Bagel’s fresh-food concept, the stores bake bagels every hour and tumble them into a line of bins near the front counter. Each store has a unique piece of equipment, dubbed the “bagel buzz saw,” to slice and move bagels to the sandwich counter after customers have placed their orders. This equipment not only helps to prevent employee accidents and speeds food preparation, but it also entertains customers as they wait for their sandwiches.
Finagle A Bagel is constantly introducing new menu items to bring customers back throughout the day. One item the company has perfected is the bagel pizza. Earlier bagel pizzas turned out soggy, but the newest breakfast pizzas are both crunchy and tasty. The central production facility starts by mixing egg bagel dough, forms it into individual flatbreads, grills the rounds, and ships them to the stores. There, a crew member tops each round with the customer’s choice of ingredients, heats it, and serves it toasty fresh.
Managing A Bagel Restaurant
Finagle A Bagel’s general managers stay busy from the early morning, when they open the store and help crew members to get ready for customers, to the time they close the store at night after one last look to see whether everything is in order for the next day. General managers such as Paulo Pereira, who runs the Harvard Square Finagle A Bagel in Cambridge, must have the technical skills required to run a fast-paced food-service operation.
General managers also need good conceptual skills so that they can look beyond each individual employee and task to see how everything should fit together. One way Pereira does this is by putting himself in the customer’s shoes. He is constantly evaluating how customers would judge the in-store experience, from courteous, attentive counter service to the availability of fresh foods, clean tables, and well-stocked condiment containers.
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Just as important, Pereira—like other Finagle A Bagel general managers—must have excellent interpersonal skills to work effectively with customers, crew members, colleagues, and higher-level managers. Pereira knows that he can’t be successful without being able to work well with other people, especially those he supervises. “You need to have a good crew behind you to help you every single hour of the day,” he says. “Every employee needs to feel special and appreciated. I try to treat employees as fairly as possible, and I try to accommodate their needs.”
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