Dave Yarbrough: Cooking up foodservice success
Each member of our Senior Leadership Team brings their own unique personality, experience and leadership style to the table. Dave Yarbrough, VP of Field Operations, has a great blend of foodservice sales and operations acumen, combined with a technology-savvy skillset.
Read a quick background here or just jump right in and learn why he is the driving force behind our Field Operations team.
Q: Can you tell us what you did before landing at PFSbrands?
My first job in high school was working for a popular local restaurant chain in the St. Louis area. I began bussing tables, progressed through multiple layers of increased responsibility in my 8 years there; and ultimately became a district/multi-unit manager in the Dallas market.
Operating 24-hour restaurants with both full-service dining rooms and drive-thru segments certainly presents unique challenges for management, but I couldn’t have asked for a better environment to learn the business. “You’re only as good as your last P&L” was an assertion often shared within that company. Looking back, this concept helped to shape my commitment to continuous improvement and tenacity in consistently working to meet goals and produce positive results.
My next challenge prior to coming on board with PFSbrands entailed working for a convenience/grocery store-based foodservice franchise company, where I held positions as a Franchise Consultant, and Director of Business Development. Although distinctly unique as compared to a corporate restaurant management environment, I found this consulting work within the convenience/grocery foodservice sector to be especially gratifying. The satisfaction that comes from helping small business owners improve their lives and the lives of their employees through success in foodservice is extremely rewarding, and a key source of motivation for me personally.
Q: What brought you to PFSbrands?
When I came across PFSbrands back in 2009, I was looking for a high-growth company with advancement potential and a strong culture. Considering we had less than 100 branded locations when I began, and are set to surpass 1,000 this year, I’d say we hit that growth variable in spades.
The extremely high standards and ownership thinking mentality at PFSbrands isn’t for everyone, but it is something I thrive on and a critical component of our culture. I’m excited that we’ve taken these concepts to the extreme through the recent introduction of our ESOP program.
Q: Tell us about your family a bit?
I’m originally from the St. Louis area, though I’ve lived out of state for jobs previous to PFS. I’m now calling home Columbia, MO, which is quite a bit closer to our corporate office. This allows me to be a more effective liaison between our Field Operations team and our internal support team at the office. In my free time, I enjoy spending with family (mom, dad, two older brothers, one nephew), following local sports teams, and studying history and politics/political philosophy.
Q: What’s a normal day in the life of Dave?
I try to spend as much time in the field as I can; however, it’s important to weigh the travel costs and balance my time effectively. Planning and organization are critical in my position, but I also appreciate the fact that the nature of our business presents unique challenges every day. Ultimately, I remain committed to practicing “servant leadership”; putting the needs of my team first and providing them with the coaching, tools, and resources needed to achieve personal and professional success in their roles.
Q: Any tips to pass along to foodservice operators or business leaders reading this?
Earlier in my career as a single-unit restaurant manager, I recall working extremely hard to consistently achieve the highest store profitability within my division.
While I was able to develop a strong track record of achieving that goal, I recall a meeting with my district manager in which he posed the question, “…but what happens when you go on vacation?”. His point being, clearly I was 100% focused on attaining those metrics, but was my team part of that goal? Could they operate as a unit without me, if needed? This simple question helped to underscore the fact that as leaders, we should be measuring our success based upon how our teams perform in our absence. In doing so, we empower our people and further accelerate their development.
From the standpoint of operational execution, focus on the basics and make sure those are handled first. People want fresh, high-quality food, friendly service, cleanliness, and a great value for their money. These are the types of conversations we regularly have with our retail partners. We help you build a great menu that will give you excellent margins and you have access to the highest quality products, support, and marketing resources in the industry; but how is the appearance of your hot case? Does your staff smile and offer a sample to your customers? It seems simple, but the basics go a very long way; be cautious not to develop “blinders” and always view your foodservice operations from the customer’s perspective.
Q: Anything else we didn’t cover you’d like to share?
To add on again to the last question, when hiring anyone in your organization don’t forget the culture test. If you don’t have a feel for your culture enough to know if they would be a fit, then perhaps it’s time to sit down and work on some core values that align with your goals. You won’t achieve long-term success without really asking yourself what you are looking for in employees and what the cultural norms are. For instance, one of our core values is ownership thinking. We want all members of our team to employ a mindset and make decisions as if the business belongs to them; resulting in better long-term choices and results.
Of course, this doesn’t happen overnight, but you definitely won’t get anywhere without devoting time to these topics and communicating them with your staff. It is easy to say you don’t have time or that it isn’t important, but think about your experience in several c-stores; was there a perceived culture you witnessed as a customer? I know I have. Our team of Business Advisors does so much more than menu building and staff training for our branded locations.
If you are in foodservice currently (or desire to be in the future) and wanting a true partner to help you grow sales and profitability for your location(s), contact us; and let’s start a conversation.