There are no shortcuts in business, especially if you want to be successful, local restaurateurs told Georgian Court University students at a recent panel discussion, hosted by the GCU School of Business and Digital Media.
“The common denominator of opening a business is hard work and perseverance,” said business owner Rasheed Simmons, a panelist for “Remaining Competitive in Today’s Marketplace.” Mr. Simmons of Simply Southern Cuisine was accompanied by fellow Monmouth and Ocean county restaurant founders and owners Matt Catania and John Helm of Jersey Mike’s, Angel Hatch of Cornerstone Kitchen and Tap, and Ram Hegde of Dunkin‘ Donuts. The panel was a part of the annual international observance of Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW). This international initiative celebrates today’s creative thinkers and entrepreneurs.
“It was awesome to see the energy between panelists—sometimes, it was as if this was a professional development activity for them,” said Jennifer Edmonds, Ph.D., dean of the GCU School of Business and Digital Media.
“And for students,” she said, “whether they were interested in the restaurant business or not, the panelists took everyone on a journey discussing their practices in innovation, time management, team building, humility and gratitude. It was quite engaging for everyone that attended.”
Business Owners Share Recipes for Success
Matt Catania and John Helm have been business partners since 2011, and their partnership has grown to 21 Jersey Mike’s locations—they opened their most recent site just a few weeks ago. When asked how they decide whom to employ, the Jersey Mike’s franchisees said they look for employees who reflect the five core values of their company. Employees should value integrity, teamwork, excellence, relationship-driven work, and giving back to the community. Mr. Catania and Mr. Helm expressed how they train their employees so that one day they can become a manager or even open their own shop.
Ms. Hatch, a former GCU business student, is the managing partner of Cornerstone Kitchen and Tap in nearby Jackson. Being a small business owner, she talked about how a creative menu is crucial to her business. “I change my menu four times a year based on the season. Every weekend, there are new specials, which I base off of demographics and target customers.”
Ram Hegde and his family currently own and operate 13 Dunkin’ Donuts and six Baskin-Robbins locations. Specifically, he’s responsible for the day-to-day operations of the business, including managing approximately 200 employees and overseeing a central kitchen producing over 60,000 doughnuts per week.
Mr. Hegde of Dunkin’ Donuts was asked to give business advice to the crowd. He replied, “Whatever job you walk into, don’t walk into it like you know everything. There is always something to learn.” Looking back, he said he owes a lot to his father for his knowledge, experience, and patience in teaching him and his brother the “in’s and out’s” of the business.
Mr. Simmons, also a former NFL star, opened his restaurant with his mother Rita Simmons in 2015 and offered additional wisdom. “Don’t be afraid to fail,” he said. “Put your heart and soul into your business. You will make mistakes and have problems. When you are creating your own map, you will run off the parkway.”
Story contributed by GCU digital communication major Taylor O’Keefe ’21. To view more photos from the event, visit our Global Entrepreneurship Week photo album. Photos by GCU psychology major Joshua Tinto ’20.