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In a World Divided, Anytime Fitness Finds Common Truth

Anytime Fitness will open its 4,000th gym March 16 in Shanghai, China, and then will pursue plans to open at least one new gym in Antarctica. That’s according to Mark Daly, national media director, who has produced a video in celebration that answers a burning question.

Saudi Arabia Eyes Growth in Franchising

Saudi Arabia is launching a major initiative as part of its Kingdom 2030 Vision to support the growth and development of franchising.

Former Panera Exec Joins Workplace Catering Brand

Jim Rand, a longtime restaurant exec who built the catering business at Panera Bread and P.F. Chang’s, has joined ezCater, a national marketplace for business catering that’s revolutionizing the game of feeding hungry corporate offices.

Citing Appeal of City, AtWork Opens Birmingham Office

As the author of our Urbane Franchisor column, my ears perk up whenever a franchise mentions the appeal of the city in its business plans. The latest example is national staffing franchise, AtWork Group, which opened its newest office in greater Birmingham as the company pushes toward 100 locations.

Avoid 3 Common Mistakes, Advises Mooyah’s Owner

Anand Gala is a long-time franchisee of Jack in the Box, Del Taco, Famous Dave’s and others, and he has now crossed the aisle to form Gala Capital and purchase his first franchisor, Mooyah Burgers, Fries & Shakes. He believes many franchises stumble over a few common mistakes, which he plans to avoid at Mooyah and any additional brands he buys.

New CEO at Troubled Liberty Says Power to the ‘Zee

Nicole Ossenfort had been CEO and president of Liberty Tax for just two-and-a-half weeks when reached Thursday, but she was already putting her focus squarely on franchisees. “I believe that happy, successful franchisees and employees are the basis and essential for the success of this company. They are the reason we exist, and we have to start making decisions and strategies that support that core belief,” said Ossenfort, the third CEO in six months at Liberty Tax. “In fact, we believe that so much, we changed our mission statement: creating happy, successful franchisees and employees.”

Hardee’s Honors Loyal Crime Author

QSR brand marketing continues to get weirder and more personal, with the latest example being Hardee’s who has gone all out for award-winning author Brad Parks, who’s been using his local Hardee’s as the backdrop for his famous crime series.

Major Food Brands Partnering on Climate Change, Healthy Soil

As more brands and customers add social and environmental responsibility to their list of must-haves, the latest announcement is several major food brands banding together to improve the health of agricultural soils and fend off climate change.

WFF Aims for Gender Equality in Food Industry by 2025

Cheers, upbeat music and a general sense of female empowerment dominate the WFF’s Annual Leadership Development Conference, where career advancement and leadership growth of women in the food industry are the focus and premier speakers champion the strides made. It was a sobering start to the day, then, when Celia Huber, a senior partner at McKinsey & Co., pulled up a slide reading: “At current rates, it will take more than 100 years to reach gender equality in the C-suite.”

The Big Get Bigger as JAE Group Acquires 34 Wendy’s

Wendy’s sold the restaurants to JAE Restaurant Group as part of its System Optimization Initiative, a shift from company-owned to franchise transactions with the goal of Wendy’s owning just 5 percent of its 6,500 restaurants.

Who’s On First? Browning-Ferris Back in Effect for Now

The Browning-Ferris standard for joint employer—which many in franchising despise— is back in business for now, after the National Labor Relations Board on Monday vacated its Hy-Brand decision on the grounds that one of its board members, William Emmanuel, had a conflict of interest and should have recused himself. “Which means that, for now anyway, Browning-Ferris is again operative law,” explained David Kaufmann with Kaufmann Gildin & Robbins in an email Monday,

Courtyard Launches Dapper New Bistro Bars

Courtyard by Marriott took the wraps off its new Bistro Bars this week, which the company bills as an “elevated evening experience” for business travels and lobby bar enthusiasts like the Franchise Times edit staff.

