Owning A Landmark - News - Seacoastonline.com - Portsmouth, Nh

Q: What led you to Warrens? Cunningham: I wasnt having fun anymore in the corporate world. It was getting more dog-eat-dog and I was ready to look elsewhere. So a business partner and I bought Warrens. Q: Was it hard to go from corporate executive to restaurant owner? Cunningham: Warrens was already well established at the time, so we didnt change much. And we applied what we learned in the corporate world to running a restaurant, things like inventory control and purchasing control. We did have to figure out what the public expected. Q: How did you do that? Cunningham: We looked at trends. At first, we thought, Maybe well do this one and sun room suppliers in aiken sc then buy another one and grow that way. But we saw how other restaurant owners expanded from their base of operation and didnt do so well, so we decided to stay with Warrens and keep growing it. In 1984, there were around 25 employees in the slower winter season. Now we have close to 100 in winter and around 125-130 employees in summer. Q: Whats your management philosophy? Cunningham: You have to treat your employees like a family. Weve developed people from within. Most of our managers came up through the ranks. In this business, employee turnover is very high. But our turnover is way below the industry average. Weve had people who have been here for years. Q: As you reflect on the last 30 years, what stands out? Cunningham: There are incredible little stories you never hear about. Were well steeped in military history due to the Navy yard and Pease. A big group had a retirement party for someone in the military in our sunroom a few months ago. A businessman dining alone must have noticed their military uniforms; he told our dining room manager, I want to pay for their dinner. It was around $1,100. For the original version including any supplementary images or video, visit http://www.seacoastonline.com/article/20141113/NEWS/141119671/101179/OPINION