Donoghue Refocuses Weigel’s Foodservice

As the Tennessee chain’s foodservice director, Brian Donoghue often succeeds in exceeding expectations.

By David Bennett, Senior Editor

When you drill down to determine what motivates Brian Donoghue to keep improving the menu at Weigel’s, it can be traced several years ago to the time when he met the woman he would  eventually marry.

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“When I was in my 20s, I met my wife. She was a single mom of two and I remember her struggling from paycheck to paycheck, as nearly all of us have done at some point in our lives,” said Donoghue, director of foodservice at the 66-store chain. “What stuck in my mind was her going into the c-store and spending her last few dollars on something for the kids. I wasn’t in foodservice back then. However, when I got into foodservice, I went to work with the thought: What if the next customer is that single mom or dad spending the last of his or her money on something to eat for his or her children.”

Since joining Weigel’s in 2008, Donoghue has worked to ensure he and his team members are meeting customer expectations while adding new offerings.

Donoghue’s first career stop was in the family’s restaurant in Denver as a line cook and server. Eventually, he would join Town and Country Food Stores in San Angelo, Texas where he became the foodservice director in 1997. In late 2007, Town and Country Food Stores sold to Stripes and Donoghue remained there until April of 2008, when he joined Weigel’s as its foodservice director.

In nearly a decade, Donoghue has helped the Powell, Tenn.-based retailer become a foodservice destination through equipment upgrades, technological advances, but mostly—simple service solutions.

His team and staff provide customers samples of food items on the menu almost daily. Donoghue speaks to patrons, even watching their face and body language—all the while taking copious notes.

Of course, speedy service is another critical component that Weigel’s provides.

“The most visible differentiation to customers is the self-ordering kiosk. We were one of the first to add an ordering kiosk to the market,” said Donoghue. “We have added several other high tech or new concept types of equipment to our operation, which allow us to get customers’ orders completed quickly.”

Tennessee is home to home cooking, and Weigel’s tries to live up to that motto daily.
“Since we live in the heart of the South and the middle of ‘biscuit country,’ biscuits do not last very long. We needed to find ways to make biscuits fast, while maintaining awesome quality,” Donoghue said. “So, we added speed ovens from Merrychef. This produced fast, awesome products. As we moved along we came up with some proprietary products that set us apart from our competitors like the ‘Big Pig’—a maple flavored sausage link rolled in open-ended, flaky, baked dough.”

Weigel’s has put its own spin on traditional versions of burgers, chicken sandwiches, fries and roller grill offerings. Eventually, the decision was made to integrate modern foodservice equipment in many locations to prepare more food items on site.

“We added a bunch of new equipment. We added Panini grills, Duke Product holding units, Ovention ovens, smoothie makers, Barista Coffee Machines, Taylor Soft Serve machines and most recently, our first fryers.”

Any foodservice program worth its salt has employee training with the qualities that enable it to succeed.

“I have a great set of folks that are in stores daily, teaching training, inspecting and coaching just foodservice,” said Donoghue. “They do a great job keeping standards and making sure we are doing the right thing. Additionally, they partner up with the district managers and store managers to get the needed follow-up and things done. This all happens in the field.”

For every customer, including that single parent hunting for an affordable food option, Donoghue maintains the same high standard every day. It’s also the same philosophy he shares with his employees.

“I tell them to find their greater good,” said Donoghue. “Be passionate about what you do, do the right thing and make a difference in someone’s life.”