When Phil Singh first heard from The Salty Donut about a job opening in September of 2022, his mind went to an unexpected place: the history of his then employer, MOD Pizza. The way he saw it, the two restaurant chains had more in common than their respective specialties—donuts and pizza—might suggest.
“While I was working at MOD, I heard about the company’s early days and the startup feel of growing this small pizza shop in Seattle into a brand across the country,” Singh explains. “It’s similar to where The Salty is now, as a small, family-owned business based out of Miami that’s looking to expand.”
Excited by the prospect of getting in on the ground floor, Singh jumped at the opportunity to join The Salty as director of construction and new store development. Since coming on board, he has focused on establishing a streamlined process for rolling out new locations with the help of trusted collaborators both inside and outside the organization.
Singh got his start at an architecture firm after training as a draftsman. His interests broadened over time to encompass project management and, more specifically, construction management––an evolution that led him to shift from the architecture side of the industry to the owner side. That move, in turn, landed him in the food service space, where he remains to this day.
Before accepting his current role, Singh facilitated the rebranding and growth of a Domino’s franchisee in Washington, DC, then oversaw construction across the eastern US for MOD Pizza. Although he certainly draws on these experiences at The Salty, he has encountered a newfound variety in his day-to-day life that presents its own set of challenges. “Being at a small company, I seem to wear different hats at different times during the day,” he elaborates. “My main focus is obviously on construction, but sometimes I’m pulled into managing facilities or finding a handyman or furniture and equipment––lots of things that might not fall into a ‘normal’ day.”
Singh has also faced the challenge of operating as a one-man department. This particular challenge, however, has offered him a chance to make his mark on the organization. “There was no construction department prior to my joining, so I’ve been creating a whole process for how we will build and expand,” he says.
Singh’s process covers every step along the path to opening a new store, from initial landlord engagement by The Salty’s real estate partner to staff hiring and training on the part of the operations team. “I’ve developed a process to track each step of the construction phases and make them visible to everybody within the organization,” he says. “There are certain milestones that need to be met and other stakeholders who are involved, such as our IT department and our coffee vendor.”
Beyond maintaining company-wide awareness of a project’s status, Singh seeks to integrate all departments of The Salty into the rollout process. He makes a point of building strong relationships throughout the organization to allow for open communication around his and the company’s wants, needs, and expectations. “Ultimately, the operations team is my client within the company,” he shares. “I’m building these spaces for them, so I want their input on what works, what does not work, what can be changed on future projects, and how we can best serve them.”
Singh matches this purpose in his relationships with external parties such as product vendors and general contractors (GCs). In addition to reinforcing bonds with teams who have worked with The Salty in the past, he leverages his extensive network to bring new collaborators into the picture. By turning to his contacts in existing and untapped markets, he can not only trust that the project will get done and done well, but also pave the way for The Salty’s expansion.
The process Singh has designed fosters The Salty’s growth by increasing the efficiency with which new locations come online. Each step can happen in smooth succession because of careful behind-the-scenes planning and coordination. “By the time our permit is approved, I already have a GC lined up so we can move right into construction,” Singh offers as an example. “The most impactful thing I’ve done at The Salty so far is demonstrate where we can find savings in a project, most importantly being able to reduce the construction schedule. This leads to our ultimate goal of being able to open stores sooner than we have in the past.”
Singh believes that the changes he’s made up to this point will continue to pay dividends down the line, even as he leaves space for procedures to fluctuate as The Salty expands. “My number-one job is continuing to build and refine a process for growing at scale, and then continuing to build the team both internally and externally to support that aggressive growth,” he says. “Because at the end of the day, it’s about bringing incredibly delicious donuts and coffee to neighborhoods across the country.”
Mooring Commercial Construction serves major industries across the United States as a general contractor delivering construction, design-build, and construction management solutions. As specialists in new construction, renovations, tenant improvements, and metal building systems, we’re built to build better—effectively combining emerging technology with the lost art of the personal touch. Collaborating with commercial clients on the vision of a project isn’t just how we make our living, it’s what gets us out of bed in the morning. As a recognized industry leader, Mooring is the life’s work of three family generations and built to last. What can we build for you?