The Peach head-to-head: Jack Gibbons on enjoying the ride
1 ‘Restaurateurs are the ultimate entrepreneurs’
Gibbons is a self-confessed “restaurant junkie” who worked his way up at Dallas-based Pappas Bros group for 25 years before setting out with business partner Randy DeWitt on his own projects at FB Society. Sixteen years on he’s grown and sold two big name brands —Twin Peaks and Velvet Taco—and now runs about 45 polished casual, fast casual and food hall operations, with 15 more to come in the next year. He’s learned a thing or two about entrepreneurialism along the way, including the need for hard graft. “Restaurateurs are the ultimate entrepreneurs,” he said at the Leaders Summit. “We have to bring it every day, every week and every year. When you consider the effort and risk we put in, I think it [hospitality] deserves a lot more credit than it currently gets.”
2 ‘Enjoy the journey’
For Gibbons, satisfaction hasn’t come just from successful sales of his businesses, but from all the moments he’s had along the way. “To me the journey is way more important than the destination. If you really enjoy your journey—opening new restaurants, creating new brands, working with great people—that's going to be the best part of your experience.” International travel is important too, he adds: “I like to see what other people are doing and get inspired.” British leaders wanting their own inspiration from the likes of Gibbons in the US can sign up for the Atlantic Club’s next Stateside tour, in Nashville in May.
3 ‘Sustainability runs through the business’
Sustainability is a driving force of Gibbons’ investments, with eco-conscious ventures including farm-to-kitchen restaurant and bar Whiskey Cake, where rainwater is recirculated for landscaping, and low-waste wine dispensing concept Sixty Vines, which is encouraging carbon-neutral and biodynamic producers to deliver quality wine in kegs, “saving 28 bottles a time from landfill”. “There's a perception of Texas that we don’t care [about the environment] and it's really not true,” Gibbons said. “The ethos of sustainability goes through the whole business.”
4 ‘Profit isn’t a four-letter word’
Gibbons has no qualms about focusing on profit margins, because that’s what generates the cash to invest. “Profit isn’t a four-letter word… it's just smart business practice. Too many people fly by the seat of their pants. Spending more time on your business model and strategy is your highest pay-off activity as a leader.” Organic growth is much better than hunting for investment, he thinks. “Financing right now is super-difficult no matter where you are, but if you're a start-up it's unbelievably challenging.” Cash can also fund profit-sharing schemes that reward staff and cut turnover. “They really keeps the teams around and keep them excited about the goals.” As he says, the “how” is much harder than the “why”.
5 ‘The right returns mean you’ll never have to franchise’
Cash can also power international expansion and avoid the need for outside investment and franchise partners. “If you can get the right returns then you'll never have to franchise, because money will just flow to you,” Gibbons said. “If you’re getting 25%-plus returns, why would you ever want to franchise that? If you have a good business model, it doesn't make sense to franchise.”
6 ‘Always hire people smarter than you’
Hire smart and manage easy is another Gibbons mantra. “Always try to hire people smarter than you—that's what I try to do every day. And if your managers are always trying to hire people better than them too, it’s going to raise the performance level and quality of everybody around the business.”
7 ‘Food halls are great places to start up’
Next up for Gibbons is more expansion for Sixty Vines and Whiskey Cake and a doubling of the Haywire restaurant brand. But he’s also increasingly focused on his food halls business, with sites in Plano and Nashville and one major new project still under wraps. As well as being profitable, they can be effective platforms to incubate new concepts. “Food halls are great for young entrepreneurs. It's a very inexpensive way to start up a business and take a risk.”
Peach 20/20 thanks its headline partners on the Leaders Summit: CGA by NIQ, Diageo, Fourth, Nutritics, Wireless Social and Zonal. Premium partners were Chapman Ventilation, Coca-Cola Europacific Partners, Harri and Uber Eats. Event partners were Airship, Brakes, Cardlytics, Freeths, Fresh Direct, Greene King, Lucky Saint and Toggle.