American Builders Quarterly first spoke with Chris Mott, Burger King’s former senior director of architecture, design, and construction, coming out of the pandemic in January 2021. At the time, Mott highlighted the modernization efforts, high-visibility design choices, and tech advancements to help Burger King (BK) reinvigorate its 70-year-old brand.
But amidst all of the new ideas being rolled in at the Home of the Whopper, there’s one critical factor that may have been overlooked: Mott himself.
Mott’s first tenure with BK began when he was just 16 years old. The future construction leader worked behind the counter of a Glenwood, Illinois, Burger King that has been subsequently torn down and rebuilt again—its own tribute to a leader who went on to forge his own successful design and construction career before returning to the organization in 2012.
The former senior director was at BK during the new construction and had the chance to celebrate, knowing that the location that provided him his first job might now be employing another future executive.
How many of us would be excited to return to our first job at one of the highest levels? Mott’s enthusiasm, as it turns out, is contagious.
“A flame-grilled Whopper? There truly is nothing better,” Mott says. “I was so excited to come here and shape the Burger King brand and evolve it as our customers evolve. I’m not sure if you can tell, but I’m extremely passionate about what I do.”
It’s the culture, along with the Whopper, that really sold Mott, who initially came to the organization as a construction manager before working his way up to his current role.
“We’ve created a culture here that truly encourages people inside the organization to take ownership, and I know that can be kind of vague so let me explain what that means,” he explains. “I’m an owner in many different levels. I’m the owner of what I do for the brand. I’m an owner for my department. I’m an owner invested in my career. I love the fact that we are given the autonomy to be creative, to be innovative. Your growth here is based on what you do. It’s a true meritocracy.”
Mott is especially proud of the cross-functional teams that have developed across the organization. With so many different teams working across marketing, imaging, and digital, the design team brings the most invested stakeholders to the table to create an unrivaled experience for BK’s guests.
Especially during a post-COVID-19 era, Mott says working nimbly is the key to success in-house at BK.
“If you can’t pivot and be nimble at a moment’s notice, I think it demonstrates a lack of awareness and ability to make the decisions necessary that will ultimately be transformative,” he attests. “I think I’ve done a very good job of adapting to be nimble, to be pragmatic, to be transformative. But it’s always part of longer strategic planning. It’s just figuring out how you get there.”
Take, for example, the always-elusive idea of adapting for more digitally minded customers. It’s an exercise and topic ever-present in retail, restaurant, and countless other industries. Mott admits that over 11 years, digital adoption by customers has occurred much more quickly than most people were truly prepared for.
The executive says it’s imperative to embrace the future while also finding a way to continue to serve the customers who grew up with BK in the 1970s or 1980s. It’s a difficult balance of celebrating one’s heritage and history, while also working to serve customers who might be most familiar with BK by having it delivered by UberEats and other mobile-ordering platforms to their homes.
“Now more than ever, it is critical to blend digital and physical environments in order to meet the rising expectations of customers,” says Sara Grofcsik, executive director of US commercial sales at Samsung Electronics of America. “Samsung digital display technologies can help surprise and delight customers by creating engaging experiences that foster meaningful connections through every point of contact.”
Read our 2021 conversation with Mott to see how BK is leaning into its warm, golden-brown tones and backyard barbeque-like experience.
When Mott talks about taking ownership in building culture, he’s willing to put it not just in writing but also in acronyms. His team is well accustomed to CARES: culture, asset, respect, executing, and being supportive.
“What these all come down to is that no one person, including myself, is the most important person at the company,” he explains. “It’s about what you are able to offer your team in a cross-functional way.”
There are twelve additional buckets that Mott breaks down these broader concepts into. This is a leader who thinks about leading, who cares about developing his people, and who is truly, unabashedly psyched about his work.
That authenticity is critical. It’s the key factor that helps one thrive in any setting, as long as they believe. Mott is proudest when his team rises to meet a new challenge or role, even if it’s outside of the organization.
“I’d rather not lose them, but they need to fly,” the senior director says. “I’ve seen so many people that worked with me go on to do amazing things, and I’m proud each and every time.”
Editor’s note, 10/31/23: At publication, Chris Mott is no longer at Burger King.
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