Concession Customer First

When Robert Brown took over the concession stand at the Tulsa County Courthouse many patrons wondered what would happen.
After all, Larry McCray, who had run the concession for more than 20 years, was the only operator they knew.
Brown recognized those customer concerns and chose to build on what McCray had established — and make some changes.
He introduced baked potatoes and salads to the menu and both items have been well received. Plans also are being made to have daily specials to add even more variety to the menu.
Brown, owner and operator, says he has a ‘‘mom and pop’’ business since the staff includes two sons, a daughter and sister-in-law.
He comes to Tulsa from the Veterans Center in Claremore where he operated the concession in that facility for six and one half years.
Prior to that, he worked in the AMOCO Information Technology Department for six and one half years before the firm was bought out by British Petroleum Corp.
His vision problem has been an inconvenience, not a handicap.
Brown’s eye disease was detected when he was eight-years-old. He did not let the problem interfere with his love for life and sports.
The eye disease is similar to macular degeneration that destroys the central vision. He has some peripheral sight.
‘‘I graduated with a degree in business administration from Langston University in 1990,’’ he said. ‘‘While at AMOCO, I was one of the top analysts on the staff, helping people with computer problems at all levels, through the company vice president.’’
He took his severance pay when the buyout occurred and for a time looked for another job.
Unsuccessful, he was attracted to the concession industry through his brother with the same eye disease who lives in Indiana.
‘‘I trained at the BEP (Business Enterprise Program) in Oklahoma City,’’ Brown said. The six-week course provided the nucleus for a successful bid on the Claremore Veterans facility business.
He used people skills learned at AMOCO and as a baseball coach to build a client base.
‘‘I want to treat people as I would like to be treated,’’ Brown said. ‘‘I price product, coupled with quality and service as if I were the customer.’’
He already is very familiar with different personalities at the courthouse, varying from homeless to county officers and the judiciary. Every effort is made to treat them with respect.
That effort comes from his days at various schools, including Henryetta High School where Brown was a classmate of Troy Aikman.
Brown smiled as he recalled those days and his love for sports.
He particularly liked baseball, but was unable to play because of his vision.
That didn’t stop him when he was asked to coach a high school team — the Noah Jaguars — made up of young men who were home schooled.
They were competitive, playing teams from Webster High School, collinsville, Holland Hall, Cascia Hall and others.
During his 12 years as a coach, Brown said his teams earned championships and never had a losing record.
While he had coaching assistants, Brown quickly established his role as coach and leader.
‘‘I had a knack for teaching the young people on the team,’’ he said. The technique was simple.
On the first day of the workouts, Brown would tell the players to go to whatever position they wanted to play, regardless of whether another person was standing at that position.
It was not unusual to see several players at the pitchers mound, in the short stop position and at first base, he said. There would be vacancies in the outfield and at the catcher position.
It was then that Brown would tell the players to look around and understand why he, as coach, would be the one making decisions where people would play.
Brown also would make the decision on the batting order.
‘‘I established myself as leader from day one and I respected the players,’’ he said. ‘‘They also respected me.’’
Understanding the team concept and having the ability to work with people is important to Brown.
It made the change from corporate world to business owner a smooth transition.
People are more health conscious and some were tired of the typical concession stand food.
Now he sells a combined total of about 50 baked potatoes and salads daily. About 15 hot dogs each day.
‘‘When Larry operated the stand he sold an average of 50 hot dogs each day,’’ Brown said. People are more health conscious today and menus must be adjusted. If they don’t have the food they want here, they can go outside the courthouse if their schedule permits.
‘‘I am seeing more people stay in the building for lunch,’’ he added.
Brown had to bid for the Tulsa County Courthouse concession business.
He was interviewed by a board and won the business because he met the qualifications and had the experience to operate the Class A rated business.
His former concession in Claremore then went out for bid which was won by Tara Brown — no relation.
Looking ahead, Robert Brown says he is focusing on continually upgrading food and service — and he wants to beat his predecessor’s record of 22 years at the Tulsa County courthouse.

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