The restaurateur

In some ways there really isn’t anything new under the sun—people want value for their money, and they want to be treated well, above the level reserved for the drive-by meals.

One of the Freddy's franchises owned by John Lohnes ’77
One of the Freddy’s franchises owned by John Lohnes ’77

It becomes a culture of doing, if we make sure that there are no hiccups in service, employee attitudes, quality of food, size of portions. If all of those things meet or exceed expectations, then we have provided that value.

There has been a movement away from sit-down restaurants. People didn’t have the disposable income after 2008, and those who might have it still didn’t want to take the time. But people wanted more for their money than the standard fast-food fare.

Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers, like Chipotle and other similar “better burger” concepts, took the opportunity to establish the “fast-casual” niche and exploit that to the detriment of both the fast-food and sit-down folks.

One way Freddy’s has done that is by getting higher quality beef—ours is 85 percent lean, for example—and by ensuring the cleanliness of our facilities, the hands-on approach of our management and general staff in talking with our guests, and making food to order. We have higher quality custard (slow pasteurization techniques, smaller batches made more frequently), and no fries are more than five minutes old. We also use only potatoes that are sliced and quick frozen so that the sugars in the food are within a small tolerance range. Just like wine, there is a best sugar content that allows for uniform consistency and taste.

We try to hire the best available people and train them to the philosophy of quality. We want them to be long-term associates, and as they enter management positions, they profit as the restaurants profit. We pay them appropriately, and give bonuses for profit, longevity, and quality (as defined by both my organization and the evaluations that go on two to three times a quarter by the corporate offices, all unannounced).

My day job as a physician still takes precedence to my foodie fun. This is a sideline for me that will, over time, become my new life, once I retire. That, however, isn’t scheduled for anytime soon. We continue to add two to three restaurants each year in the Phoenix market and will do so for the foreseeable future.

John Lohnes ’77 is a physician in Wichita, Kansas, and the owner of several Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers franchises in Phoenix.