Mary Brown's Inc. (MBI) - CEO & Owner, Gregory F. Roberts

Date: JUN 4th, 2014

Topic: Interview with a CEO

Greg acquired Mary Brown's Inc. in February 2007 and is the company's sole shareholder, Chairman and CEO. Greg’s primary responsibility is the development of the overall strategy of Mary Brown's Inc. He is Chairman and President of P.I. Enterprises Group, a company with holdings in food and retail. Other related business activities include his role as a Governor with Atlantic Provinces Economic Counsel as well as director of several private and public companies. In 2002 he was awarded the BDC's Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for P.I. Enterprises Group, in 2008 he was honoured as the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year for the Atlantic region services, and in 2010 he received Canada's Top 40 Under 40 Award. Greg is a Chartered Accountant and CPA. In 2007 he won Chartered Accountants Early Achievement Award.

He is also a graduate of Memorial University of Newfoundland's Bachelor of Commerce (Finance) program and has attended the Executive Studies Program at Harvard Business School.

Mary Brown’s Famous Chicken & Taters! is a chain of over 100 Franchise and Corporately Owned Quick Serve Chicken Restaurants (QSR) in Canada (retail). Under the MBI banner are also Mary’s Diner, which are diner style Fast-Casual Restaurants. Recently, MBI has expanded Internationally to Istanbul with Mary’s Famous Chicken & Taters! (International Mary Brown’s Restaurants).

Gregory F. Roberts is the CEO/Owner of Mary Brown’s Inc. (MBI) and is also the founder and sole owner of PI Enterprises Group, which started in 1998 with just 4 employees in rural Newfoundland. Greg was born and raised on Triton Island, located off the northeast coast of Newfoundland.

Greg began his business career with a small gas station in rural Newfoundland that he still owns today. The PI Enterprises Group includes six companies involved in a diverse range of industries including food services, retail, technology and Health Care.

It was Greg’s vision and accumulation of three years of hard work that drove him to the acquisition of Mary Brown’s Famous Chicken & Taters in 2007, when he beat out a number of industry heavyweights to purchase the chain. This business is the largest homegrown chain of Quick Serve Chicken Restaurants in Canada.

Mary Brown’s represents a great opportunity for Franchisees. The brand has had 11 consecutive years of Same Store Sales Growth and has almost tripled in sales since he purchased it. These results are unrivalled in the quick-serve industry. With Greg’s inspiration, leadership and vision, Mary Brown’s goal is to have 200 stores within the next 5 years.

It was Greg’s determination and sheer drive that got him started – in fact he used credit cards, personal loans and credit from suppliers to get this business started. Today the PI Enterprises Group is a multi-national corporation employing over 2,000 people. Greg is a – he knows what life is like in the trenches, in fact he knows almost first hand what every position is like in the company.

Greg is a graduate of Memorial University of Newfoundland’s Bachelor of Commerce program and is a Chartered Accountant. He has been a member of the Discipline Committee, Institute of Chartered Accountants of Newfoundland for the last six years. He comes from a modest background and relates to people from all walks of life. In 1998 he decided he no longer wanted to work as an Accountant and left the firm. He started a small business in rural Newfoundland with 4 staff members.

Greg’s father was one of the most influential figures in his life – he was Greg’s most valued mentor. His example made Greg want to go into business. But he knew he had to learn more in order to get where I wanted to be.

The depths of Greg’s entrepreneurial spirit came from his ongoing education (bachelor of commerce form Memorial University of Newfoundland) and his professors at university. The firm Greg articled with when he did his C.A. was also tremendously influential, as were other senior business leaders across Canada.

The Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) market is highly competitive. “For us,” says Greg, “its not just about only competing with the other Chicken restaurants, it’s about gaining share of stomach, meaning that every time a decision is made to dine out, we need to be part of that consideration set and factor into their plan”. Thousands of dining out decisions are made every day in every neighbourhood. This is where the Franchisee can become highly influential.

Greg’s ideal franchisee is one that believes in running the Business “the right way” from the start. From being engaged and motived throughout the first two weeks of training, to complying to all systems and procedures, and to placing Food Quality and Customer Service top of their list and well as supporting all marketing and advertising programs at the store level.

“It’s easier said than done”, says Roberts. “Retail demands long hours and a 7 days a week commitment”. He understands that sharing this responsibility with a manager is often needed. Greg suggests that selecting the right manager and team to represent the Brand in the absence of the Franchisee can make or break how the store functions and how a store interacts with the community. Greg believes that getting involved in the community, doing local store marketing, have having willingness to try new things and at the same time running a good store is essential to success. If all of the above is in place, then the path towards increased sales becomes achievable.

Greg references some of the greatest challenges in his career, and shares a more recent one, which involves opening international stores within emerging markets. The step into uncharted waters with the potential of never seeing the returns, has and will have an enormous impact on his career and future business planning. Greg draws a parallel to how Mary Brown’s locations are selected. Location, traffic, parking and other key considerations are all part of the mix. The Franchising & Construction team at Mary Brown’s assists with all of the above, but the final commitment rest on the shoulders of the Franchisee, so selection of the right person is also critical.

Greg has learned that as the business expands quickly, so too should resources, but sometimes that pace is not in sync. Hiring talent locally or internationally to bridge the gap is often a great investment. It allows the team to identify the right resources (Human, technology etc.) that are the right fit long term. The same applies to recruiting of Franchisees and how they are selected. It is likely the most critical factor of the Brand’s success and future growth.

Be part of our growth, join Mary Brown’s.