Vol. 16, No. 37, Mar 15, 2004




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Music, Math & Money ­ The Three Muses of Harmony & Peace

St. Patrick's Songfest at EADS

Some Notes About St. Patrick, by Chip Erickson

Club Service I Mini-Assembly

Friday Potpourri

BBRC Awards Grants

Sarah Schaeffer Student of the Month

Steve Goodier:
Leave the Past

Friday Fotos

Web Fun

Music, Math & Money ­ The Three Muses of Harmony & Peace


DicksDriveInSMDick Spady, our 81-year-old Rotarian friend from Bellevue Overlake and an icon in the business and professional world, paid the BBRC a visit Friday with a message of success on the occasion of Dick’s Drive-In’s 50th Anniversary.

Introduced by PDG Dick Clarke (who opened by saying, “I approve of this message!”) who asked the audience to raise their hands if they were born after 1949. More than half the hands in the room went up, to which Dick responded, “Well, Mr. Spady, this sure ain’t Seattle #4!”

Clarke got carried away introducing the speaker, saying that the two Dicks had something in common: “Our Oregon roots ... both of us graduating from Oregon State.” Spady served in World War II in the Seabees, was called back in for duty in the Korean War, and then served 29 years in the Air Force Reserve. Spady was trying to decide what to do with his life after the military and, having had experience with food service in the Air Force, decided to go into the restaurant business. He was having lunch with friends at the Carnival in Portland when he saw the large stack of hamburger patties waiting to be cooked. He asked the operators how many they served a day and they said they had three other stacks in the cooler! This amazed Dick and he resolved to find out more about this fast-food business. Thus, in 1953, after moving to Seattle, the idea of Dick’s Drive-In was born, and the first restaurant opened at 45th in Wallingford on January 28, 1954. It is now the oldest fast-food restaurant chain in Oregon and Washington (and probably Idaho!).

Spady2From the crowd came the voice of Wendi Fischer, who asked Dick Clarke if he was going to give the program, since his introduction had lasted nigh onto five minutes. Clarke accelerated his intro by saying that Spady had done work at the UW Graduate School in Futures Research, which is his Rotary classification. “And now, ladies and gentlemen, I give you Dick Spady.” (Applause)

Mr. Spady rose to say the introduction was so well done, “I’ll take questions, now!” That meant the program got off to a smiling start. “I always wanted to go into business for myself, and after I decided that the restaurant business was it, the analysis we conducted said it should be built on 45th street (near the UW).” Here, Dick said, there were many decisions to make and he made a profound observation. “Only principals can make decisions. Prudent advice is generally negative. Me and my partners went against prudent advice which said what we were proposing wasn’t going to work.”

You’ve also got to “believe in what you’re doing,” before you can make decisions. “I had a 17-page business plan. With Warren Ghormley and Dr. Thomas (the silent partner) we heard about a fast-food restaurant making news in Southern California. We went there to watch the operation at McDonald’s before Ray Kroc bought the operation. They were selling burgers for 19 cents and milkshakes for 21 cents.”

So the question was, will it work in Seattle? “When we opened that cold January day, we offered onions on our burgers. They were a slippery commodity and we had onions all over the place. Then we said, we’d put onions on if they wanted them, it would just take a little longer. That’s when we learned that people didn’t want to wait ... they were more in a hurry than hungry!” Another lesson learned. And, then a couple days after opening, Seattle was hit with a heavy snowfall. “We thought everything was going wrong, but after a few months, it all started to look good.”

Dick said he and his partners considered franchising their operation, but decided they would “bloom where they were planted, adding four more stores only in the Seattle area.”

SpadyEvisonSpady said it’s a “frustration phenomenon ­ learning how to do things and do them right. Our operation was designed just like the McDonald’s, but we added our own twists. For instance, making of milkshakes was an extremely significant process and we found that the ‘flavor blossom of the milkshake’ ­ the last half-inch was what made our product better. There’s nothing as good as a Dick’s milkshake!”

The group had a store planned in Bellevue but the lot didn’t allow for enough indoor seating. “We traded that spot for another opportunity to open a Queen Anne restaurant. As time went on, our costs went up, so we decided to eliminate inside seating and concentrate on the drive-in customers. We feature only a few menu items ... but what we do have is good!”

Next, Spady shared his business philosophy: “Your first duty in business, is to survive. Do what you can for your workers and your suppliers. Pay your employees as well as you can.” Spady said his workforce of 130 employees has traditionally been the highest paid in the industry — “$8.50 to start, full medical benefits and after six months, we’ll pay tuition to community college and then to a four-year school. A $10,000 package.” Dick’s is known for its sensitivity to its workers. About half his staff is on this program.

On to the theme of his presentation: Music, Math & Money — three muses of harmony & peace. Spady said, “Each of these have their own universal language ... musicians, mathematicians, and business persons. They each are filling human needs, and we need lots of successful business to fill human needs.”

The free enterprise system is under attack. “With the demise of WorldCom and Enron giving us a wake-up call, we’ve got to pay attention.”

Dick has spent much of his life working on administrative and organizational theory, and he has written three books. He gave the BBRC a "Dick’s Drive-In Anniversary" book. In closing, Dick said the success of Dick’s Drive-in, simply put, was providing the customer “highest quality, fastest service, and lowest cost.” Another lesson learned.

For his presentation, Dick Spady was honored with a certificate, noting that the BBRC has donated a book in his name to a needy child in the Bellevue schools.

Thanks to Dick Clarke for his lengthy introduction.









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