Luis San Miguel Co-Brands His Way to Growth: 2022 Mega Growth Leadership MVP Award
Name: Luis San Miguel
Title: President, CEO
Company: Fresh Dining Concepts
Units: 40 Auntie Anne’s, 2 Cinnabon, 6 co-branded Auntie Anne’s/Cinnabon, 2 co-branded Auntie Anne’s/Carvel
Family: Wife, 2 sons, 1 granddaughter
Years in franchising: 10
Years in current position: 5
Luis San Miguel is the 2022 Mega Growth Leadership MVP (Most Valuable Performer).
Selected for achieving excellence in the growth and expansion of his brands, he is the president and CEO of Fresh Dining Concepts, which operates multiple locations of Auntie Anne’s, Cinnabon, and Carvel. The 62-year-old has a diverse business background and a track record of success in franchising. He has been a financial manager and CFO, and he’s worked at Burger King as both a corporate employee and as a franchisee. Today, with 40 units, his company is the third-largest Auntie Anne’s operator in the U.S.
Formative influences/events: I was born in Cuba and emigrated to the United States with my family when I was 9 years old. I still remember the challenge of learning a new language, which created struggles in school. I am grateful for the warm welcome my family and I received from the United States, in particular the community in Miami. I’m also grateful for the educational and professional opportunities made available to me. I received my college degree from Fordham University in New York. Living on my own in New York exposed me to multiple cultures and ethnicities and helped me develop my leadership and communication skills.
Key accomplishments: Becoming a father, completing an IPO on the Nasdaq.
Next big goal: Reaching 100 units (doubling our current unit count).
First turning point in your career: Leaving KPMG was not a decision I initiated. It helped me realize that I needed to take charge of my career and not just rely on corporate processes for progression.
Hardest lesson learned: My first franchise transaction was much greater in value than I anticipated. As a result, I partnered with a capital source I was unfamiliar with just to be able to complete the deal. That decision turned out to be a mistake as my partner and I did not have similar goals or perspectives and had to sever the partnership after little more than a year. Lesson learned: Take the time to know your prospective partners and don’t be afraid to ask hard questions up front to ensure there is real common ground.
Best advice you ever got: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Business philosophy: Assume responsibility and be accountable for your actions and inactions.
Management method or style: “Benevolent dictator.” I am strong-willed, but I also value my team’s opinions and seek to get their buy-in on conclusions I reach or decisions I make.
Greatest challenge: Delegating important decisions. I realize that delegating authority is an important part of developing my subordinates, but my tendency is to assume the lead on important matters.
How close are you to operations? We have an excellent operations team. Our COO and directors have long tenure with the brands, and I rely on them for day-to-day operating decisions. As it relates to operations, my focus is on strategic matters such as building sales or long-term labor cost management.
How do you train and retain? The bulk of our training is hands-on with direct supervision. This is true at the store level as well as for the administrative staff. At the store level, we also leverage operational e-learning modules developed by Auntie Anne’s and Cinnabon to ensure we are executing brand standards and making delicious products our guests know and love and have come to expect from our brands.
What have been the biggest impacts of Covid-19 on your business? All mall-based businesses are obviously struggling with decreased foot traffic, but I see this issue as one that will be overcome with the development of new drugs and treatments in the near future. I believe our biggest long-term issue is on the labor side. We are having a very difficult time attracting and retaining crew members. This probably is due to a number of factors, including the virus and the negative impact the government’s stimulus and unemployment subsidies have had on our ability to compete for people.
Why do you think you were recognized with this award? We are excited to be awarded the Mega Growth Leadership Award and believe that our ability to quickly reopen all our locations after the initial Covid shutdown in March 2020 played a big role. Our team also completed new store developments and acquisitions that effectively tripled the size of our entity within 18 months of the onset of the pandemic. This demonstrated our high-quality operational capabilities, strong financial backing, and bullish outlook for the foodservice sector and overall economy—despite the many challenges that have been presented over the past 2 years.
How have you raised the bar in your own company? Over the years, I have brought greater discipline to all aspects of the business. Operationally, we have instituted formal metrics to help assess labor and waste efficiencies and to measure the effectiveness of each staff member. Additionally, we have created a timely financial reporting structure that is relevant to the assessment of our operating results, helping us to properly deploy capital. At the end of the day, each of these measures adds up to greater accountability for all our management team members.
What innovations have you created and used to build your company? As a large multi-unit franchisee, we rely on a combination of our own expertise and our franchisor’s innovative capabilities. We are an active participant in the marketing and operational tests at Focus Brands and provide a great deal of feedback and input when requested. For example, one of our proposed solutions for creating bundled sales is being rolled out by the franchisor as a national test later this year.
What core values do you think helped you win this award? First and foremost, we treat all our employees with respect. We want everyone to express their opinions on topics they are knowledgeable about, and everyone is encouraged to question and challenge decisions in a respectful manner. We want our employees to be involved in our decisions and to have an understanding of why these decisions are made. Second, we hold everyone accountable for the quality of their work and financial results for their areas of responsibility. I firmly believe that respect and accountability are the two core values that have allowed us to succeed.
How important is community involvement to you and your company? We believe it is important to give back to the communities we serve daily. We encourage our store managers and district managers to seek out opportunities to partner with a variety of local organizations. For example, in one of our communities we have partnered with an organization that serves disabled youth, providing a limited work experience for one or two young people to help them learn work skills and develop interactional skills.
What leadership qualities are most important to you and your team? As mentioned, we value accountability heavily in our company and believe that it is an essential characteristic for any leader. Last, to be a great leader, it’s important to develop positive and productive working relationships with your employees and to become a trusted resource for them as they grow within the company.
Annual revenue: $40 million-plus.
What kind of exit strategy do you have in place? For me personally, the best exit strategy is to have an effective and competent management team that makes me expendable, and I think we already have that in place. Having said that, I enjoy what I do and don’t have any near-term exit plans.
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