Charley Shin develops the people at Charleys Philly Steaks, Bibibop

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Financials are an important part of business, but Shin says you don’t want to make knee-jerk reactions. Instead, determine where you want to go in five years and see if you are trending that way. You should monitor the business’s financials monthly and quarterly, while remembering that financials are a short-term goal compared to your vision and mission.
“If we feel we are lopsided on one or weighted too much on one area, we try to find the right corrected course for that,” he says.

Remain relevant

As much as the culture might need to stay the same, a business still needs to make smart changes to stay relevant to its customers.
Charleys has grown approximately 10 to 20 percent for the past decade, and the chain is slated to open 50 more stores this year. The growth also has been organic; over the past two years, Charleys had same-store sales growth of 18 percent.
Shin believes the jump can be traced back to a 2012 company review that led them to make changes that appealed to millennials. The company is always retooling so that it can continue to grow.
Charleys not only reimaged its restaurants with new graphics and a new name — going from Charley’s Grilled Subs to Charleys Philly Steaks — for more than 400 restaurants at the time, but it also added a smaller sandwich at a lower price.
“It was such a hard change to make, after 20-some years,” Shin says. “But we decided to make the smaller sandwich, which now accounts for 40-some percent of our sandwich sales.”
The company also continues to focus on the quality of the food, which is something that millennials pay attention to. Shin says Charleys is one of the few quick service restaurants that serves U.S. Department of Agriculture choice steak.
Shin pays attention to eating trends to make sure the company is making the right moves.
For example, he read that millennials don’t typically eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at set times. They spend more money on premium drinks and snacking. Therefore, his team is developing products to reflect that.
In order to always be ready to develop new ideas, Shin tries to read one book a week, whether it’s business or something else.
“Every day I read the Bible and I read The Wall Street Journal. Those are the source of my education, and I try to be an avid student of successful concepts,” he says. “I once heard a quote: ‘A wise man learns from his mistakes. A wiser man learns from the mistake of others. But the wisest man of all learns from the success of others.’
“That really stuck with me, and I try to learn from the success of other people, whether it’s a menu, store design or best behaviors of other leaders.”

New direction for new growth

Charleys has grown every year, but more than 90 percent of the restaurants are in shopping malls, airports and military installations. Shin says the company aspires to reach 3,000 stores and in order to do that it needs to go out to shopping centers or freestanding locations. Charleys has had limited success in these locations.
Shin, who has a strong Christian faith background, was praying about this problem when he sensed that the company was supposed to sell rice.
“I knew rice would not go over at the Philly cheesesteak restaurant, and that’s when I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, God wants me to open another restaurant chain,’” he says. “And that’s how we started.”