New at the top: Bob Barry’s recipe for success started in the kitchen
By Interview with Vanessa Small,
I was cooking breakfast for myself at the age of five.
The kitchen always infatuated me. I loved to cook and grill.
While in high school, I worked in a hotel in upstate New York each summer doing various tasks.
In college, I worked as a waiter at the Marriott .
The food and beverage director there took me under his wing. In my junior year, he helped me move from being a waiter to being a beverage controller, which transformed me from the back of the house to the front of the house. I was 20 years old and responsible for tasks like making sure all the liquor, beer and wine were accounted for and that the costs were in line. That’s what got me into the management side.
It was then I knew this was the career for me.
I loved how the restaurant industry represented a fast-paced environment that brought new challenges everyday.
One of the things that got me to where I am is the formal training that I received at a young age to learn the basics and management in general.
My career didn’t really pole-vault until I got to W.R. Grace.
I had the opportunity to work for Peter Grace III, who was the son of the chairman of the board. At the time, W.R. Grace was a $7 billion company with 1,200 restaurants in the portfolio.
He gave me a lot of responsibility at a young age. I was traveling a lot and met some great folks.
In 1990, I worked for W.R. Grace’s culinary division, which was a food manufacturing facility for restaurant divisions. I ran a division that leased food beverage facilities in various hotels. We ran and operated the restaurant and room service using this process.
One of my mentors taught me to make sure I had a plan everyday. Don’t let the day become your plan. Make sure you’re giving people tasks and holding them accountable. Make sure every day you’re focusing on results.
Then I eventually became chief operating officer of Ms. Desserts in Baltimore, a commercial bakery. We were manufacturing products not only for our cookie stores but also products for the restaurant industry, in places like Ruby Tuesday.
We took that business from $5.5 million to $20 million in 24 months. My greatest contribution was building the right team, adding the right infrastructure and utilizing my contacts in the industry to help us expand. Because of my past relationships, I was able to pick up the phone and see whether our products could fit into their menu, thus building our revenue stream.
I eventually started my own food manufacturing company that was representing a lot of chain restaurants. I did that for three years.
A friend introduced me to the owners of the Greene Turtle. We did a business plan for them and helped bring in some capital.
I thought the brand was strong. I knew there was a lot of opportunity to put some training programs and procedures to launch the company at a quick pace. Even in really trying times, we were still able to go from 11 units to 33.
It’ll be tougher to get to 50 or 100. With people getting more conservative in their investments it could be a lofty goal but it isn’t. I’m excited to help make that happen.
-Interview with Vanessa Small
Bob Barry Position: President and chief executive of The Greene Turtle Franchise Corp., a restaurant company based in Edgewater, Md. Career highlights: Chief operating officer, The Greene Turtle Franchise; chief executive, BMCKJ; chief executive, Bakery Resources Group-Ms. Desserts; chief operating officer, The Great Cookie; director of marketing, culinary division, W.R. Grace & Co.; general manager, director of hotel division, W.R. Grace & Co/American Café division. Age: 51 Education: BS, Hospitality Administration/Management, Florida International University. Personal: Lives in Fulton with wife Margaret and three children, Courtney, Kara and Jack.