Sky Zone's Purchase by CircusTrix Adds Capital, Rules

CircusTrix Holdings of Provo, Utah, bought Sky Zone last month, bringing the 195-unit trampoline park chain under its umbrella and changing the game for Jeff Platt, former CEO of Sky Zone and now president, reporting to the founder and CEO of CircusTrix.

Subway Launches New Loyalty Program

After the dust-up created by its recent $4.99 footlong sandwich promotion, which several franchisees said was a strain on their profit margins, here’s hoping Subway’s upgraded loyalty program is better received by its franchisee network.

What Does Tax Reform Mean for the Franchise Business Owner?

Franchise Times and RSM had a webcast on Wednesday, January 3, 2018 to discuss the recently passed tax bill. You can now watch a replay of that session here.

As Part of Growth Plan, ComForCare Acquires CarePatrol

With its new CEO in place, in-home care franchise ComForCare took another step in executing its strategic growth plan with the acquisition of CarePatrol, a senior placement franchise.

Donutology’s Founder Stands Out in NextGen Contest

A detailed knowledge of the numbers set Andrew Cameron and his fledgling Donutology franchise apart from the rest of the contenders in last week’s NextGen competition at the International Franchise Association’s annual conference.

When the Meatless (Um, Beet?) Juices Drip Down Your Chin

Two franchised burger chains expanded the Impossible Burger this week to the masses, with Fatburger and Wahlburgers bringing the meatless option that is made entirely from plants available to its customers—which raises the question: how can a product made entirely from plants cook, taste and smell like ground beef from cows?

Trying on 10 franchises for size, in our exclusive Zor Awards project

Franchising can be daunting for first-timers considering making an investment to go into business “for themselves, but not by themselves” as the popular mantra goes. There are thousands of brands to choose from in an ever-expanding array of categories, and most do a great job highlighting the best-case scenario for prospective franchisees. That makes choosing a franchise—and deciding which hat you will wear as an entrepreneur, as our photo shoot illustrates—a difficult task.

Restaurant bosses kick around six big themes

The annual ICR event is one of the first big restaurant and retail events of the year, and it’s where companies public and private go to outline their strategies for the next year—as well as drum up a little support from the investment community. Here's a rundown.

Doggie disco? Zoom Room says yes

Dreams of cuddling puppies and being herded by sheepdogs 40 hours a week is the holy grail for franchisees looking to turn their love of pooches into profits. Once up and running with any number of doggy franchises out there—from pet spas to pooper scoopers—that enthusiasm can fade with the reality of lawsuits, onerous zoning restrictions and 3 a.m. phone calls that are common in the business of canines.

‘The dance’ takes Fastsigns to Malta first

As the newest master franchisee for Fastsigns, Malta-based Famalco Group expands its already diverse portfolio with plans to grow the signage, digital media and graphics brand to Italy and Greece.

Undercover checks out three chicken joints

When the Uber driver finds out you’re heading to Cowboy Chicken for lunch and is only half joking when he invites himself along because the rotisserie meat “is just about the best there is in Dallas,” expectations jump even higher. The food lives up to the hype at Cowboy Chicken, known for its slow-roasted-on-a-spit, wood-fired chicken that in real life is as succulent and flavorful as the online imagery suggests.

Freshii lobs letter at Subway franchisees

Melissa Gallagher grew up as the daughter of Subway franchisees in Ontario, Canada, and her earliest job for the brand was as Subway mascot. “It’s a giant sub with a cape. It’s called Subman,” she says with a laugh. Today, she’s VP of marketing for Freshii, which published an open letter to Subway corporate in the Chicago Tribune in January, offering a “sincere proposal” to allow a smooth transition for Subway operators to become Freshii franchisees instead.

