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CenterOak Bests 97 Firms to Buy Wetzel's Pretzels

CenterOak Partners, a Dallas-based private equity firm, bought a majority stake in Wetzel's Pretzels this week, ending Levine Leichtman Capital's nine-year ownership in the brand. Co-founder Bill Phelps remains CEO.

Roark Buys Majority Stake in Jimmy John's

With a new majority stake, Jimmy John's is getting plenty of capital without jumping into an ugly stock market.

Could Chipotle Begin Franchising?

Badly burned in recent years with three ugly stock market bets—Valeant (VRX), Herbalife (HLF) and JC Penney (JCP)—Pershing Square Capital’s Bill Ackman on Tuesday announced a $1.2 billion wager on the beleaguered Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG) restaurant chain.

There's More to Picking Up After Dogs Than a Fake App

Pet waste clean-up services have become a mature business category, which may be one of the reasons the media no longer treats us to all those sophomoric references of cringe-worthy (but fun) company names. But a fake app put the spotlight back on our dogs' toilet habits.

Zika Virus Could Bite Employers, Too, Attorney Says

Zika is in the news, the mosquito-borne illness that is linked to birth defects in children born to infected women, and so is this week’s missive from employment attorney Tom Spiggle of Spiggle Law Firm. “Employers are in a tough spot when dealing with the Zika virus and pregnant workers,” he writes.

Why Happy Tax Won't Get Invite to H&R Block's Holiday Party

The CEO of Miami-based Happy Tax, Mario Costanz, threw down a load of chutzpah this week in an open letter to H&R Block’s board of directors that blasts current management at the behemoth tax preparation franchise. “What has happened at your company over the past decade is appalling,” wrote Costanz.

Fantastic Sam’s Ties Up With The Bancorp to Fuel Growth

Massachusetts-based Fantastic Sams is looking to accelerate its growth, and has been approved for a franchisee lending program created by The Bancorp through its primary financial institution, The Bancorp Bank.

Value Meals on the Rise in QSR

The infamous dollar menu has reached its dying days. As commodities and minimum wage steadily rise, it has become all but impossible for QSR establishments to offer substantial $1 or $2 options and still make a profit.

Finalizing This Year’s Top 200+

Longtime readers of Franchise Times are no doubt familiar with our Top 200+, but for the uninitiated it’s an annual ranking of the largest U.S.-based franchises by worldwide sales. Nobody else does it and, from my behind-the-scenes perch, it’s incredible how much work goes into this project.

Workout Anytime’s Milestone Reflects Booming Fitness Market

As more and more Americans look to get active—a 2015 Gallup poll found that 55 percent of Americans exercise three or more days a week—the franchised workout and fitness sector is booming.

A Primer in Master Franchising

Global Franchise Opportunities is using master franchising agreements to take its three brands throughout the world, while working to prevent the dilution that’s inherent in turning over an entire country to a third-party partner.

Mixed Bizness: Today’s Assortment of Indicators

In case you haven’t noticed, many are eyeing slowing growth in the restaurant sector and predicting a recession. There’s no questioning the concerning data, but I’d like to counter that with a grab bag of recent, largely positive macroeconomic indicators.

What if Driverless Cars Are Just Around the Corner?

We had just sent Tom Kaiser’s story about driverless cars to the printer when Ford Motor Co. came out with the boldest statement yet about how near that seemingly sci-fi day is. Said CEO Mark Fields: “We’ll be mass-producing self-driving cars within five years.”

Cost of Bathroom Wars Is $20 Million for Target

Ever wonder the cost for trying to appease multiple interest groups? For Target Corp., it’s $20 million, which it will spend this year to add private, family restrooms to the rest of its stores, executives said in a conference call yesterday.

The Time Is Right to Sell Your Biz

If you’re considering selling your business anytime in the next few years, a franchise business broker has this piece of advice: act now, because we’re at the top of the cycle of this continued but can’t-last-forever seller’s market.

Time for the NextGen to Step Up

Having just interviewed a 22-year-old Erbert & Gerbert’s franchisee from Texas, who impressed the heck out of me, it’s a great time to shine a light on the IFA’s fantastic NextGen in Franchising Global Competition that is accepting applicants for the year.

Warburg Pincus Boosts BlueGrace With Minority Investment

BlueGrace Logistics of Riverview, Florida, got a $255 million shot in the arm this week from private equity firm Warburg Pincus, which its founder says will provide “a major shot of adrenaline” to growth plans.

Good Dog Day Numbers

It’s not just the humidity. As a business reporter, things tend to slow down during the dog days of summer. While the presidential election reaches its climax for boredom or excitement, a fresh round of economic indicators paint a rosy picture of our union as we enter the final weeks of summer.

Legendary Eater Kobayashi Wins Chronic Taco Challenge

The taco-eating challenge at The Palms in Las Vegas this year was chronic, if not pretty. The legendary eater and reigning champ Takeru Kobayashi gobbled down137 chicken soft tacos in 10 minutes to claim the $5,000 cash prize and the flowered skull trophy of the 6th Annual Gringo Bandito Chronic Tacos Challenge.

