BACKED by more than 13 years of experience at Sizzler, Don Crilly knows a thing or two about managing a team.

Restaurant chain owner Collins Foods Limited (ASX:CKF) awarded the Sizzler veteran with Market Manager of the Year as a result.

Crilly's (pictured centre) region of south-east Queensland, Rockhampton and Townsville outshone its counterparts nationally, based on store KPIs, operations evaluations, guest satisfaction and staff retention and training.

Starting as a casual at Sizzler Bundaberg in 2002, Crilly now oversees nine Sizzler restaurants and 42 store managers who are responsible for more than 450 staff members.

The Brisbane local shares what he has learnt working in a different Sizzler restaurant in Queensland each day, and the response after Collins Foods announced plans to close several restaurants in June.


What are three leadership qualities you identify with and how have they contributed to your success?

Communication, commitment and a positive attitude. As a market manager overseeing nine Sizzler restaurants across Queensland, communication is key in enabling and empowering people to perform their roles to the best of their ability. I relate my vision to the team, so that we are all working towards the same goal. Leading with a high level of commitment resonates with staff and helps them stay focused on what is important to our guests, the restaurant and the Sizzler brand.


What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced in the industry?

The increasing popularity of the 'fast casual' restaurant sector is a challenge.  Brands are having to evolve into a modern concept while remaining connected to the 'roots' of their business. At Sizzler, we recognise that we need to remain relevant to the modern Australia family so we've introduced a new fresh and contemporary design for many of our restaurants. After 30 years in the industry, Sizzler has a significant number of loyal customers who continue to support us as we move with change and engage the next generation of Sizzler customers.


What do you regard as a highlight of your career?

I had the opportunity to spend three and a half years in the West Australian market at a time when unemployment was at record lows, population was increasing and disposable income was higher than the rest of the country - all largely impacted by the mining boom at the time. Through innovative recruitment techniques we were able to attract skilled managers and staff when other businesses in the industry were struggling. The combination of dedicated staff and management and control procedures led to double-digit growth and a very prosperous year for the market.


What initiatives have you introduced to attract patrons and maintain team morale, amid the prospect of store closures?

We regularly review the experience our customers have when they come to our restaurants. Several restaurants across Australia have undergone significant remodels to introduce a modern contemporary look for Sizzler. The overall restaurant experience has also been refreshed with a really strong focus on hospitality. The response to the refreshed restaurants has been very encouraging.

Our staff and restaurant managers are committed to providing customers with a memorable dining experience. We provide regular training and management development as well as encourage career progression. Staff retention is high, which is an indication of the team morale within our restaurants. Some of our staff have been with Sizzler for over 20 years.


What opportunities do you see in the future of Sizzler?

Connecting with people through great experiences and great food. Engaging with the new era of Sizzler fans while maintaining our core value as Australia's favourite family restaurant. Exploring new ways in which we can offer food and hospitality to have guests leaving satisfied, willing to return and recommend their experience to family and friends.


What do you love most about Brisbane?

Options! It really is a lifestyle choice when you decide to live in Brisbane and we are spoilt with how we can spend our time, with all codes of sport covered, vibrant dining precincts and a variety of entertainment options. Our weather permits so many outdoor activities and with islands such as Moreton and Stradbroke at our doorstep we really are living in a great city.


Image: Collins Foods Limited CEO Graham Maxwell, Don Crilly and Sizzler director of marketing Chris Searles at the Collins Foods Limited Gala Awards Dinner

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