Bob Sikora | Crain's Phoenix

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Bob Sikora

Background:  

With three Valley locations, Phoenix-based restaurant chain Bobby-Q, formerly known as Bobby McGee’s, has been serving great steaks and real barbecue in metro Phoenix since 2005.

The Mistake:

Starting in 1971, I began growing a chain of 24 Bobby McGee’s across the U.S. and Australia, but I grew too fast. I was trying to get the units up and running because my intention was to go public. 

Along the line, I failed to pick great locations — four out of the 24 weren’t great — which caused me some difficulty. They had poor traffic and were in bad communities.

No one else could run a Bobby McGee’s but me because of the complex concept. On one side was a dining room, with costumed waiters, and the other side was a disco. So, I had two venues under one roof. Before that, you only had discos in L.A. and New York. I packaged it with a supper club, which was very successful.

If you’re in the restaurant business, you’ve got to move slowly and have planned growth.

The Lesson:

If I had it to do over again, I would have taken my time and selected great locations. I also would have owned the land and buildings in most of them, versus leasing. I would have come up with a concept that I could grow slowly, but steadily.

I sold off all of the locations, other than the four in Arizona, and I later sold three of those. I kept one, and 12 years ago I converted it into a steak and barbecue house called Bobby-Q, which is rated as one of the top 100 in the country by Yelp.

I’ve got three of them now. I own the land and the buildings at two of these locations and I have a good lease on the third.

If you’re in the restaurant business, you’ve got to move slowly and have planned growth. When you sign up for a 20-year lease with two five-year options, one needs to look at the future in relation to them. When you’re building something, build something with legs that you’ll be able to grow over time.

Houston’s is an example of the best-run restaurant in the country. Over a 40-year period, they only build one every two-and-a-half years and they’re all company-owned. That's pretty much my model.

Follow Bobby-Q on Twitter at @bobbyqsaz.

Photo courtesy of Bob Sikora

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