Wednesday, May 28, 2014

NRA Show Keynote Speaker:
Magic Johnson

Each year at the restaurant show, there are numerous foods, beverages, furniture and equipment booths to see. You really can't see the entire show in one day... it's that big! But, it is really neat to just walk around, take it all in, and see the new inventions or the new ideas that are out there. Who knows, something we come across might make the lives of one department - or the entire restaurant - infinitely easier for the next 10 years! We could talk for hours about all the things we see and new ideas that are instilled into our minds.

The seminars held at the show each year are also very interesting. I wish I personally had more time to attend them. They are extremely informative, and some are very motivational. We may be able to see political leaders, industry leaders or other motivational speakers.

When it was announced this year that Magic Johnson would be this year's keynote speaker for the NRA show, not only did I know my wife would be first in line for the speech, but I myself was very interested in seeing Magic Johnson in person. After all, for us sports's MAGIC JOHNSON!  What exactly he had to do with the National Restaurant Association, I wasn't sure. I definitely was interested from the standpoint of growing up watching Magic play the game of basketball, but also from the standpoint of, "Where is this speech going to go?" (Click here to see a small snippet.)

Turns out that Magic has opened numerous chain businesses in urban areas. He started briefly with movie theaters. The very first one he opened, he said the operations manager told him they had enough hot dogs going into the first weekend to last a month... at least that's what the sales would indicate at the more suburban theaters. Well, on that first night they SOLD OUT of hot dogs! Magic said that in the suburbs, what you do is go out for dinner and then to a movie. And in the African-American communities, it's "dinner at the movies!" He learned right there you have to know your clientele. He eventually was able to open numerous more theaters around the country and bring jobs to urban America. 

That led to bringing Starbucks to the urban communities. Again he mentioned how when they first started, the African-Americans in these communities would not pay $3 for a cup of coffee and then $3 more for a scone! What the heck is a scone he asked? So instead of the traditional Starbucks menu, they brought in the right food..........shortbread, cornbread, biscuits, etc........ and two Starbucks turned into 4 and eventually into 118 that Magic was able to help open. Think about the jobs he helped to create!

And then finally the same scenario played out with bringing in TGIF's to urban communities. Quite a portfolio that Magic had put together! He eventually sold all of his operations after time, became owner of the LA Lakers, then the LA Dodgers and now even the LA Sparks as well. But he still takes everything he learned from his restaurant experiences and carries them with him today.

My guess and my takeaway is that Magic was more the "money" behind these businesses as opposed to the daily operational success.  Not saying he didn't contribute, but regardless, what he is doing is giving communities, teenagers and young adults an opportunity they may not have had otherwise and that's the most important part to his link with the National Restaurant Association. He's providing opportunity, responsibility, hope, and the sense of community. Even if he's not there every day to monitor results and fix flaws, he's left his mark.  And to give back is really all can you ask from someone in his position.

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