A lot on his plate
Executive vice president, chief adminstration officer, general counsel and
secretary, Brinker International Inc. Age 61
Few Americans have heard of Dallas-based Brinker
International Inc., but millions have dined at Brinker’s
nearly 1,500 restaurants, including Chili’s Grill & Bar,
Romano’s Macaroni Grill, Maggiano’s Little Italy and
other casual dining chains. These restaurants, with
more than $3 billion in annual sales, provide the bread
and butter for some 90,000 employees—including
83,600 in nonmanagement positions as cooks, wait-
ers, dishwashers, busboys and cashiers.
LEGAL TEAM AND OUTSIDE COUNSEL
Thomson supervises six in-house lawyers at
Brinker’s Dallas headquarters. Thomson estimated
that about 70% of the office’s output is real estate-oriented, related to the opening of about 150 new
restaurants annually. This work includes negotiating purchase agreements and leases for new sites,
BRINKER INTERNATIONAL INC.
Hallett & Perrin
drafting and overseeing construction contracts, handling zoning matters and obtaining liquor licenses and
other permits. Brinker outsources all litigation.
Brinker’s litigation strategy is to prevent potential
lawsuits through employee education, to promptly
resolve legitimate complaints informally or through
ADR, and to litigate if necessary, said Thomson.
Employees and customers may report problems to
headquarters, he said. Every restaurant prominently
displays the company’s toll-free customer service
number, and employees are informed of the 800
number to Thomson’s office.
Brinker also enforces some of the strictest food-safety guidelines in the industry, said Thomson,
explaining that the company cannot afford to be lax in
this area. “If one of those production plants doesn’t
do the right sanitation stuff and we get some food-borne illness in one of the restaurants, it affects the
entire brand nationwide,” he said.
Brinker gives restaurant managers broad discretion
to handle customer complaints on food or service at
the store level, said Thomson. Managers are allowed
to comp charges for unhappy customers, or invite
them back for a free meal.
Sullivan & Cromwell