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'Zombies' in the Restaurant Biz May Falter, Panelists Say

A slew of restaurant closings are coming, predicted panelists at a Minnesota Shopping Center Association event this week, as soon as patrons use up their holiday gift cards. “There’s a lot of zombies out there who are dead and they just don’t know it,” said Stephanie March, senior editor at Mpls.St. Paul Magazine. “February will be the reckoning.”

No Skin in the Game?

Having started my career as a business reporter right before the good times ground to a halt in 2008, I'm especially sensitive to the warning signs cropping back up in the economy. The latest? Franchisors offering enormous discounts or even waiving the franchisee fee altogether. This cannot be a good thing.

Can Buster Bluth erase Jared Fogle?

Whether it’s his portrayal of Buster Bluth in Arrested Development or Gary Walsh in Veep, Tony Hale is a delight who is regarded fondly by a wide audience. Subway is wise to use his talents in a new ad campaign clearly designed to turn the page from the Jared Fogle era.

Franchise Times Top 15 Stories of 2015

Looking back on the last 12 months proves it's been a great year here at Franchise Times. We've added two new staff writers (myself included!), created some great content, won some industry awards and have even seen a dramatic increase in our web traffic. Not bad for a year's work! Below is a list of our 15 most-clicked stories throughout the year.

Dogs Get a Leg Up on Holiday Spending

Americans are on track to spend $60 billion on their pets this year, according to Pet Supplies Plus. Naughty pets, as well as nice ones, can expect a gift valued at around $30 from their guardians. Not to mention what they can beg, borrow or steal from under the tree.

Anytime Fitness Plus More on our New 20 to Watch List

Coming soon in a Franchise Times issue near you is our annual 20 to Watch feature, which highlights the people, brands and ideas in franchising that we think will be trending next year.

Thinking of Selling? Tips to Getting the Best Price

“There is no greater opportunity to make money other than selling your business,” declared John Gordon, founder of Pacific Management Consulting Group, and he explained seven things to nail down before you do so, at a Restaurant Finance & Development Conference panel last month. A few highlights:

Dear Chipotle, Get Well Soon

Poor Chipotle. With its formerly shiny reputation and lofty goals of locally raised, happy chickens marching straight to your plate, it has become the Jack In The Box of the 2010s. As is often the case with hindsight, nobody saw this coming, but it makes sense that the poster child for locally sourced clean eating now struggles to contain the damage from multiple outbreaks of foodborne unpleasantness.

Better Food Movement is Now Unstoppable

Regardless of the motivation or science, there is no stopping the "better food" freight train and your restaurant brand (or supply company) better be prepared.

Site Selection Gets Boost from Data, Captain D's Exec Says

“It’s a great time to do site selection because of all the tools out there and all the data out there,” said Michael Arrowsmith, chief development officer with Captain D’s, in a new video interview with Franchise Times.

Get the Model Right Before Stepping on Gas, BIP Partner Says

Mike Rotondo is CEO of Tropical Smoothie Café and Tin Drum, and he said in a new video interview the first step in franchising is to make the model profitable before starting to grow.

One Can Never Overdose on Too Much RFDC Coverage

When writing our coverage of our Restaurant Finance & Development Conference for our January issue, we decided to take the New York Times approach with a slight modification. Ours is all the news that fits in print.

Looking Ahead to 2016

Groan, I know, here comes all the “year end” articles and lists, but I can’t resist! After joining the franchise industry a year ago, I’m anxiously looking forward to many things in the coming year, while being very thankful for everything that’s happening up to the present.

The Joint Demonstrates Power of Franchising in Health Care

Have you heard of The Joint? It’s a franchised chiropractic chain that’s exemplary of the more modern vision of alternative health care without all the bulky infrastructure and insurance influence. As a recent and recurring patient, I see this company’s efforts as revolutionary for chiropractic, and it’s easy to see other health clinics following a similar path.

It's a Borrower's World and Then Some, TD Bank Exec Says

Brian Frank of TD Bank says it’s a borrower’s market on steroids for restaurant operators seeking capital, in a new video interview.

People are Worth Trusting Despite Risk, MOD's Boss Says

Scott Svenson, co-founder of MOD Pizza, discusses how hard it is to keep a strong company culture as a franchise brand grows, in a new video interview.

Dogs in the Franchise Spotlight

According to the American Pet Product Association (APPA), Americans spent approximately $47.7 billion on pet products and services in 2010, an increase of 4.8 percent over 2009. That’s a lot of puppy money.