Zerorez Operator Sues Olympics Over Free Speech

Michael Kaplan, owner of a Zerorez franchise in a Minneapolis suburb, simply wanted to congratulate the “11 amazing Minnesota athletes” competing in the Olympics in Rio, using social media to do so. But when his attorney warned him against it, citing aggressive actions against other small businesses by the U.S. Olympic committee to protect its trademarks, Kaplan decided to sue in federal court.

Moe’s Southwest Grill Eyes Detroit

After news that Little Caesars is building a new headquarters in Detroit comes another great Motor City tidbit: Moe’s Southwest Grill, an Atlanta-based burrito brand, is looking for multi-unit franchisees to bring the brand into the resurgent Midwestern city.

Wingstop Rocks Q2, Inks 100-unit Saudi Arabian Deal

In a joint release, Dallas-based Wingstop announced its second quarter ‘16 financial results showing revenue up 18.2%, 69 new locations opened, same-store sales up 3.1 percent and—perhaps most significantly—the signing of a new international franchise agreement that will bring 100 new Wingstops to Saudi Arabia.

Who Pays the Legal Bill, 'Zor or 'Zee?

Just in case you don’t have enough things to worry about, attorney Whitney Fore of Gray Plant Mooty adds one more: Who pays the legal bill in cases where franchisees and franchisors land on the same side of a lawsuit.

A Dazzling Display at Europea, but Where's the Food?

When the waiter brought a miniature clothesline to our table with two pieces of dried beef hanging from it, attached by tiny clothespins, we knew the evening at Restaurant Europea in Montreal would be like no other.

Smoothie King Hits 800, Shoots for 1,000

As Smoothie King celebrates a major milestone—its 800th store opening—the New Orleans-based company is focused on hitting 1,000 units by the end of 2017. It’s a lofty goal, but its owner and CEO, Wan Kim, is no stranger to achieving massive goals both as a master franchisee in South Korea and, now, as leader of one of the franchise industry’s healthiest brands.

Is a Restaurant Recession Coming?

A pair of damning reports predict some dark times ahead for the restaurant industry. Paul Westra, an analyst with Stifel, issued a report that announced the firm is taking a bearish stance on all restaurants and issued a “restaurant recession outlook.”

Romp n' Roll Founders Don't Regret 'Shark Tank' Snub

Michael and Babz Barnett had their 15 minutes of fame six years ago on the hit TV show "Shark Tank." Like other contestants, they pitched their concept—a modernized kids’ gym called Romp ‘n Roll—to high-powered celebrity judges, and got the coveted offer. Then they promptly turned it down.

First-timer Dives Into a FDD

The latest issue of Franchise Times has a new feature by Julie Bennett where she examines a franchisor’s financial disclosure document—the FDD—in search of strengths and red flags. It inspired me to dive into an FDD on my own for a look at what this document contains for nervous first-time franchisees.

Chicago Hilton Ensures the Lion Sleeps Tonight

The animals at the Brookfield Zoo may wish they still rested their weary heads on the Savannah grasses in the wild, but at least their new beds have a high-thread count. That’s because the Hilton Chicago /Oak Brook Hills Resort and Conference Center has donated 500 sheets, pillow cases, blankets and duvet covers to the zoo as off-exhibit area bedding for its endangered animals.

Young Talent Revs Business at SafeWay Driving

If it seems the people in the corner office (or more likely today, at their standup desks in the middle of an open floor plan) are getting younger and younger, Safeway Driving Schools’ two new vice presidents are cases in point.

When in St. Petersburg, It's All About the Beer Watching

I’ve never been a beer drinker. In college, my dates had to pony up for sloe gin or a really nice bottle of white zinfandel if they wanted me to enjoy keggers. So only a mother’s unconditional love for her child induced me to go on a brewery tour with my son Zack in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Will Arby’s Roast ‘Beef’ After His Logo’d Performance in PGA Championship?

Negotiations between Arby’s and pro golfer Andrew “Beef” Johnson on changing his nickname to “Meats” came to a screeching halt when Johnson finally told the fast-feeder in no uncertain terms it would not be able to claim “We have the Meats.” But they could say, “We have the Beef.” (Not to be confused with “Where’s the beef,” which is Wendy’s hole in one.)

Roark Sells Batteries Plus Bulbs as Retail Heats Up

After several years of ownership by Atlanta-based Roark Capital, Batteries Plus Bulbs has been acquired by Los Angeles-based private equity firm Freeman Spogli & Co. Finalized at the beginning of July 2016, the acquisition’s financial terms were not disclosed.

