Entrepreneurs: In Conversation with Cindy Galardi Culpepper
Cindy Galardi Culpepper
CEO and Chairman
“That’s the way I really changed the company – to ensure we hire people who are optimistic and on board with the philosophy of our firm.”
Cindy Galardi Culpepper is CEO and Chairman of Galardi Group, which owns some of the most successful fast-food chains in the United States. Founded by her late ex-husband in 1961, Galardi Group franchises Wienerschnitzel, Hamburger Stand, and Tastee Freez. The company is headquartered in Orange County, has 68 corporate employees that oversee the restaurants that collectively generate over $290 million a year in sales.
Galardi Group is parent company of Wienerschnitzel, which has more than 300 stores across the United States.
She believes the company’s purpose of Serving Food to Serve Others is key to understanding the firm’s success.
C.G.C. “Our first priority is serving the franchisee. We do everything possible to make sure they are successful. If they are, then they can serve their employees to be the best. This leads to employees giving the customers the best experience possible which will bring them back more often. The happier the customer the more sales the company can generate. This allows us to give more back to the local communities. Sure, we serve food, but we also serve a purpose and it’s a responsibility to leave the world a better place than we found it. We only started this program two years ago and my step-daughter is in charge of that department. In fact, we’re on a three-day mission right now to build playgrounds in Albuquerque for kids with paediatric cancer.” She adds: “That’s the way I really changed the company – to ensure we hire people who are optimistic and on board with the philosophy of our firm.”
Her son is now President of the Group. Ms. Galardi Culpepper says:
C.G.C. “He’s now 29 and he started working at the company aged 13 as a fry cook in the restaurants. Over the years, he worked in different positions – his father would put him in marketing one summer, then next summer he worked with a broker to understand finances and investing. In addition to that, when he wasn’t doing something of that nature, I always insisted that he work.”
Her son’s involvement in the business continued once he had completed his university studies.
C.G.C. “He’d go to meetings with his dad, and then when his dad passed away, he joined the company full-time. Eventually, he was made president partly because he had worked in every department and knew the company inside out. Although I felt he was young, it was good for him to be in a leadership role where he had to work with everyone, including me.”
Looking ahead, Ms. Galardi Culpepper has identified the basis of her legacy to the next generation.
C.G.C. “Growing the brand, having newer stores. The culture of the company is another priority, to ensure it permeates through to the next generation. Giving, not hoarding. And being the number one quick-service restaurant in the industry. My legacy will be those things.”
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Ms. Galardi Culpepper explains:
C.G.C. “I took the position about five and a half years ago, when my late ex-husband passed away and left me the voting stock. So, I came in and with that, I decided I would change the company – from a cash-cow to more philanthropy-oriented. However, it took almost four years to put my own team in place because when I took over, I encountered a lot of resistance – and rightly so. I’d been the wife of the founder for 27 years, but people only knew me from social gatherings, so they didn’t have any confidence in me. In hindsight, I should have come in quietly to observe and then built up the trust I expected from the get-go.”