26 Mar Building a Brand, Guest by Guest
By: Mike Aguirre, General Manager, Flix Brewhouse Albuquerque
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When I touched down in Austin-Bergstrom airport for my final round of interviews, I did not know what to expect. To be quite honest, I’d never even experienced a dine-in cinema, with no such venues to be found in the Albuquerque area. As a restaurant manager my whole career, the theater business was akin to a foreign language. Matthew Baizer, a familiar face with whom I had met several times before, greeted me on arrival. He set the tone for what was to come on the car ride to Flix’s corporate offices. The time I spent meeting with the leaders of Flix Brewhouse were about selling myself to the Flix brand and at the same time allowing the brand to sell itself to me. I spent real, quality, one-on-one time with most of the senior leadership and it was immediately clear that they were all truly passionate about Flix and about building the brand and the company. All of the great people that I met that day clearly knew what they wanted out of this company in its growth, its new, developing culture and most important to me, its people. Passion for people, both guests and team members, is what ultimately sold me on knowing I would be making the right change joining the Flix team.
When my onboarding in Round Rock started, I was introduced to Mark McLaughlin and the Flix 2.0 program, which was created to fundamentally change the way the Flix service model operates. This would become a key component in the new unit opening I would be soon leading in Albuquerque. Flix 2.0 is designed to build a direction for our teams while providing efficiencies that lead to guest satisfaction, increases in attendance and revenue. Championing this change and leading my education was Scott Hubener, my training general manager. Scott had done tremendous work being the first to embrace the 2.0 culture, which made a measurable impact on the Flix flagship in Round Rock. Having the same recent restaurant background as I, Scott was able to quickly facilitate my transition to the dine-in culture. His team also played a huge role in the training and development of my entire management team in preparation for the significant challenge that lie ahead. Upon the completion of our training program, I had gained great confidence in the direction needed to take to start this new unit off on the right foot.
Returning to Albuquerque, I could feel the buzz around the city in anticipation of what was soon to come. It was this same buzz that helped get us over one thousand employment applications ahead of the start of training. With the return of my management team from their training and an action plan in place, we began the important business of hiring the service and heart of house team that would care for our guests. We selected candidates who not only wanted to perform their jobs to the highest level, but who also had a Guests First mentality and a love for great movies, food, and beer. Our building began to take shape and the impending opening was looming. The arrival of Senior Manager of Learning and Development, Lindsey Moon-Lenggenhager and her training team of Flix’s best from the existing three stores were instrumental in the most critical piece of this opening, setting the foundation of service with our newly on boarded team. What that team was able to accomplish in a pressure-filled, time constrained environment was nothing short of amazing. Flix 2.0 would soon be indoctrinated into my entire team and forthcoming results would show just how effective it would be. Through the hard work of hourly team members and dedication of my entire management team we were able to absolutely wow our guests with great service, great beer crafted on premises by our brewer Will Moorman, and great food prepared under the watchful eye of our detail-oriented kitchen manager Chad White. We were able to create a genuinely guest-first movie-going experience. The team’s energy in the building and the enthusiastic response from our guests was truly rewarding. That first evening of guest service began a string of 12 consecutive 5-star Yelp reviews! This would continue with the team leading the way in total guest satisfaction in Yelp, Facebook, and Google reviews. We were also able to establish our brewed-beer culture in a beer-centric city and succeed in creating a vibrant taproom environment in our lobby, all of which has led to steady sales growth on a week-by-week basis.
I love my job and have genuine fun doing it. The outlook for Flix is strong. We have future leaders who are learning and growing and continuing to build our culture within our four walls and they will all soon be assuming greater positions of responsibility within this growing company and evolving brand. We have team members who set the standard for what dine-in cinema should be and then there are legions of raving fans, who continue to increase daily. Our Flix fans here in Albuquerque in turn are creating a strong interest in the Flix brand in other cities that crave America’s Cinema Brewery. I am so excited to continue to see the growth of this company and its people and know that we will be leading the way in our industry.