The story behind the stories

The cover story on Eat’n Park Hospitality Group’s brand evolution reminded me of another restaurant company. Eat’n Park is to Pittsburgh as White Castle is to Columbus.

As the editor of both magazines, I’ve interviewed leaders from each and found amazing parallels. Both are longtime staples closely tied to its city. Regular patrons feel tremendous brand loyalty. The leadership emphasizes the low employee turnover and staff who make a career with them.

Both also have diversified, while continuing to evolve. Eat’n Park went into food service for colleges, universities, businesses and special venues. White Castle has had success with frozen food.

Time to stop

One lesson President and CEO Jeff Broadhurst shared was the importance of failing faster. It’s easier said than done — he gave several examples how Eat’n Park didn’t follow that tenant — which is why he’s still doing long-term education on the topic.

But Broadhurst wasn’t the only one to talk about failing faster. CEO James Gillespie stressed the same thing. Gray Matter Systems, however, has implemented 90-day cycles to help.

When you don’t get anywhere on a top priority over three months, maybe it’s just a dumb idea Gillespie points out. A disciplined review and conversation about the idea’s validity at the end of an execution cycle can help determine if it’s time to stop.

An unlikely poet

When I finished speaking with artist Randy Gilson, it felt like I’d been interviewing Yoda. Gilson created Randyland, featured in this month’s Uniquely Pittsburgh.

His unique perspective impacts his way of speaking, too. His words sound like poetry. For example:

Wealth is not the wallet. The wallet will always be less than full. True wealth is the person that carries the wallet — it’s your eyes to see your blessings, your ears to listen and learn, your mouth to speak your passions and your hands to regift the gifts you’ve already received. So I am a walking toolbox, as we all are.

It was an interesting, thought-provoking conversation. Stop by Randyland yourself, and you’ll see what I mean.