Guillermo Perales is the founder and CEO of Sun Holdings, a private company in Dallas that operates more than 750 franchises across eight different brands, mostly fast-food restaurants, in eight states. The vast majority are in Texas. Every day, he has to keep a close eye on myriad aspects of running such a huge, multifaceted organization, from tracking inventories to the management of nearly 17,000 employees.
On August 25, though, he was particularly focused on several dozen stores in the Houston area, which was bracing for the impact of Hurricane Harvey. The storm was pounding the Texas Gulf Coast and about to dump more than 48 inches of rain in and around Houston, resulting in catastrophic flooding and the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents, many of whom had to be rescued from the raging waters.
From his office 240 miles away, Perales fielded reports from his management team in Houston and the coastal area. Over the next several tense days, they had to close around 60 stores and monitor the fate of hundreds of employees. A week later, as outlets were gradually reopening, Perales reported, "We know that several Burger King, Krispy Kreme and Cicis Pizza stores were damaged," although the National Guard still hadn't let them back into some to assess the extent. Staffing was difficult, because some employees couldn't get to work. "We're trying to figure out what to do with insurance claims," he said.
On the bright side, Perales talked about how a couple of his Krispy Kreme stores were distributing doughnuts at shelters. An Arby's was setting up a portable kitchen to cook sandwiches to give away. "We just want to make happy faces," he said, trying to put on his best in the midst of the upheaval — including the fretful evacuation of his son, a freshman at Rice University in Houston.