Ten years ago Matt Frey left a career in corporate sales in to open Bub's Burgers & Ice Cream in Carmel, IN, with his wife, Rachel. Both had worked in restaurants, but neither had ever owned one or even managed one. We all know where this story is going, right?
But the outcome was quite the opposite of what you might expect, and it turns out to have a lot to do with Matt's background in sales. Bub's opened in 2003, and Matt and Rachel paid back their bank loan in two years. Seven years later, Bub’s was featured on the hit Food Channel show Man v. Food and currently Bub’s has three locations and is swamped with business every day.
Like any successful entrepreneur, Matt had the attitude that failure was not an option. He’s built a successful business around that mentality. But his philosophy on sales is what really struck me when I interviewed him. I knew he placed a lot of emphasis on the importance of having strong sales skills, but I assumed only his servers needed this trait. Matt views things a little differently.
"When I hire, it’s salespeople and not waiters. I think that’s what every restaurant owner should focus on. Anyone can go, 'Hi, my name is Ashley. What do you want to eat today?' The first thing you say is, 'Hi, how are you?' You create a relationship and you talk about the menu, and you talk about the promotions, or the soup of the day, and carry on to close the deal.
“It’s well known to our applicants at this point what to expect when they walk in. I’m very active in the marketing classes and entrepreneur classes at the local high school, talking about sales and how important it is for any business, not just at Bub’s. I tell them we don’t hire ice cream scoopers, bussers, dishwasher, hosts or waiters. We hire salespeople.
“If we hire you to dish, if you’re content with that, you’ll last about a week here. You should be motivated enough to say, 'Okay, what do I have to do here to get my feet on that floor to make that cash?' For instance, we hire a lot of 15-year-olds. Those kids walk out with $100-$150 cash in their pockets after working four hours. These are the same kids who gave me that goofy look when I spoke about ROI and maximizing profitability at their school, but when they walk out with that cash, they fully understand and they take it seriously after that.”
It’s not too difficult to find people who can wash your restaurant’s dishes. But finding people with both the hunger to grow and the desire to succeed, coupled with the willingness to start at the bottom in exchange for an opportunity to work their way to the top? Not so easy. But Matt and his team at Bub’s are doing it, and it’s a big part of their success.
Wil Brawley  is a regular RH contributor and a partner at Schedulefly , a company that provides web-based restaurant staff scheduling and communication software. This article is an excerpt from Wil's interview with Matt Frey in the book Restaurant Owners Uncorked: Twenty Owners Share Their Recipes for Success.