Ever since aspiring chef Jeremy Weber began tossing dough in a Denver pizza joint at age 15, he’s continued to learn the different ways an employee can have a seat at the table to ensure a restaurant’s success. His career progressed from that first job to work as the lead chef at a four-star restaurant and later executive sous chef positions, and then, at age 23, he moved to the Pacific Northwest to work for Chipotle. Over more than 15 years with the company, Weber has advanced from general manager to regional facilities manager to his current role, director of facilities.
“As a kid, I was really good at taking things apart and figuring out how they worked,” he says. “At Chipotle, as a facilities technician, I was drawn to the challenge of making facilities run properly and efficiently. I’m energized by solving problems and removing obstacles from operations.”
Weber recently earned the designation of Certified Restaurant Facility Professional from the Restaurant Facility Management Association, where he currently serves as a board member. He continues to find ways to solve problems for restaurants and chains, and one measure he has consistently found contributes to their success is having facilities-management work done in-house rather than outsourcing preventative and reactionary repairs. Below are just a few of the reasons why.
Significant Cost Savings
It was early in his career that Weber began to notice the potential money that could be saved by an in-house facilities-management team. “When I was in operations, running restaurants, we didn’t have a facilities department, so the restaurant managers were charged with getting repairs done on their own without adequately knowing how,” he says. “This wasn’t cost effective, nor did it allow the operators to focus solely on the food and the guest experience.”
He also knew that an in-house team would be better because “an outsourced vendor may come in and make a repair to a single item based on area of expertise,” he says, “whereas a highly trained in-house facilities technician can take care of a wider range of issues on-site and, at the same time, educate staff on how to proactively care for the restaurant.”
He and his current in-house team educate not only restaurant staff on proactive, cost-saving facilities measures but other company departments, too. “Our department partners directly with design, construction, real estate, and procurement teams to build restaurants that are durable, reducing overall development expenses and minimizing reinvestment costs throughout the life of a lease,” he says. “By working together, our collaboration efforts afford us the ability to build cost-effective and sustainable locations.”
Focused Sustainability Efforts
In-house teams can help restaurants save significantly on their resource consumption, too. “Not only are we finding efficiencies with handling waste; we’re also analyzing energy and utilities and working with our supply chain to source packaging materials that can be recycled or composted,” Weber says.
His current team is coordinating the upgrading of all LED lamps in all restaurants to improve the guest experience and decrease energy consumption, and the old LED lamps will be recycled and rendered down to raw materials so that they can be reused. “Many business owners may turn the other direction when considering sustainability initiatives, as they often come at a cost,” Weber says. “But, with creative measures, you can actually find savings and be comforted by the fact that they’re doing the right thing for the planet.”
Preparation for the Unforeseen
Particularly when handling the needs of a chain with thousands of locations, Weber says, an in-house team can also help a company “quickly and efficiently respond to the unexpected.”
In the space of just a few recent months, Weber and his team were able to deal with vandalism in a neighboring tenant space that caused a natural gas leak; an equipment malfunction that sparked an electrical fire, resulting in significant damage to a multitenant building; and multiple restaurants damaged by the hurricanes that hit this past September. “We can care for our locations properly, minimizing restaurant down time and extending the useful life of all assets,” Weber says.
Greater Team Collaboration
The collaborative efforts of different departments is fundamental to the running of a tight operation, but having a facilities-management team in-house improves the ability of its members to work together as a unit, too. Weber’s leadership philosophy encompasses three pillars—activate, collaborate, and empower—and together they maximize the strengths and contributions of his team.
“Including your team in big decisions is important,” Weber says, explaining that he acts as both a manager and a mentor, meeting frequently with people on his team to provide insight, training, and development opportunities. “Making sure that your team members know their opinions matter and are valued gives them a sense of purpose and a seat at the table.”
And, at the same time, Weber’s work is enriched, too. “It is important for me to be on the front lines with my team and create an environment of empowerment and ownership,” he says. “I learn as much from them as they do from me.”
Photo: Val Grasparil