Franchisor Profile: Robert McDevitt, Golden Corral

Robert McDevitt, CFE, is Senior Vice-President, Domestic and International Franchise Development for Golden Corral®, and serves as a member of the International Franchise Association’s Board of Directors.
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The Beginnings of Golden Corral

In 1971, James H. Maynard and William F. Carl decided to work together to start a business of their own. Despite the fact that neither had restaurant experience, they observed the rapid growth in the industry and decided to enter the family restaurant segment.

After two years of preparation, Maynard and Carl opened the first Golden Corral Family Steakhouse Restaurant on January 3, 1973, in Fayetteville, North Carolina. They selected a family steak concept to conform to the mission of “Making Pleasurable Dining Affordable”, a mission the company embraces to this day. During the first 28 days of operation, from January 3 to January 31, the restaurant produced a strong net profit.

Growth

Within three months of opening the first Golden Corral restaurant, the company was on its way to acquiring a second location. The second Golden Corral opened in June 1973 in Raleigh, North Carolina, and shortly thereafter another restaurant was opened in Fayetteville.

The company’s carefully crafted plan focused on smaller, underserved markets and becoming an integral part of the community. The strategy was to seek community-connected entrepreneurs to invest in and open Golden Corrals in their towns as part of the company’s unique partner manager program.

The early timing could not have been worse: interest rates were in the teens, rampant inflation caused the government to impose price controls, and beef costs were at an all-time high. But committed leadership, a strong mission and a clear set of values provided focus, and Golden Corral flourished, growing at an average of 38 restaurants per year.

The Company Re-Invents Itself

By 1986, Golden Corral had reached 500 family steakhouse restaurants. That’s when the world began to change as health officials began talking about the nutritional downside of red meat and warnings went out to reduce consumption. As consumers reacted, Golden Corral began the process of reinventing itself to conform to the new reality. This re-invention included a much larger, 10,000 square foot building, the introduction of a buffet, and a strategic decision to enter larger, more lucrative metro markets.

In 1988 Golden Corral opened its first metro restaurant in Lawton, Oklahoma, twice the size of the original restaurants and tailored to answer revised consumer demands. The concept still offered steak, but now also included a full buffet with a wide range of proteins, vegetables, and desserts.

After the success of this first revised Golden Corral, the system began a complete re-invention from the old family steakhouse to the new Buffet and Grill. That strategy included franchising, and Golden Corral franchised its first restaurant in 1989.

Golden Corral Today

Since then, the concept has grown each year, converting the old stores and opening new “metro” locations to completely revise the concept. Today, Golden Corral once again operates over 500 Buffet and Grill Restaurants, completing the total re-creation of the brand. This has never been achieved before or since in the restaurant industry with the same ownership and management team.

Bob McDevitt joined Golden Corral in 1994 as Vice-President of Marketing, responsible for Marketing, Food and Beverage and Purchasing and Distribution. In 2002 Mr. McDevitt was promoted to Chief Franchise Officer responsible for Franchise Operations, Franchise Sales, and Franchise Development. Mr. McDevitt also managed the Quality Assurance Department responsible for execution of restaurant assessment, food safety and customer feedback systems for all Golden Corral restaurants.

The new Golden Corral includes 160 Franchisees operating 410 restaurants. The Franchisees have not only enabled rapid growth of the new Golden Corral but have also added a new dynamic to the management of the company. The company involves its Franchisees in every key decision on product, promotions, restaurant design, and strategic planning through the Franchise Advisory Council, which meets quarterly. Franchisees also participate in the Concept and Product Committee, a monthly meeting where day-to-day decisions are made about operations and procedures.

Golden Corral and its Franchisees continue to focus on the being an important part of the community. One such focus is recognition of the sacrifices made by our military. Having started in military towns in the south, the concept owes its existence, in part, to the fact that it served many military customers and their families during those early days. The company and its Franchisees offer a free meal to military veterans and active-duty members on the Monday following Veterans Day. This has been a tradition for 14 years, and the company has served 4 million free meals and raised over $10 million dollars for DAV (Disabled American Veterans Charity). The company also sponsors Camp Corral, a free week of summer camp focusing on the children of wounded and killed in action military heroes. In the summer of 2014, 3,200 kids attended 22 camps in 16 states.

Golden Corral is unique in that in January of 2015, the company will promote its third CEO in its 43-year history, Lance Trenary, a 27 year veteran of the company. What’s more, the average tenure of the senior management team is 18 years. This level of experience, along with the strength of the Golden Corral brand, is the primary driver behind the company’s reputation for consistency of execution and innovation.

In 2014, Bob McDevitt retired from active operations management. He is currently focused on Domestic Franchise Sales and taking the Golden Corral Brand international. He is a member of the International Franchise Association’s Board of Directors, a member of the NC Restaurant and Lodging Association, served on the board of the Montessori School of Raleigh from 1999-2003, and is currently a board member of Interact, a United Way member agency dedicated to assisting victims of domestic violence.

Golden Corral directors, management team, and Franchisees have set a course of development that will allow Golden Corral to continue to be the leader in the family restaurant segment in communities throughout the United States. For more information, visit www.goldencorralfranchise.com.

For more information about IFA and franchising in general, visit the IFA’s website at franchise.org.

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