Thirty-three years with one company entitles Jordano’s Account Executive, George Anthes, to some bragging rights. Like the pride of serving The Hitching Post, a customer Anthes has done business with since 1980. It also entitles you to some stories, the kind that generally begins with, “Back then we didn’t even have cell phones…”
To his customers, Anthes’ longevity with Jordano’s creates an enormous benefit. But it’s his experience before Jordano’s that proves him relevant, credible and extraordinarily dependable.
Reared in his father’s restaurant businesses, Anthes witnessed firsthand the intensity of running a restaurant. To put himself through college, he cut his teeth on nearly every restaurant job, from waiter to cook to manager. Those immersions developed an awareness of the constant pressures and volatile climate to which restaurant owners are subjected.
“It gave me a real empathy for the culture; it is extremely hard work and demanding in a monotonous way – because it’s the small things that can interrupt,” Anthes says of the uncontrollable influences from all directions owners often encounter.
The freezer quits, an employee doesn’t show up, or food costs aren’t right – those are just some of the many ways Anthes cites as uncontrollable ways restaurant can lose money.
With more than 50 accounts to manage, he’s constantly on the move and in tune with the market, the trends and the challenges. After riding the highs and lows of more than three decades of the industry, Anthes brings a sense of stability to his customers.
“Whether it’s advice or providing concrete answers about their menu or their pricing, my customers can depend on me to be there,” says Anthes who averages 350-400 miles a week visiting customers.
It’s natural with so many restaurants opening across the county that restaurant owners and operators are going to feel worried about impending competition. Recalling the stress his father endured running his own restaurants, Anthes puts his customers at ease and reminds them of a lesson his own father taught him.
As a restaurant owner, selling yourself is a two-fold process. The first goal is to get customers to walk through your door – and that takes some marketing. But his own father taught Anthes that an owner can be his best and worst enemy because separating yourself from the competition means you have to make an impact right at the point of customer contact.
“I don’t care how many restaurants are opening up around you, when the customer walks in the door that is the moment you have to shine. Your actions must be welcoming and friendly enough to drive them back again and again,” says Anthes suggesting that warm wait staff, clean bathrooms, and great food make happy guests who will overlook price when all those elements are perfect.
Anthes takes an honest approach to conversations about restaurant profitability with his customers and many welcome his menu management advice. Often it starts with analyzing how the restaurant’s menu is priced.
“In the industry, I think we are fear driven a lot of the time and that can have serious effects on a restaurant’s bottom line,” he says, encouraging owners to price their menus at the market value which is more than the cost of food, it includes the labor behind it. “Often, we are too afraid to upset the customer when we increase our prices and some have not moved the price point for years. But if you are not pricing at the proper margins, you’ll lose. The reality is that food and food transportation costs are increasing. You can’t win if you only try to make up your margins on finding the cheapest products, eventually that gets maxed out.”
When you consider all the elements, menu pricing, alternative ingredients, and best cost products, Anthes believes you can create a winning, sustainable business that trumps the competition.
Embracing the Evolution
True, Anthes started at Jordano’s at a time when he lugged a five pound catalog to each customer to take paper orders. Truthfully, he admits he’s glad those days are gone and laptop and smart phone technology has emerged to improve ordering and delivery efficiency.
Other evolutions are driven by his customers who he says are enormously daring in the kitchen today.
“Thirty years ago chefs would never have mixed certain flavors, but today someone can combine pepitas, cranberries and gorgonzola to create a phenomenal salad,” Anthes says of chefs who are pushing boundaries and innovating the industry.
Guests are driving evolutions too, as more and more demand locally sourced products. But living between two valleys makes locally sourced and farmer’s market produce easy to supply. Anthes understands some trending demands can be challenging for restaurants to embrace.
“Gluten-free is a buzz word today. From pasta to dressings, finding gluten-free products is where Jordano’s shines,” he says, citing a customer who wanted a recipe for gluten-free pizza crust. “Within minutes on the laptop, we found a recipe and then quickly sourced the ingredients that were delivered in days to the customer. This is my favorite part of my job – sharing philosophies and ideas that help my customers’ businesses grow.”