Improv for Business Skills: Like The Phoenix

Casey and Rachel shooting a video at Burger King

Casey and Rachel shooting a video at Burger King

The Levins Family Background

In 1994 cousins Glenn, Jay, and Gary Levins formed The Phoenix Organization to operate their 300,000 SQ of retail space on Long Island. Soon after, the Levins’ sought out a franchise partnership to add to the company’s portfolio in order to diversify and bolster their real estate business. After extensive research and due diligence, they partnered with Burger King Corporation®, and in 1997 the Phoenix Organization opened their first two BK restaurant locations in South Florida and New York.

Since then, the company has grown from 2 to 20 Burger King Restaurants, as well as additional commercial properties, in both states. In 2009, Rachel Levins (Jay Levins’ daughter) joined The Phoenix Organization as an operating partner. In 2013 Russ Lo Bello joined The company as an operating partner with an eye toward overall expansion. In one year, The Phoenix Organization doubled in size from 7 to 14 locations, then recently added 6 more location to be a total of 20 Burger Kings by the end of 2016.

Using Improv to Cultivate Teams

In 2015, Phoenix realized they had an opportunity to cultivate their teams differently than any other fast food company on the planet. Rachel Levins had recently attended an improv for business seminar in Minnesota and reached out to Sick Puppies Comedy. In January of 2016, Sick Puppies hosted their first “Key Holder” team building function for Phoenix. This included General Managers in restaurants as well as shift managers and anyone looking to be groomed for promotion. The results were astounding.

Almost overnight, the metrics measured for customer service within BK corporate doubled for the Phoenix Organization restaurants. Moving from the company average to a leader in the market, Phoenix immediately realized the benefits of incorporating Improv Training into their workforce and put a plan in action with Sick Puppies.

The Sick Puppies Learning & Development Program

After seeing the many successes of 2016, Phoenix hired Sick Puppies as a consultant for their Learning & Development platform for 2017. In addition to monthly team building sessions and seminars, SPC will also begin to operate inside of restaurants demonstrating the direct application of improv skills such as listening, emotional language and enthusiasm. Unique to any other training platform, the idea of leading by example, person to person, store by store will be installed to not only “tell”, but also to “show”.  

The Puppies will become trained in all things Burger King in order to begin “side-coaching” and in store improv installation. This concept mimics the sales coaching you might find in large financial institutions that jump start new associates into success by having their coach do the work right next to them.

The Phoenix philosophy is to develop their people above and beyond everything else. They take pride in making people the very best they can be, even if it means losing team members because their development takes them on a new path.  SPC also shares the same philosophy.

Empower Employees to Be the Best Version of Themselves

In order to get the best performance out of a team, you have to empower individuals to become the best version of themselves.  Phoenix has given SPC permission to encourage their team members to pursue their passions and goals and offer assistance. We will be track profit, retention, customer service index as well as other internal indicators that we believe will move when working on empathy and enthusiasm.  To the best of our knowledge, this is the first Improv/Fast Food partnership at this level and scale. More to come.  

Do you have an improvmergency?  Contact us.  954-667-7735 or  It’s funny how serious we can get.