A Hospitality Q&A with Chris Johnston

The hospitality industry has previously encompassed restaurants and lodging.  Similar to how the service industry must provide the best experience for their customers, consumers have “shopping experiences” versus simple purchases. Consumers require shopping to be experiential. Consumers require hospitality. This is how “hospo” works its way into almost every other consumer industry. 

An industry that is this intertwined into the others we serve requires attention! We sat down with Chris Johnston, PG Business Developer focusing specifically on the hospitality space to learn the ins and outs of this encompassing industry.

Chris’s more than 25 years of industry experience have shaped and diversified his skill set to be highly proficient in concept development, menu development, people and team development, turn around projects and reopening closed properties. He has opened, managed, and developed several concepts and spent 18 years as the President, owner, and operator of 6 multi-concept entertainment venue, restaurants, and bars. What sets CJ apart is that, in addition to his Back of House proficiency via a Chef position for several years, he is equally adept at Front of House Operations with ample wine, craft cocktails, and craft beer/cider/spirit knowledge as well.

Q: What are the most important roles you focused on primarily in the hospitality space?

A: In the restaurant space that’s a loaded question because most roles are crossfunctional.

The first functional role a restaurant looks to fill is an operational role. Without a high functioning operational team, it’s tough to grow or expand and expect success. The second is finance. From controllers all the way to CFO’s, these roles are wildly important. Supply chain roles is becoming more and more important. You have someone with the expertise to create an efficient supply chain strategy. Especially when you are having to source across multiple units and multiple regions. Marketing, of course, is important. Everything is about brand awareness and LTO’s. Anything from digital to social media management all the way to entire national campaign rollouts is all crucial to success in the hospo space. The last function I’ll mention is Tech. The biggest thing happening in the restaurant industry right now is DELIVERY. This process requires a solid technological infrastructure and integrated strategy.

In addition to that, we are being asked to lot more project work. If you are building a team that will work to develop your brand or restaurants overall, we are capable of building the entire team. Essentially we are being asked to help develop the cohesive team that helps develop the organization’s teams. Hiring random team members in a series of isolated events is not always the best strategy. Often times there are huge benefits to building copasetic teams based on a hiring strategy. 

Q: Now that we’ve talked about the roles that are out there, let’s talk about who fills them. What are some of the most critical attributes a person needs to thrive in the hospitality space?

A: Well in the industry we joke that you have to be kind of a weirdo to get along with the rest of us outcasts. The truth is, it comes down to wanting to be there and wanting to be successful. You have to really love it. Additionally, you have to be flexible. If you are the type of person who thrives in environments that are repetitive and monotonous, this is not the industry for you. The ability to pivot quickly and strategically is essential to success in all hospitality environments. 

Q: What are some of the trends in the hospitality space that we can look towards in 2020?

A: I mean its no secret that casual, full-service dining is trending downward. It’s been struggling for a while. The ones that buck that trend are more experiential – like Punchbowl Social and Dine-In Cinemas. It’s called “eatertainment.” Fast-casual is the fastest-growing segment by far and I think we will see a lot of natural attrition coming because there are so many of them. I also think we will see some really smart mergers as well. There are some great concepts out there who have weak talent strategies and are failing to scale because they haven’t built a base of excellence at their core. I think we will see those companies have to rebrand and rebuild to compete. It’s not all about just the menu anymore. It’s everything. Hospitality is the full customer experience. 

Q: What is the most important role in a restaurant?

A: The dishwasher. 

Q: You said scaling correctly and with the right infrastructure and team is critical to success. What is important as a restaurant concept or group attempts to grow and scale?

A: Access to data and information. As I said, it’s not all about your concept or how great your menu is. You have to address your culture and make sure it fits everywhere you want to scale and if the talent supply is where and what you need it to be. You have to know how much the talent supply costs in every area. You have to know who is consuming the food and the demographics in surrounding areas. Just because a concept is successful in Austin, TX doesn’t ensure success in Portland, Oregan. It all comes down to Data and Talent Analytics. 

Protis Global focuses heavily on talent analytics and workforce data. Our research team helps us and our clients set realistic expectations while maintaining a tight strategy. We are no longer able to roll the dice. There is more to successful growth than a great concept and our research team helps us cut out the guessing game. 

Want to know more about how Protis Global can help you strategically scale your hospitality concept? Reach out to Chris Johnston at [email protected].


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