Every restaurant owner will admit that one of the keys to building a strong company is allowing those hired to make decisions to make them, and to listen to their advice. Nothing is more frustrating to managers than to come up with ideas that are practical and have them shunned and ignored by those who make the final decision. Yet, we have all done this. It is the nature of the beast. I have hired many managers that were great, and an equal amount that had no business in the restaurant business. I did try however, to listen to the ideas they had and really analyze then to see if they would be profitable if they came to fruition. And, you’ve got to love that word, fruition, because through the years, some people see the opportunity to bear fruit, and others look in a totally opposite direction.
Take Louis Berrettini for instance. In 1956 he was the manager of the Dixon Fruit Company in Dixon, Illinois. And, the fruit company was prosperous with four locations. Aside from fruit, the company sold beer and other necessities. Then, Anheuser-Busch, in the midst of developing a new distribution system approached Berrettini about becoming an A-B wholesaler. Selling to stores, and restaurants. Berrettini took the idea to the board of directors of Dixon Fruit, advising them join forces with A-B and become exclusive distributors for A-B products.
The board decided not to listen to Berrettini, so in the true spirit of the entrepreneurial management philosophy, he left the company and began LRB Distributors. A business pioneer, he knew that gains were not without risks and continued to grow the company serving restaurants and bars throughout his territory. Eventually, his son Paul came to work in the company, first as a delivery driver, and then a salesman, and eventually, the President. The business grew under Paul´s tutelage and expansion continued. Louis Berrettini passed away in 1972. And, throughout the years, the family owned business grew to Gold Eagle status within the A-B family.
Today, in Dallas, Texas, LRB Distributors are receiving an award on their 50 years of business excellence.
An incredible accomplishment. Think about being in business for 50 years. Now, add the fact that in those 50 years they had to deal with restaurant owners who at times, did everything possible, from screaming into the phone on Friday afternoon, “Where is my *&$$**# order? I want it here now or I will never sell another bottle of Bud again.” to, “I mailed the check last Thursday, I cannot believe you don’t have it yet.”
And, aside from taking the bull that owners often shovel, they always maintained a great customer service policy, and realized that their customers were their greatest asset.
All this happened, along with the award ceremony today, because the board didn’t want to listen to the manager, Louis Berrettini.
The lesson here is simple. Listen to those around you. Those people in the front lines often have a better feel for the business and know the market better than the guys in the board room.
And the next time your salesman for Budweiser comes into your restaurant, you might want to look at him in a different light. Fifty years from now, he could be getting an award from Anheuser-Busch on a half century of outstanding business service.
Louis, this Bud´s for you.