Once crumpled, Crunch Fitness powers back

Crunch Fitness has emerged from a checkered past that is equal parts sexy and sad. Originally branded as a high-end fitness studio in the late 1980s, its formative years included shows on cable TV, energetic DVDs sold at big-box outlets and the first-ever stripper pole classes that shocked the eyeballs out of plenty of grandmothers in what now seems like sweeter, simpler times. That sweat-fueled party came to an end in 2009, eight years after Bally Total Fitness acquired the brand, when Crunch filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Upward mobility at Black Bear Diner

An ‘aggressive streak' is a desired attribute for a California operator of two Black Bear Diners, with 19 more on the books.

‘Eyes wide open’ as retailers close stores

Headlines are everywhere describing a “retail apocalypse” or the “tsunami” of retail store closures. Rest assured, the sky is not falling on the entire universe of brick-and-mortar retail. However, franchise operators are taking note of the changing retail real estate market and being more diligent when deciding where to locate new stores.

When age shows, to renovate or raze?

The restaurant industry has been on a tear in recent years with a surge in expansion that has delivered thousands of shiny new stores touting the latest designs, efficient floor plans and innovative tech. Standing behind them is a fleet of aging restaurants that are starting to feel a bit dowdy. Those older restaurants are facing more pressure to step-up their game—and their image—in order to remain competitive in today’s marketplace.

How to get your piece of ‘deal fever’

The franchise world has an acute case of deal fever. The consolidation that grew through 2016 and 2017 shows no sign of slowing down this year. Headlines are filled with deals big and small, and the amount of “dry powder” or un-invested capital is at historic highs—many reports put it at $1 trillion. This flurry of activity can be intoxicating for owners who are plotting a course to something bigger.

10 ways to manage the 10-year lease

Let’s face it—the restaurant business has always been fraught with risk. Fickle customers, unpredictable food trends, changing lifestyles, stormy economic cycles, and relentless competition are just a few culprits. And now come the latest disrupters—delivery, order apps, over-development, the rise of the independents, and, of course, millennials. At November’s Restaurant Finance and Development Conference in Las Vegas, there was a lot of talk about staying flexible and nimble during these tumultuous times.

Getting your plans through City Hall

I recently witnessed a public tarring and feathering for the ages at an open house that left me scarred as a reporter and occasional public speaker. Picture the scene as a well-dressed 30-something from a local development company presented plans for a new apartment complex to be built within eyesight of my own kitchen window. He came with impressive demographics and beautiful renderings, but walked into a buzzsaw of uncouth words, disgusted chuckles, hoots, hollers and generally embarrassing antics from a cohort of my neighbors who hated his plans with visceral intensity.

In Italy, a fashionable marketplace

With three vertical bands of green, white and red, the French flag brought to Italy by Napoleon in 1797 inspired the design. The colors are those of Milan (red and white), combined with the green uniform color of the Milanese civic guard.

How Living Large brands aim to boost unit sales

Digital Doc uses brokers to enter new markets. DMK Burger Bar relies on personal connections and one-to-one conversations. And Huey Magoo's has hired two experienced franchise sales people to get the unit count growing.

Though few understand Bitcoin, IRS wants cut—and Happy Tax will help

Though few understand Bitcoin, IRS wants cut—and Happy Tax will help Long before most people have even figured out Bitcoin (or other forms of cryptocurrency) the Internal Revenue Service is targeting those who profit from it to get their cut. One franchised tax preparation firm, Happy Tax, is aiming to be the first to help taxpayers comply with the law.

In China, why people who should know better keep getting it wrong

Many years ago I heard a “China scholar” recount a mantra he said was then circulating among his colleagues: Travel to China for six days: write a book. Travel to China for six months: write an article. Live in China for six years: write nothing at all.

Pain, fear and other realities when finding your franchise connection

Think back to your most recent car buying experience for a moment. Did you start by researching the entire universe of models and styles? Did you research safety ratings, miles per gallon, anticipated resale price, and all the ratings from the last three years of Consumer Reports? Or did you instead fall in love with a car based on its look, image or reputation and then talk yourself into buying the one you most loved—perhaps using some of those exact “features and benefits” to convince yourself (or your spouse) that you were making a sound decision. Be honest now. Your spouse is not looking.