The Art of Team Building with a Twist

When Cathy Deano and Renee Maloney, founders of Painting with a Twist, added team-building sessions about two years ago, they envisioned a completely different offering than their consumer-oriented paint-and-sip classes.

Golden Corral Franchisee Dishes Out Helpings from the Heart

Now a successful businessman and the franchise owner of Metro Corral Partners, with 31 Golden Corrals in the Florida/Georgia area, Eric Holm has made a second career out of serving Thanksgiving meals.

DLA Piper's (and FT's) Zeidman Gains Free Enterprise Award

Philip Zeidman, senior partner at DLA Piper and general counsel for the International Franchise Association, is the first recipient of the IFA Dennis Wieczorek Free Enterprise Award. He will accept the award during the IFA’s annual convention, Feb. 20-23 in San Antonio.

Don't Miss the Delivery Boat!

We’re only months—a few years at most—away from drone delivery of everything from toilet paper to cheeseburgers, but many franchise brands are seemingly missing out on the wave of restaurant delivery companies like BiteSquad, DoorDash, GrubHub and Seamless.

How Enlightened Brands Are Transforming Their Teams

Every employer wants his employees present, i.e. at their desk or workstation, and he, or she, also wants them engaged (in their work, not to another employee). But it’s not enough in the hospitality industry to just show up to work, Fred LeFranc, CEO of Results Thru Strategy, said during his panel at the Restaurant Finance & Development Conference in Las Vegas earlier in November.

A Few Notes from Anaheim

As I begin to recognize more faces on the franchise expo circuit, I'm still amazed by the kindness of people in the franchise industry.

Three Operators Display Power of the 'Zee at RFDC Panel

Anyone who doubts large, multi-unit operators can wield more power than their franchisors wasn’t at the “success breakfast” featuring three entrepreneurs on the last day of the Restaurant Finance & Development Conference. Franchisors who want to attract such owners—and who doesn’t?—should note the mindset of such entrepreneurs.

Smaller Operators have Outsized Hopes for Growth

Small to mid-sized restaurant operators are a bullish bunch, with 69 percent of respondents to a new survey by RSM expecting top-line growth next year and a mere 4 percent worrying about a decline, according to a Restaurant Finance & Development Conference presentation.

Around the Restaurant Industry in 60 Minutes

It was almost like speed dating, as nine experts at the Restaurant Finance & Development Conference provided quick market snapshots and nuggets of information from their unique corner of the restaurant industry.

T-shirts from Franchise Brands Ship Out to Iraq

Not every thank you has to be a grand gesture. Sometimes showing appreciation to our military can be as simple as providing them what they ask for.

Famous Chef Weighs in on the Taxing Issue of Tipping

During the Restaurant Finance & Development Conference, Eric Ripert, chef and co-owner of Le Bernardin, considered one of the best restaurants in the world, had a different take on the hot issue of eliminating tipping.

Decoding Success of Triple Bottom-Line Brands

A new crop of companies have emerged in recent years, in the mold of Whole Foods Market, with a purpose that goes beyond profits. Encompassing people and the planet alongside profits, so-called triple bottom-line brands are an interesting phenomenon, and were the subject of a seminar at this year’s Restaurant Finance & Development Conference.

MOD Pizza Tale Shows Power of Culture, at RFDC Panel

We’ve all heard tales about creating the right culture at our companies. But the story of Cory tops them all, as told by MOD Pizza’s founder at the Restaurant Finance & Development Conference today.

Economists Debate Policy at Restaurant Finance Confab

Who knew economists could be so entertaining? In a debate to open the Restaurant Finance & Development Conference Monday, Arthur Laffer and Robert Reich mixed it up in a lively session, from a conservative and liberal point of view, respectively.

Hot October Jobs Data Includes Franchising

Everybody’s talking about today’s blockbuster U.S. jobs report, with the BLS reporting an additional 271,000 jobs in October. That puts the unemployment rate at 5 percent. That’s not the whole story, as ADP reports U.S. franchise employment increased 52,500 during the month—nearly 20 percent of the total increase.

Credit Compliance Issue No Death Knell for Famous Dave’s

The headlines about Famous Dave’s aren’t pretty. Turmoil, chaos, dive, darkest hour—this isn’t what you want to see from a quarterly earnings report. But Famous Dave’s might not be in that bad of shape despite the news the barbecue company is out of compliance with creditor Wells Fargo.

What Happens when 800 Lawyers Meet Franchising's Bogeymen

Two of franchising’s biggest bogeymen, Dr. David Weil of the Department of Labor and Richard Griffin of the National Labor Relations Board, appeared before a group of franchise lawyers at their annual get-together last month—and it turned out they don’t have horns.

