Many of us work in and around an amazing food mecca, such as Chicago, New York City or San Francisco. Today, even smaller cities have great food hubs, too. Most of the amazing eateries in these areas are within walking distance of the office, yet there is never enough time to actually enjoy dining out during a lunch break. Even if given the luxury of an hour for lunch, it can still be difficult to try new restaurants or get a good meal in any city during that typical “lunch hour.” Most of us walk by these restaurants, glance inside and then settle for a quick salad or to-go sandwich.
Phil LaColla, founder and CEO of Alocito, felt the same way when he was working in downtown Chicago. Bored with the same sandwich option every day, Phil wanted to upgrade his 30-minute lunch experience. He dreamed about getting out of the office and dining at one of the many local restaurants that serves delicious food. Like many other professionals in the city, he didn’t have enough time to wait for a table, order his food, eat the meal, and then wait again to pay.
Drawing on his years of experience in the restaurant industry in various roles from server to cook, Phil in 2015 came up with the idea of an online dining service that removes the wait times in restaurants. Going back to his hometown roots, he launched Alocito (Latin for “feed quickly”) in the Detroit metro area. The web-based food ordering and reservation service speeds up the dining experience by providing customers with the ability to pre-pay and pre-order meals at restaurants, drastically cutting down the time it takes to eat out.
Starting Alocito in the Detroit metro area is proving to be a smart move. Earlier this year, Detroit’s restaurant scene was singled out as the most “surprising” food destination in North America by National Geographic magazine, which stated "the city better known as a center for automakers and manufacturing is revving its culinary motors."
While the business is taking off in Detroit, Phil is looking ahead.
“I have always surrounded myself with a strong network of mentors and advisors in both business and life,” said Phil. “Creating an advisory board with deep restaurant and technology experience seemed like the next step to help grow my business. To speed the process for finding interested and qualified candidates, I turned to The ExecRanks to start the search.”
The ExecRanks team worked with Phil to determine the criteria for his advisory board. Finding executives with strong ties to the restaurant industry and/or a deep understanding of startups was the top priority. Specifically, he wanted candidates who could advise on technology, sales and training, operations and industry networking. Phil emphasized that having board advisors with industry connections is extremely important for building strategic business alliances.
Within days of joining The ExecRanks, Phil started receiving applications from leading executives around the country. The ExecRanks' team scheduled Phil to participate in a series of interviews — think “speed dating” for executives — and connected Phil with the standout candidates who were interested in Alocito.
Within a couple months, Phil connected with three candidates he considered a good fit and made them offers to join his advisory board. A week later, The ExecRanks team set up an interview with one more candidate and Phil landed his fourth. A few months later, he decided he needed additional expertise and found three well-established executives in the restaurant industry to round out the advisory board.
Alocito’s advisory board is quite impressive. More than half of his board advisors are senior executives with experience at some of the most recognized food and beverage brands on the planet including Dunkin Donuts, Buffalo Wild Wings, Godiva, Giordano’s Famous Stuffed Pizza, Johnny Rockets, and TGI Fridays. In addition, he hired an accomplished technology executive from global information solutions powerhouse Equifax to round out the board. Garnering advice from executives with these legendary backgrounds is like gold for a young company like Alocito.
“Many thanks to The ExecRanks for helping me find this distinguished group of board advisors,” said Phil. “I would not have come across these individuals using my traditional, professional network. I am already seeing how the knowledge value that each person brings to the table is positively impacting the company’s direction and growth.”
Several members of Alocito’s advisory board share their reasons why they wanted to join an advisory board.
Peter Hegele has been on Alocito’s advisory board for over a year. Peter is chief operating officer and vice president of Blackfinn Ameripub and COO of Vida Cantina, as well as former vice president of operations and franchise relations for Buffalo Wild Wings. Peter joined The ExecRanks to share his experience as a board member and to spark his intellectual curiosity beyond his everyday business responsibilities.
“It's gratifying to work with an early stage company, like Alocito, where my input on how to market and brand a young company can lead to positive results for the business,” said Peter. “I have enjoyed bullet-proofing new product ideas and making intros to potential business partners to help Alocito expand into other metro markets.”
Also on the advisory board for Alocito is Jim Kensinger, vice president of Johnny Rockets. As vice president of operations and training at Johnny Rockets, Jim is helping overhaul the brand to transform the iconic nostalgic diner to a modern restaurant of the future. The company currently is testing self-ordering kiosks powered by iPads, designed to speed up service for diners waiting for tables or looking for takeout.
