“It’s like going to school. You have to figure out what you want to do and what you think is going to be relevant in five, 10 or 20 years from now,” Miller explains. The teams took trips to their respective markets and studied the landscape, trying to glean inspiration from the city and their surrounding competition.
In January, at an executive retreat, they will present their ideas to Cameron Mitchell executives, who will have 100 points to score the concepts based on the development trip, teamwork, menu, restaurant design, ROI, viability of concept, construction plan and budget, logo, name and marketing, sales modeling, and overall presentation.
Regardless of what happens, Miller plans to extend the experience to other outlets of the organization.
“If it goes as well as I think it will, I will have all three teams present their ideas to our general manager and executive chefs at their leadership conference,” Miller says. “It will show them just how powerful it is when you take down the walls and lead by vision, not by telling people what to do, but by sharing with them, and then allowing them to take that vision and run with it. They can see how powerful that message can be and how powerful people’s thoughts can be.”
Miller isn’t ruling out the possibility that the pop-up could become permanent, either. “If it’s something that we would want to do then we would do it, absolutely, and figure out a way to make it right for everybody,” he says.
But the overarching point of this exercise is likely to produce the real lasting impact. A couple of years ago, Mitchell and Miller took around 20 millennial managers to the National Restaurant Show in Chicago. They spent two days walking the floor, meeting with vendors, and taking in different educational sessions. Miller says it opened the employees’ eyes to how vast and diverse this industry is, and how much opportunity is available if you just reach for it.
“Trust me, I told [the millennial teams], ‘I guarantee we learn more from this than you will,’” Miller says. “The ability to challenge these young managers and give them the forum to think freely and have a voice, and be able to put their own creative thoughts forward is really going to be able to speak ways for everybody.”
There are around 3,000 employees at Cameron Mitchell, including 258 managers. Miller expects this event to be the start of an annual event, although he’s not sure where it will take place or how the details will evolve. Despite the logistics, he feels this is something the company needs to invest in to remain current and ensure longevity.
“That’s how this company was built,” he says. “It’s a collaborative effort. It’s a team effort. We need to empower and give all members of our team a voice in order to accomplish our goals and keep our company relevant for another 23 years—another 40 years. The only way you’re going to do that is by empowering our associates to feel like they’re part of an environment where they have that voice, and we’re more than willing to listen.”