Inside Risk: Deborah Andrews, Zaxby’s Franchising Inc.
Find out how Zaxby's senior director of risk manages the fast-casual restaurant boom with confidence and a smile.
By Eric Gilkey
Fast-casual restaurant chain Zaxby’s operates 620 franchises in 15 states, which means CLM Fellow Deborah Andrews has her hands full keeping guests and owners coming back for more and more every year. Find out how she manages it all with a smile on her face.
Q. How did you get started in risk management?
A. My family relocated to Madison, Ga., in 1994 with the goal of raising our children in a small-town environment and not the busy place that Orlando, Fla., had become. Realizing how much I missed the work environment, I traded in my volunteer hours for a full-time job with Apple South Inc. I facilitated the claims process for all lines of insurance coverage and helped resolve problems for customers, employees, and restaurant management. I found a certain satisfaction in handling claims, later applying and receiving a job as a coordinator in risk management.
In April 2004, I started my career at Zaxby’s with a computer, office accessories, and a pad of paper with no notes inside. It was a blank slate that began to fill with color. I began by interviewing many of my new colleagues and discussing the existing risk program structure with our local insurance agent. I started collecting internal information that helped me define the risk map that I wanted to complete.
Q. What is your overall approach to risk management?
A. Today’s risk management approach is much different than in the past. Risk management and insurance at Zaxby’s Franchising Inc. is designed so that it protects our companies, the assets and reputation, and our licensees. My department collaborates with the business leadership teams to ensure that risks are identified and considered in the development of the strategic vision, business goals, and objectives. Risk is proactively managed to balance both the risks and rewards of the business.
Q. Walk us through a typical day for you.
A. Like most, I plan my day to accomplish certain projects—and it never fails that I have to throw the plan out the window. Managing day-to-day risks requires flexibility, logic, and the ability to analyze the ever-changing risks surrounding the highly litigated environment in which we live today.
A typical day for me might involve providing guidance for my team on a complex claim, assessing risk-transfer methodologies, reviewing complex contracts, analyzing data (losses), protecting the brand and reputation, and working with various brokerage firms to assess insurance buying opportunities that would be atttractive and beneficial to our licensees. It also might involve teaching others about risk control/mitigation, stratifying losses, consulting with other business units on implementation of new products or product offerings for brand development, or developing disaster recovery and business continuity plans with IT and data security. There has never been a dull moment in my career.
Q. Describe some of the risks you manage.
A. Some areas of risk that I manage include updates on recent case law reflecting current judicial opinions on risks for the franchisor and licensee; vicarious liability; health care; how managing a crisis well can make or break business recovery in an era among people who share and exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks; communicable diseases that put a restaurant at risk; intellectual property protection; network and security emerging risks; supply-chain vulnerability; food safety; preservation of evidence; and human behavior.
As the exposures that risk professionals face change, the most important objective for me is to provide solutions to support opportunities, and supporting the various objectives of strategic plans is top of mind.
Q. Have you ever taken a risk and turned it into an opportunity?
A. Turning risk into an opportunity is one goal of enterprise risk management, and that includes focusing on problem identification instead of transferring the risk of the hazard or peril to an insurance carrier. I always ask myself how I can make something work or what options I can offer to an important business alliance that will serve up a solution. My philosophy is to be a forward thinker and be ahead of the next tsunami of risk that approaches the brand.