Michael Fields may have been born to work in management. With two parents who were both entrepreneurs, Fields learned about the behind-the-scenes management aspects of business from an early age.
“Entrepreneurship and business management stuff is really all I’ve known growing up,” said Fields. “I started in some level of management pretty early. Whatever job I would get, I would move to that role pretty quickly.”
In addition to operating a business in downtown Milledgeville alongside his wife, Danielle, Fields has accrued management experience in a variety of domains, including retail and the food industry, most recently at the Milledgeville Chick-fil-A. In early September, he brought his experience to a new venue, taking over as interim general manager of the new Milledgeville location of The Dairylane.
Since taking the helm, Fields has set about using his knowledge of the industry to make the new store, which opened its doors on July 1, shine in the community, a task he said he feels is made easier by Dairylane’s already existing reputation in the area.
“They have a strong brand; they have a strong product. I’m just putting it on a platform that will allow it to perform as proficiently as possible,” said Fields.
The Dairylane first opened in Sandersville in 1953 as a summer-only restaurant. According to the store’s website, founder Hudson “Hut” Avant got turned down for a Dairy Queen franchise and decided to open his own store instead. The restaurant proved so popular that it began operating year-round in 1957, and has been ever since. The Milledgeville location is the brand’s first-ever expansion.
Known for signature staples such as cheeseburgers, fries and milkshakes, The Dairylane attracts guests who are looking for a quick, tasty meal with a “mom and pop” small-town atmosphere. In addition to a full dessert line of ice cream cones, sundaes, blasts and shakes, The Dairylane is known for popular menu items such as their chili cheese dogs, a choice Fields labels as “phenomenal.”
Another marquee attraction at The Dairylane is its barbecue, something Fields said makes it unique compared to other quick service restaurants.
“All of our barbecue is made in-house in Sandersville from scratch by the same lady who has been making it literally for 50 years,” said Fields.
Fields has worked diligently with his staff to make sure all areas of the business run at their optimal potential. Based on his experience in the industry, he said he feels there a specific areas of restaurant operation that are the keys to success, namely food safety, speed of service, order accuracy and guest interactions.
“Those are the big pillars for me,” said Fields.
In addition to overseeing all aspects of the restaurant’s operations, Fields is working hard to bring some exciting updates to the Milledgeville location. He is currently working out details for some updates to the menu and encourages customers to stay tuned to the restaurant’s social media accounts for announcements coming about that very soon.
Another development Fields is excited about is the impending addition of breakfast to the Milledgeville Dairylane.
“There’s a breakfast menu that we’re currently using in Sandersville. It’s kind of the beta for that menu,” said Fields. “I’m excited to bring that to Milledgeville.”
There will be breakfast favorites like cheese grits, biscuits and tater tots, but Dairylane will put its signature take on the entrée options by steaming the breakfast sandwiches just like they do with the current menu entrées. Fields thinks offering items such as sausage, egg and cheese on a bun, steamed, will give the breakfast at Dairylane its own flavor.
“That’s a concept that you don’t see at other quick service restaurants,” said Fields. “I think we’re going to have something that’s unique.”
Fields also points out that with their location in proximity to downtown, Georgia College and Georgia Military College, breakfast could be just the thing Milledgeville residents have been looking for.
“We’ll have something in an area of town where there’s logistically not a lot of options,” said Fields.
Other longer-range plans include the addition of catering to Dairylane, an aspect of the restaurant business in which Fields gained plenty of experience during his prior management ventures.
“Catering is something to me that I genuinely love,” said Fields. “My hope is to give people another catering option.”
Fields invites everyone to come visit the Milledgeville Dairylane and to keep checking social media as his updates fall into place. In the meantime, he plans to continue to perfect the day-to-day guest experience, all the while keeping visions on the horizon for future expansion of the Dairylane brand.
“It’s exciting for people who know and love the brand to know that we want to share that with other people,” said Fields.