Burger King may never have been known as the fast-food chain where customers can “Have It Your Way®” if it was not for Robert Bennett, who coined the term 50 years ago. As the founder of Bennett Management Corp., a family owned and operated Burger King franchisee, Bennett was responsible for many firsts for the company.
“My late husband, Bob Bennett, was amazing,” President Emily Bennett says. “‘Have It Your Way’ was the model for his entire operation. The company mantra is ‘People Pleasing People’ and we live by that every day at all levels and in all aspects of the business.”
The Maumee, Ohio-based company has been part of the Burger King family since 1965, when Robert Bennett started Bennett Management. “This year is our 50th anniversary and that is a testament to how well Bob ran the company,” Bennett says. “He had a vision and well thought out plan for growing the business. He focused on talented and stable management and put systems and policies in place to ensure Bennett Management was a company with a strong foundation.”
Today, Bennett Management owns and operates 26 Burger King franchise restaurants in Ohio, Michigan and Indiana.
A History of Firsts
Bennett Management takes credit for a lot of firsts that were later adopted by Burger King restaurants nationwide and are the norm today. For example, when a competitor opened a drive-thru restaurant in Toledo, Ohio, Bennett Management sent a long memo to Burger King corporate executives detailing the benefits it offered every Burger King restaurant. Although corporate remained unconvinced, Bennett became the first Burger King franchisee in the country with drive-thru service and it succeeded.
“For a one-time cost of $1,200 per location, sales in our restaurants increased 40 percent,” the company notes. “We were first to install ‘breakout’ doors to expedite drive-thru service and we were the first to add a standalone drive-thru pay booth outside the main building, achieving a 15-second service time for cars at the end of the drive-thru line.”
In 1979, Bennett Management was the first Burger King franchisee in the Midwest to embrace the “late night” concept. Burger King corporate then promoted a “late-night drive-thru” campaign in 1980 after Bennett proved that opening restaurants when local customers needed them to be open was successful. The company was also the first in the United States to offer children a special surprise with their meals.
“The relationship between Burger King Corp. and the franchisees has improved over the years with the new corporate ownership,” says Jimmy Harmon, CEO. “We continue to receive support from the National Franchisee Association, which is working in tandem with Burger King Corp. to ensure the success of the brand. We have improved the partnership through increased communication and cooperation.”
Bennett Management employs more than 800 people. “We live by the company mantra within the organization and in the restaurants with our guests,” Bennett says. “We care about one another and are committed to the well-being of the people who work at Bennett.”
The company offers training courses to all of its employees. “Our approach has been to hire the best and brightest people who are extremely good at their jobs and empower them to make a difference in the restaurants,” Director of Operations Mark Peterson says.
Burger King provides training modules through its GURU Training system, which all restaurant staff are required to complete. “We routinely conduct talent reviews and performance evaluations so we can identify the people who are ready to move up to the next level,” Peterson explains.
General managers are provided additional high-level management training and must complete an eight-week foundation course that is very vigorous. They are required to be certified in food safety and proficient in all areas of restaurant management from both an operational and personnel perspective. “We believe our managers are the best in the business,” Harmon notes.
“The company’s history of excellent service and its solid business model set standards of performance all employees strive to achieve and surpass,” Bennett says.
To show its commitment to employees in ways other than those work-related, Bennett Management developed a family disaster fund to help employees. A college scholarship program for those looking to further their education and personal development was initiated to help and encourage those team members realize their dreams. “Bob felt so strongly that our team members were the backbone of our company,” Bennett says. “He provided ways to mentor people to ensure their success and encouraged their aspirations, whether within the company, the restaurant business or on any path they chose to travel down. He encouraged a spirit of entrepreneurship and encouraged those in our organization whose dream it was to become franchisees to do so.”
Bennett Management supports organizations and charities in the markets it does business through various fundraising opportunities. “Our strong ethics, values and business principles have made Bennett Management successful for 50 years,” Bennett says. “We look forward to the future and the continuation of the dream Bob had so many years ago.”