White Castle CFO shares insights over lunch
White Castle CFO Russ Meyer
A mix of MBA and graduate students received an exclusive look into one of the most successful, recognizable fast food chains in the country, as Russ Meyer, chief financial officer at White Castle, visited Fisher as part of the Cullman Executive Luncheon Series last week.
Meyer, a Fisher alumnus who graduated in 1979 with a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting, returned to campus bearing gifts – two of White Castle’s “Crave Cases” loaded with its signature sliders – for the lunchtime event. He drew on his more than 25 years of experience at White Castle and provided the 15 students in attendance with a deep dive into how the company best utilizes its accountants, operations managers, marketers, and risk and data analysts.
The session also doubled as an opportunity for Meyer to gain insight from students.
“It’s good to see what’s front-of-mind – what they’re interested in; what they’re studying; how it relates to what we’re doing,” he said. “It gives us as good a perspective as we can get about this next generation as a customer, team member, or colleague.”
The intimate setting allowed Fisher students to interact with Meyer on a near one-on-one basis, a format that’s especially valuable, said James Kim, a master of accounting student.
“It’s wonderful and definitely eye-opening for me just to be able to sit with an executive,” he said. “It helps me practically because, as a student, I need role models to look up to. Being able to talk with an executive who has been successful gives me an idea of what I should be pursuing and how I can become someone like that.”
Graduate students attended the luncheon with alumnus Russ Meyer.
In addition to discussing how the movie Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle affected sales -- they jumped 20 to 30 percent in the weeks after the movie -- Meyer highlighted many of the initiatives White Castle has incorporated into expanding its brand. It has launched a successful frozen foods line, opened subsidiary chains of White Castle-owned restaurants, and begun to utilize data analytics.
“We’re trying to be more targeted in testing pricing, sizes, and offerings, and tailoring our marketing,” Meyer said. “We’re digging into data dramatically. We’re capturing every single keystroke at the point of sale in our stores. That’s been a real value in our analysis of our sales to counteract things like a 33 percent increase in meat costs.”
Headquartered in Columbus, White Castle is a family-owned business that began as America’s first fast-food hamburger chain. It now has 405 locations in 12 states and employs approximately 9,600 workers nationwide. It boasted $618 million in revenue in 2012.
The Cullman Executive Luncheon Series, established to honor Dr. W. Arthur Cullman, one of Fisher’s most distinguished faculty members, is designed to bring students and senior executives together in an informal setting to provide a platform for students to learn about a particular profession or industry, as well as to provide executives with the opportunity to learn about the college’s MBA program.