At a Glance
Construction department employees
Average project duration
Construction projects have a limitless number of factors that can cause delays, but Anthony Pfeifer, construction manager of Einstein Noah Restaurant Group, Inc., says that a delay by font size is the weirdest he’s encountered.
One of Pfeifer’s San Francisco store openings was delayed by three days because the city rejected the architect’s plans, saying that the design used the wrong font. “The city rejected them, saying the letters on the plans were three-sixteenths of an inch when they should have been two-sixteenths of an inch,” Pfeifer says. “The architect had to go back to his computer, change the font, and resubmit the plans to the city.” A three-day delay might not sound significant, but the typical schedule for Einstein Noah’s projects is eight weeks, which means at least five percent was wasted on a font fiasco.
Pfeifer, whose three-person department is responsible for building all of Einstein Noah’s shops, which include Einstein Bros Bagels, Noah’s New York Bagels, and Manhattan Bagels, is used to such delays from people who control portions of the project. “The way I like to explain it is, some people’s only power in life is to drive 55 in the fast lane,” he says. So, he and his team do everything in their power to head issues off at the pass.
The Lakewood, Colorado-based Einstein Noah Restaurant Group encounters most of its problems because it doesn’t build from the ground up. Instead, it purchases or leases existing space, then finishes it to meet the chain’s standards. “The difficulty comes in fitting the prototype to an unexpected shape,” Pfeifer says. “We might get a square, a rectangle, or a triangle, and we have to take all of the parts and pieces of our prototypical store and mold them into the shape of whatever location we have.”
The company succeeds in the face of such challenges, Pfeifer says, partly because of its focus on procedure. “Everyone in the construction department worked together to create a written document outline detailing our construction process,” he says. “Because we have everyone’s buy-in, everyone wants to follow it. Because we managed the document, we don’t have to manage the people.”
Pfeifer also says Einstein’s distinctive procurement process helps it stick to a schedule. “Most companies have a procurement department that purchases items that go into the construction and operation of a store,” he says. “But buying furniture and equipment is considerably different from buying napkins and food, so we keep the former in the construction department. As a result, we have better control over the product and the service we get and put in our stores.”
Einstein Noah Restaurant Group reached a new milestone in 2012: opening its first stand-alone location in Riverton, Utah. “That’s a big step for us, moving into a freestanding building like a McDonald’s or a Wendy’s or a Burger King,” Pfeifer says.
Doing so, he adds, will just require more of the same work, but he’ll continue to be prepared for the unexpected. “I’m always amazed at the things that can hang up a project,” Pfeifer says. “We’ve been chased off by hurricanes, but it’s hard to believe that a typeface will delay your project.”
Meet Anthony Pfeifer
Where did you go to school?
I studied architecture at Southern Illinois University. After working construction in high school, I thought architecture was the next step.
What was your first construction job?
When I was 15 years old, I worked for a local contractor doing residential remodels and shingling houses, which will teach you at an early age what you don’t want to do for a living.
How did you wind up working for Einstein Noah Restaurant Group?
Three months after I got out of school, I realized what it was like to sit in an office every day, so I quit my job as a draftsman and I went back to work in construction. I was working at Whitestone Construction, which was doing work for Einstein. At the time, Einstein was just launching its construction department and hired me to lead it.
What personal goals do you have in your current role?
I’d like to have enough development to utilize a full construction department again. We’re down to three people from five earlier this year. ABQ