Loyal people are key for WKS boss, plus no drama desired for Signal 88

Roland Spongberg acknowledges it’s tough finding hourlies and managers in Southern California. “Today, having a sign that says ‘Now Hiring’ doesn’t get it done. You have to be more proactive than that,” he says.

Sound of music, franchise style, hits the right notes

Ask yourself this question: When at work, what is music to your ears? For the high school teacher, it’s probably, “Tell me more about the Stamp Act of 1854. So fascinating!” For the caterer, it could be getting the big order over the phone, “Ms. Kardashian is wondering if you are available for…”


The true health of the restaurant industry is up for constant debate. While there is data, it’s hard to know exactly what makes up that data. Anyone looking just at legacy casual dining is going to think the industry is falling to pieces. Anyone just looking at asset-light QSR stocks may be wearing rose-colored glasses.

Executive Ladder

Lena Hamideh was hired as a paralegal by Gray Plant Mooty’s Franchise & Distribution Practice Group. Previously with DLA Piper, Hamideh will assist its franchise team with filings, state- and country-specific franchise regulations and renewals. Office Evolution appointed Eileen Proctor to the new position of vice president of revenue optimization and marketing, and hired William Edmundson as its new chief operating officer.

The Boss

What was your upbringing like? I was born and raised in the Seattle area. My dad was in the broadcasting industry. He was able to raise some capital and got into buying troubled radio stations and turning them around. In addition to all the normal stuff, I actually was a student of The Little Gym, that’s where it was founded. My mom was in journalism, with the Seattle Times. By 2002, we moved to Arizona and by 2002 she went to the Arizona Republic.

BurgerFi Celebrates Juicy Racing Win

BurgerFi, a Florida-based fast-casual franchise, is savoring a heaping PR boost after the car it sponsors in the NASCAR Xfinity Series won the season opener at Daytona International Speedway over the weekend.

In the Tank With US Cryotherapy

Trying out so many franchised concepts is one of the coolest parts of my job. My recent trip into a frigid cryotherapy chamber was only the latest—and most literal—example, showing me cryotherapy is more than a fad for hard-charging athletes and regular Joes like me.

New Deal Means a New Majority Owner for Smashburger

In $100 million deal, Jollibee Foods Corp. will acquire an additional 45 percent of Smashburger, the Denver-based burger franchise that has more than 360 restaurants.

Romance, Traffic and Menu Mix: A Look at Valentine's Data

Valentine’s Day is one of the busiest days for restaurants, but there are some major standouts when it comes to romance-related sales spikes.

Mourners Say Goodbye to Landmark Arby’s Sign

"Oh Arby’s sign, the meats, the meats are calling..."

Paul Brown's Strategic Balancing Act at Inspire Brands

Paul Brown has begun his balancing act at the helm of Inspire Brands, which is now one of the largest owner-operators of restaurants out there with 1,700 company restaurants and 4,600 locations when including franchise operations.

‘Music Paradigm’ Teaches Better Way to Wield Baton

I play the flute, trombone, piano and organ and sang in a symphonic choir, and my alternative career path, albeit never followed, was to be an orchestra conductor, so the Music Paradigm presentation today at the IFA’s annual conference was right up my alley.

Young and Fresh, NextGen Finalists Make Their Pitches

All were young, fresh and impressive, but otherwise the 20 finalists competing in the NextGen competitition (said to be culled from 900 applicants from around the world) at the International Franchise Association annual convention Sunday were individually brash, confident, soft-spoken, intellectual, nervous, sloppily dressed or perfectly prepared.

By Operators, for Operators—a Sneak Peek of FT Zor Awards

Charlotte Haigler Proctor likes to tell prospective franchisees, “I hope you’re not considering being an absentee owner.” She is one of the super-smart franchisees our edit team has been interviewing for the last several weeks, preparing stories for our March cover package, the Franchise Times Zor Awards. Here’s a sneak peek.