Road to Crowdfunding Gets Shorter with New Federal Rules

It’s been a long time coming—more than three-and-a-half years—but the Securities & Exchange Commission approved last week final rules for Regulation Crowdfunding, also known as Reg CF and the last remaining component of the JOBS Act of 2012.

The People Problem in Franchising

My day started with two divergent visuals on the challenge of hiring employees. First, a friend contacted me on behalf of his new-to-franchising father who’s having trouble finding employees. Then, I saw the horrible video of the (former) Taco Bell employee drunkenly assaulting his Uber driver. I don’t envy anyone whose livelihood depends on finding and keeping high-quality people.

A Saucy Marco's Clear Winner in GOP Debate

Apparently, pizza makes watching the GOP debates more palatable. According to a survey of 650 Marco’s Pizza stores in 35 states, pizza sales spiked 28.5 percent during the most recent televised debate, October 28. Since the debate’s theme was the economy, we’re thinking maybe it got people thinking about dough.

Driven Brands Adds Carstar to Burgeoning Holdings

Driven Brands continues its acquisition tear with the purchase of Carstar, the second-largest auto body repair franchise, which it’s adding to a new Paint & Collision division behind first-place Maaco.

NextGen Young Entrepreneurs Program Gets Cash Infusion

David McKinnon, co-founder of ServiceBrands International, pledged a significant endowment to the IFA Educational Foundation, which will be used to bolster the coffers of the IFA’s NextGen In Franchising program.

CEOs to Describe Brand Transformation at Restaurant Finance Confab

“The company was literally out of cash in September of 2008,” recalls James White about Jamba Juice, the company he was hired as CEO to fix that year. “For me to just save the company was job one.” White will detail how he transformed the brand, along with Scott Svenson of MOD Pizza and Phil Greifeld of Captain D’s, at a CEO panel at the Restaurant Finance & Development Conference, Nov. 9-11 at the Wynn in Las Vegas.

Exclusive: Dave Anderson on Returning to Famous Dave’s

Earlier this week, we brought you the story about “Famous Dave” Anderson rejoining his namesake company, Famous Dave’s. Now we’ve got Anderson’s thoughts on choosing to return to the brand he founded in 1994 and left in 2014, as well as his plans for his fast-casual Jimmie’s Old Southern BBQ Smokehouse he founded last spring.

Dave Anderson Puts Fame Back into Famous Dave’s

“Famous Dave” Anderson, founder of Famous Dave’s of America, has rejoined the company as part of a reorganization seeking to reverse the fortunes of the Minneapolis-based barbecue chain beset by falling sales and a succession of leadership changes.

Kono Pizza Heading Into Walmart

Kono Pizza, the innovative pizza-in-a-cone brand started in 2013, is planning its first store location within a Walmart, as well as an aggressive 10-store expansion deal in the Dallas area.

McDonald's Delivers First Quarterly SSS Growth in Years

Finally, McDonald’s has something good to talk about besides all-day breakfast. According to the company’s third-quarter earnings release, almost all the numbers look great, or at least better than the much-maligned fast-food giant has in the past few years.

How to Carry On, Plus Other Tips From Globe Trotters

Every time I find myself in the company of world-travelers I ask for tips on how to make it less painful. Here are some of the tips I scored from participants on the recent trade mission to Latin America. Be sure to read to the very end; the last two are invaluable to anyone who travels for a living.​

Full Circle for Smoothie King CEO, who Sells Korean Units

Wan Kim was Smoothie King’s biggest franchisee by far, building 105 stores in South Korea before buying the brand, moving to New Orleans and becoming CEO, in 2012. Now he’s sold those Korean stores to Shinsegae Group for $16.5 million, as the dominant department store retailer plans to add stores in South Korea and push into Vietnam.

Earning Your Business Chops

In China, chops are almost like a fingerprint. They are distinctive, hard to duplicate, and when sealing an envelope, proof that no one has tampered with it. For Sweetwaters Coffee & Tea, their chop is their logo.

Call for Nominations: Who Will Make Franchise News in 2016?

Franchise Times is seeking nominations for our annual “20 to Watch” feature, presenting 20 notable people, companies and trends in franchising that will be making news in 2016.

Kolaches: The Freshest Idea in Franchising?

There are so many franchises in the United States—approximately 780,000, according to the International Franchise Association. I love hearing about so many creative businesses on a daily basis. My latest fling? The Kolache Factory. There’s truly a niche for everyone.

Dickey's Barbecue Pit Unveils Lean New Layout

Dickey’s Barbecue Pit is celebrating the first week of a radically redesigned new restaurant layout in Dallas.