Flipping Success: CEO Chronicles with Red Robin's Visionary Leader | Season 10, Vol. 3

Hospitality Hangout

Sep 6 2023 • 16 mins

In the latest episode of "Hospitality Hangout", industry insiders are treated to an enlightening conversation as hosts Michael Schatzberg, fondly known as "The Restaurant Guy", and Jimmy Frischling, dubbed "The Finance Guy", sit down with G.J. Hart. Currently at the helm of Red Robin as President, CEO, and Director, Hart's journey from the Netherlands to leading a renowned American food brand is nothing short of inspiring.

G.J. Hart: From Immigrant Dreams to Restaurant Reality

Arriving in the U.S. in 1963 with dreams of freedom, Hart's initial foray into the hospitality industry was with Howard Johnson's, toggling roles from a dishwasher to a short-order cook. His professional odyssey then took a detour into the poultry business, helping fund his college education. A move to New Orleans saw Hart working under Al Copeland of Popeye's fame, subsequently partnering with Texas Roadhouse's founder, which they took public.

Though Hart dabbled in the idea of retirement, his passion was unwavering. Drawn back to the restaurant cosmos, he took the reins at Red Robin, a brand he had admired for decades.


Revitalizing a Legacy: The North Star Comeback Plan

For over half a century, Red Robin has remained etched in the minds of patrons for its family-centric aura, captivating ambiance, and mouth-watering meals at fair prices. Under Hart's stewardship, the "North Star Comeback Plan" was birthed, aiming to rejuvenate the brand by emphasizing its time-honored attributes. In a span of just 12 months, Red Robin, with Hart's vision and a spirited team, witnessed commendable growth and resurgence.


Leadership: A Game of Authenticity

Hart, with his rich tapestry of experiences, extols the virtue of authenticity in leadership. He advocates for genuine concern for staff and believes that constructing a robust team in a conducive environment is pivotal. This episode offers listeners an intimate look into Hart's life, his strategic leadership methods, the essence of brand identity, and most importantly, his dream for Red Robin's future.


The Core: People and Food

Despite the tsunami of tech advancements swamping the restaurant industry, Hart, along with Schatzberg and Frischling, concurs that the core of the business is, and should always be, about people and the food. While technology acts as a facilitator, enhancing the guest experience, the culinary journey must remain at the forefront.


A Personal Touch to the Conversation

Rounding off the episode, in a jovial segment, Hart turns the tables by posing a personal question to the hosts, revealing their camaraderie and offering listeners a glimpse into their dynamic rapport.

In essence, this episode of "Hospitality Hangout" is a testament to the fact that while the restaurant landscape is continuously evolving with tech innovations, the heart and soul remain in the people and the dishes they serve.

Tune in to "Hospitality Hangout" for this and more episodes, as it continues to engage, enlighten, and entertain those in the hospitality and foodservice sector.