Sir Grout Capitalizes on Rehabbing Home Surfaces

Today, most houses come with high-end tile, countertops and wood flooring, but most people don’t know how to properly maintain such materials. You may try some old standbys—bleach, ammonia and vinegar—before becoming exasperated and calling in a professional. That’s where Sir Grout comes in, a 38-unit chain based in Alpharetta, Georgia, that’s growing quickly as more homes come with nicer, more expensive and, ultimately, harder to maintain materials that are immune to the trend of DIY.

Can Pokemon Go Be a Boost to Franchises?

Whether you already play the game, or are simply baffled by the manic popularity of Pokemon Go, allow me to explain, and offer a way to possibly turn hordes of wandering players into some additional traffic at your retail store or restaurant.

Two Hotel Suggestions for Travelers Wanting to Press Their Luck

A tale of two hotels, one franchised with a theme, one non-franchised with a theme.

When the Heavyweights Stepped Into UFC 200 Octagon

Brock Lesnar is enormous, the former NCAA wrestling champion when he was at the University of Minnesota and a former Minnesota Vikings defensive player, we see from our box at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas at the UFC 200 last Saturday. As we would soon learn, mixed martial arts organization UFC itself is huge, too.

From UFC 200, Tales of a Fight That Went Wrong

“Let’s go, Frankie. Let’s go Frankie. Let’s go Frankie,” roars the crowd at the UFC 200 last Saturday as Frankie Edgar took on Jose Aldo. Franchise Times is here as guests of UFC Gym, the franchise that features mixed martial arts training with its own octagon, and Edgar is a new owner of a New Jersey Gym, so this is our guy.

Trip to Mexico Gives Margaritas' Staff Their Shot at Authenticity

Margaritas Mexican Restaurant GM Shawn Barton used to just watch guests watch a video playing on the casual-dining chain’s TVs, but after returning from a management-paid trip to Mexico he now can narrate the travelogue.

Massage Envy Heading to Australia Via Mega-Partnership

Massage Envy is really huge—to the tune of more than 1,125 domestic units—but it’s fixing to get much bigger and a little more worldly with a recently announced partnership with Australia’s Collective Wellness Group to add approximately 100 units down under over the next 15 years. It will be the franchised massage giant’s first foray outside of the United States.

Pieology Acquires Competitor, Unleashes Pizza Wars

With so many new fast-casual pizza concepts out there, many industry watchers see Pieology’s recent acquisition of Project Pie as the first move in an eventual wave of consolidation that will trim the number of players in this rocket-fueled segment.

Marriott Edges Closer to Purchasing Starwood

Marriott International, one of the world’s largest hotel companies, is edging closer to buying Starwood Hotels & Resorts in a $12.2 billion merger that would create one of the world’s largest hotel companies.

Instant Imprints Gives 'Zees a Tangible Stake

Nearly all franchisors hope to align their interests with their franchisees’, of course, but Instant Imprints believes it is the only franchisor to offer something more tangible in that effort: 10,000 gifted common shares to every existing and new franchisee at no additional cost.

Great Harvest Bread Co. Builds On Authenticity

Think of the countless good things technology has wrought since the Industrial Age, and then marvel at how bread—something so elemental to human nourishment—has hardly improved at best or, at worst, been reduced to pseudo bakeries in grocery stores where we all buy the same, bland loaves of once-frozen, trucked-in bread. We can do better as a society said Eric Keshin, president, CMO and principal at Great Harvest Bread Company.

FT Heads to 'Epic, Massive, Ridiculous' UFC 200

The things you learn when getting ready to head to Vegas for UFC 200 this weekend, to cover featherweight contender and UFC Gym owner Frankie Edgar and more.

Home Instead Elevates Caregiving Profession

Having been a long-term patient at a franchise health system—and, of course, a journalist covering the franchise world—I’ve been curious about how medical franchises attract and retain quality professionals in the face of competition from big, established health systems.

Magnolia Bakery Continues Franchising Overseas as It Nears 20th Birthday

Now with 25 international locations beyond its home state of New York, Magnolia Bakery CEO Steve Abrams is thinking even bigger as he looks ahead to the brand’s 20th anniversary. Abrams, who has been CEO of the bakery since 2007, is looking to bump the franchise total up into the 150-200 range in the coming year.

Oh, Happy Day: Happy Birthday Enters the Public Domain

Restaurateurs, raise your hand if you didn’t know you were not allowed to sing 'Happy Birthday' to your guests when they celebrated their birth at your restaurant—unless you paid a licensing fee to a third party.

How British Franchising Is Dealing With Brexit

We’ve been hearing over the course of the past week or so what Brexit, Britain’s exit from the European Union, means to Europe and the U.K, but what’s its effect on franchising there?

Domino's Doubles Down on Cool DXP Delivery Vehicles

With more and more companies investing in delivery technology—restaurant companies and third-party delivery services such as GrubHub and Seamless alike—expect to see more high-tech vehicles and delivery pods in the future. And, in five years or so, look for me to be writing a similar release about new features added to the Domino’s Delivery Drone. I don’t have official confirmation, but believe me when I say it’s coming soon to a window near you.