When Matt Carpenter joined Olga’s Kitchen Inc. in 2006 as only the second CEO since it was founded in 1976, he saw a great deal of unrealized potential in what was best known as “that restaurant in the mall.”
He had a vision to leverage the signature food items and differentiated product while revitalizing and repositioning the brand. Most employees, vendors and shareholders weren’t on board, but Carpenter navigated through tough economic times while reinvigorating the brand to put Olga’s in a new position and set profitability and revenue records in 2010.
To continue driving that growth, Carpenter has begun selling franchise opportunities for the concept in nine markets. With some new capital partners, Olga’s plans to add more than 100 new locations in the next five years. The strategy calls for an Olga’s “seed” location in each of nine new markets to attract the best franchisees and control the successful introduction of the brand to the new market.
Carpenter has also developed a strategy to promote and sustain sales growth through social media and e-mail marketing. It introduced a loyalty program in 2008 with the Olga’s Rewards Card, which now has more than 200,000 members, and uses social media to enhance guest experiences and to connect in more meaningful ways with customers through outsourcing sites such as Groupon.
In addition, Carpenter has instituted several improvements to the company’s culture to reduce employee turnover and boost management retention. In an industry with traditionally high turnover rates, Carpenter reduced the employee turnover rate from 149 percent to less than 100 percent and raised the manager retention rate from 55 percent to near 80 percent.
Olga’s also connects with local organizations to hold benefit nights at its restaurants and partners with Children’s Hospitals of Michigan.
How to reach: Olga’s Kitchen Inc., (248) 362-0001 or www.olgas.com