Jim joined The ExecRanks to connect with companies at the board level, and he had several goals in mind. Jim wanted to work with businesses that provide solutions that apply practical experience and sell products that are simple to use. Alocito’s on-demand dining experience is a service solution that he could see using “first-hand,” and Jim believes he can employ his contacts and franchise expertise to help Alocito establish itself in other markets.
“The ExecRanks connected me with my first board position, and it's a great fit,” said Jim. “Working with Phil LaColla and the advisory board gives me the forum to apply 35 years of restaurant experience to a business that is simplifying and enhancing the dining experience for restaurant patrons. The biggest thrill will be seeing Alocito grow into a huge success, and know that I contributed to the efforts.”
Gangadhar Kotte is another board advisor for Alocito, and brings a different perspective to the table: hands-on engineering and technology operations expertise. Gangadhar oversees software development, IT and data center functions, quality assurance and support operations as vice president of technology for Equifax, a global information solutions company. Gangadhar plays a critical role on Alocito’s advisory board with his abilities to provide an analytical point of view into a business’ technology needs and strategies for execution.
“It is great to see a young startup with a good idea, and rewarding to advise on the execution path that will lead the company to success,” Gangadhar said. “Participating on this particular board is a great opportunity for me broaden the scope of what I do and apply my deep-breadth of technology knowledge to Alocito’s core business technology needs.”
Starting a business is extremely hard work, and even the most capable and passionate CEOs appreciate receiving trusted advice from their advisory board. When used effectively, an advisory board can be an incredible asset to moving the company forward. Board members can have a huge impact on both the CEO and the company, and in this case, Alocito is in great hands with its exceptional board of advisors.
Whether you're a startup, non-profit, or a global coporation, executive advisors play a critical role in helping with business challenges, exploring opportunities, and providing advice on projects or key decisions. The ExecRanks makes it incredibly easy to find, hire, and use advisors. Let us help you discover the power of advisory work.
SVP, Operations & Development, Dunkin’ Donuts U.S.
Rick Colón joined Dunkin’ Donuts following a successful career with McDonald’s that spanned nearly 40 years. As the former president of the South Zone of McDonald’s USA, he was responsible for 4,000 restaurants, which generated more than $11 billion in annual revenue under his leadership.
To read a case study about Rick Colón’s experience using The ExecRanks, click here.
President and COO, TGI Fridays
Jerry Comstock oversees all operational aspects of U.S. corporate and franchise businesses for TGI Fridays. Comstock joined TGI Fridays following his role as CEO of Strategic Restaurants Corporation where made a career maximizing profits for restaurants, emphasizing a commitment to operational excellence, and building a performance-driven culture.
Chief Technology Officer, Godiva Chocolatier
With 15 years of IT experience in the restaurant industry, Phil Crawford is responsible for leading Godiva’s technology and digital innovation efforts. He also served as Shake Shack’s Head of Technology where he implemented the company’s core technology infrastructure. He also held senior technology roles at My Fit Foods and Yard House Restaurants.
Michael Dean, Jr
COO, Giordano’s Famous Stuffed Pizza
Michael Dean is COO for Girodano’s Famous Stuffed Pizza and has held executive positions at Olive Garden and Red Lobster. Dean has extensive experience in the restaurant franchise market where he has grown sales in access of $350M while managing over 8,000 employees. He has a strong background in staffing, quality control, service execution, and developing next level leaders.
Partner, Bubba’s 33 and former SVP at Buffalo Wild Wings
Peter is a partner at Bubba’s 33 and former COO and VP of Landmark Leisure Group, as well as former VP of Operations and Franchise Relations for Buffalo Wild Wings. He has a demonstrated background in franchising, operations, and strategic planning in restaurant, catering and nightclubs.
Vice President of Operations Services and Training, Johnny Rockets
Jim Kensinger is an accomplished executive with more than 35 years experience in franchising, training and development, strategic planning, and facilities operations. At Johnny Rockets, Kensinger is responsible for developing systems and processes intended to improve communication, efficiency, and profitability of restaurants. Prior to this, Kensinger led a successful career with Catalina Restaurant Group that spanned nearly 30 years.
Vice President of Technology, Equifax
With more than 20 years of experience in technology, IT and engineering, Gangadhar Kotte is responsible for overseeing Equifax’s software development, quality assurance, IT and data center functions, and support operations in the U.S, India and Argentina. Kotte has also held senior technology roles at Everyone Counts, Inc, Equilar, and Intuit.