Although we spend many years creating and developing a life we love, there comes a time when we need to move on and build a new life. After approximately 40 years in the menu board, marketing and display business I have decided it’s time for me to move on. I have been attempting to do this for almost a year, but I just now completed cleaning out and throwing away my last file from that business. There will be no grand retirement party or other special event so I used throwing out my last file as that special event.
When I look back over all those 40 years the thing I’m the most happy about and brings a large smile to my face is all the great friends I have made all over the U.S. and the world. I want to say to all of you (customers, suppliers and partners) thanks for being my friend. I will miss you.
I still enjoy walking into some of my many customers’ establishments and seeing the products still being used that I either developed or helped develop. As you can imagine I can tell you many stories about my career but I have decided to tell you about the event that made it easy for me to get out of the business and go on to something new, plus some information leading up to the event.
I developed the first drive-thru system for the QSR market and the product that was the most difficult and I spent the most time developing was the outdoor digital menu board. I started working on that way before anyone else because I needed a color outdoor LCD screen for the order confirmation product I developed, also for the drive-thru. At that time only the military was using outdoor color screens and they weren’t actually up to outdoor standards.
I developed and installed the first indoor digital menu boards in the restaurant market at several Arby’s restaurants using the old thick indoor TV screens. This product became much more practical when flat panel screens became available and when they switched from plasma to LCD technology. The indoor screens did not have to compete with direct sunlight and outdoor weather extremes.
Most of the major QSR chain top management told me they would never switch to digital menu boards until the outdoor screens became more practical to use and less costly. So, I went to the top management of most of the large QSR’s and asked what would have to be developed before they would switch to outdoor digital boards. They all gave me their honest opinion, and they were all surprisingly close on what it would take in cost and length of life. I took that information to the guy in charge of engineering at Samsung and asked if they could develop it. I worked with Samsung for about 3 months and they developed a great outdoor LCD screen within the required price range and sent me a prototype. I was very excited about that and I had meetings set up with several top QSR chains to show them my prototype and price. Just a day before my first meeting the Samsung engineer called to tell me his top management told him to cancel the project because the market was too small.
I would not give up on the product and did several consulting projects for a couple years helping other suppliers develop an outdoor digital menu board. Several, in addition to the companies I was working with, developed a satisfactory product a couple years after Samsung did. I also discovered that much of the high cost of digital menu boards was because of the many markups involved between the manufacturers and the end users. There were 3 and sometimes 4 markups in the process. That’s why I set up my alliance, START, which eliminated most of these markups.
Then my last major project came along from Burger King. I had a long and close relationship with them and was their only supplier of menu boards for many years. I had been working with them on switching to digital boards for years and had installed many prototypes and done lots of testing. However, when my testing was done Burger King called in just about every company in the business to test their boards. After several years they asked 5 of these companies to set up prototypes in the parking lot at the Burger King headquarters in Miami. They said their franchise committee and management would look at them and decide who they would use to roll out digital menu boards to all their system.
I had switched to a company named GDS for outdoor digital menu boards because they had the best overall product at the best overall cost. I also spoke to some of the management at RBI (Burger Kings parent company) and they assured me the decision on who to use was totally up to Burger King.
After about a week I received a call from Burger King telling me we were receiving the order, a total slightly over $400 million. But, we had included a lease package and since RBI had extra funds available they wanted to do the leasing. Because of that they would send the purchase order to RBI and we would receive the order from RBI.
When the order was received by RBI their top management met with the top management at Samsung. After some negotiating RBI added the same package to all of Burger King International, all of Tim Horton’s and Popeye’s which just about tripled the order to $1.2 billion. RBI gave the order directly to Samsung and cut everyone else out.
So, after 10 years of work on the Burger King project getting everything set up I was kicked aside because the order got so large. I would say to any reseller out there or anyone else involved be careful because if the project gets large enough contracts or word given won’t mean anything. You can be cut out also.
The sad thing is, all of the people cut out were necessary and after the franchisees have enough problems they will be added back in at a higher cost.
You can read on this website or geezersgetfit.com what I will be doing and why if you read my blog “How to life a long healthy life”