For Jeff Dunn, time is money. The director of design and construction at Nothing Bundt Cakes may not say that out loud, but like many builders since COVID-19, he feels the pressure to develop world-class facilities on a tight budget.
“Throughout COVID, and really more so in the last year or so, costs have risen significantly,” he reflects. “Where our build outs previously were much more manageable in how we had it designed and built out, we have continued to search for different materials that are a little more cost effective.”
Dunn wants to have his cake and eat it too. However, after 25 years of being in business and opening over 470 locations, Nothing Bundt Cakes is hungrier than ever to achieve scale. Because the bakery chain is ramping up its growth, he also needs to make each location cheaper to build for franchisees.
“We historically had been building out 45 locations per year, so the need for more people wasn’t really there,” Dunn says. “We had been bought out earlier in 2021 by Roark Capital, and we set forth to grow extensively.”
Just how big does Nothing Bundt Cakes aspire to become? Dunn says it plans to open over 100 locations each year starting in 2023.
Still, with construction costs at a 50-year high, it’s clear that Dunn is not navigating the same market as a young Ray Kroc. So, how does he make every dollar count? He draws the line at the brand experience. “It’s about working more efficiently, finding areas to cut that don’t cheapen the brand overall, that don’t change the brand standards,” he explains.
By keeping the brand experience front and center, Dunn discovered ways for Nothing Bundt Cakes to do more with less. He forged more partnerships with local contractors to curb rising costs and simplify its supply chain.
“Previously, we were working more with national general contractors because it was equitable at that time,” he says. “Now, it’s not so much. We’re working with more localized and regional contractors who have long-standing relationships with subcontractors, so that we’re getting a fair and honest price for our owners through the bid process and not getting charged astronomical costs. That’s one way that we’ve been successful in getting costs lower.”
On top of that, Dunn procured cheaper alternatives to expensive materials for his contractors. He paved the way for his team to be minimalists and put Nothing Bundt Cakes on track to explore other cost saving measures like lowering the square footage of its future locations. Plus, he advised owners when they financed the initial costs of investment.
“It’s still an ongoing process, but it is a daily thing that we are working on, that I personally am working on, to help our franchise owners get the cost down so they don’t have as much initial investment,” Dunn says.
Behind the scenes, Dunn prefers to lead by example. Whether he gives feedback to his employees or meets with his team, he provides them direction as needed. Otherwise, he delegates and trusts them to get the job done.
“I hired incredibly good people to do their functions,” he says. “My construction managers are two rockstars. My design manager is amazing as well. I hired them, and I trust them to carry out the functions of their jobs, and I don’t like to micromanage whatsoever. I am here to be supportive of them and provide them with whatever they need so that they, in turn, can be more supportive and provide whatever our bakery owners need as well.”
Nevertheless, Dunn is a driving force behind the success of Nothing Bundt Cakes. He adjusts to shifting expectations on the fly, but he refuses to cut corners while carrying out every project. The director has proven his ability to follow through on behalf of the bakery chain and its franchisees.
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