Larry DeVries is a hands-on restaurant operator who has experienced every level of operational responsibility staring as a line cook, server and pizza delivery driver while a student at the University of Missouri Columbia. He also functioned as a General Manager, Area, District, and Regional Manager with responsibility for over 300 restaurants. He has been a Chief Operating Officer, a franchise owner, and a franchisor. Currently, Larry consults to the restaurant industry in start-up, turn-around, and debt recovery, including financial work-outs and bankruptcies.
Larry began his career at Pizza Hut where he rose quickly “through the ranks,” establishing himself as one of the best operators in the company. He could reliably deliver guest satisfaction, top-line growth, and profitability. His responsibilities grew to include financial controls, field marketing, and all aspects of HR management. Larry was highly instrumental in the development of Pizza Hut Delivery, where he leveraged a single phone number to create the highest volume delivery market in the system in the early 1990’s.
Larry also learned about start-ups in a very hands-on manner when he took responsibility for real estate acquisition, construction, recruiting, training, opening and operating 18 Boston Market units in just 18 months. Larry accomplished this by surrounding himself with highly energetic, competent and driven people. Constantly surrounding himself with knowledgeable, technically competent, and team-oriented people is the recipe that makes Larry into one of the premier operators in the restaurant industry.
Caribou Coffee proved to be both turnaround and growth. Larry installed systems for cash handling, staffing, labor control, and personnel management that enabled profitability in the units that originally penetrated the Minneapolis market. This profitability enabled subsequent openings in Detroit, Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, and Charlotte. Over the next four years, Caribou grew to over 200 units and successfully refinanced the business, providing a profitable exit strategy for the founders.
As his career progressed, Larry continuously added to his skill sets and abilities, all from an experience-based, hands-on perspective. He assisted with multiple work-outs of underperforming debt, and recovered over 60% of his lender’s value at a time when other lenders experienced sub-20% recoveries. He was the COO of a national casual dining brand, significantly improving profitability in his two years in that role. As a franchisee, Larry acquired 86 units of a national pizza chain. His leadership vastly improved unit performance, resulting in a successful and profitable sale, two years later.
More recently, Larry functioned in a consulting role, developing cost control programs for medium sized operators, including a cloud-based COGS control system for a 70-unit casual dining business, and an implementation of a well-known and regarded scheduling software package in a 150-unit casual dining operation. He also provides operational and financial analysis for several potential acquisitions, and he has advised numerous startups.
Larry regards himself as an operator, but he has proven capabilities well beyond those of a traditional operator. Despite his broadened perspectives, though, he is an operator who understands that nothing is possible without the right people, properly selected, led, motivated, and rewarded.