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Checking in on Captain D’s

From countless interviews every year, I write about a lot of brands. Some of these stick with me—for a variety of reasons—while others fade to background knowledge. One restaurant brand I’m still itching to try and that I enjoy following is Captain D’s, a 50-year-old seafood brand based in Tennessee.

A Pre-Election Economic Update

A cold shadow has fallen over America as we enter a new moon phase this Halloween weekend. Election jitters have people drawing the shades and staying close to home. This autumn is more foreboding than most, but rosy economic numbers offer a sharp contrast to our current period of angst and uncertainty.

Dog Haus Deal Started With Dream Email

Usually huge development deals never actually get completed, especially when an emerging brand with just 21 units is the franchisor, but a massive contract to build 300 Dog Haus locations in 12 states over the next seven years just may be the exception, if co-founder Andre Vener’s math holds up.

Hilton Breaking the (Prototype) Rules

As a frequent traveler, I’ve become a hotel snob. When it’s time to pick out a room for my next trip, I look for something unique rather than a cookie-cutter hotel that could be in any city or under any flag.

Freshii Jumps on 'Huge' Cubs Story With Promo

A big win by the Chicago Cubs last night puts Freshii’s promotional campaign one step closer to reality. If the Cubs win the World Series, the healthy fast-casual chain says it will give away a free franchise to an applicant who also expresses undying Cubs love.

Why Your Franchise Needs Delivery

Currently, only about a third of the population orders delivery food that’s not pizza; demand for a wider variety of take-out food is consistent in cities, suburbs and rural areas; and, the delivery category as a whole is only scratching the surface of its massive potential as third-party services literally bring more meals, goods and services to more people.

Can Domino’s Be Stopped?

It’s that time of year again: leaves falling, temperatures chilling and, once again, Domino’s is the star of the quarterly earnings show. On the eve of my trip to the pizza giant’s headquarters in Ann Arbor, Michigan, I’m writing questions and wondering if this high-tech pizza brand can be stopped in light of its 22 consecutive quarters of positive sales growth.

Minimum Wage Is 'Existential' Issue for Restaurant Owners

“I’m going to start at the city halls because that’s where the action is,” said Dan McElroy, president and CEO of Hospitality Minnesota. He was referring specifically to Minneapolis and St. Paul, where city councils are considering proposals to raise the minimum wage or mandate paid sick and safe leave. But he also noted cities and counties across the United States are increasingly at the center of workforce regulation while the U.S. House and Senate dither.

Massage Heights 'Zee Thinks Workplace Culture Is on Her

Jennifer Burlington, a three-unit Massage Heights franchisee in San Antonio, has a simple yet often overlooked way of finding out what her massage therapists want in the workplace: She asks them. Her approach is instructive for anyone facing a shortage of good employees (which means everyone).

Phil Keiser, CEO of Culver’s, Dies at 60

Phil Keiser, named CEO and president of Culver’s restaurants last year, has died, the company said on Monday.

Franchise Times Launches Food On Demand

It’s a new era in food, with companies like Domino’s designing their own cars and drone technology that’s ready and waiting once regulatory hurdles are cleared. This will impact everything from independent restaurants to the largest players in industry, and we’ve started a brand-new media project called Food On Demand to cover it all.

What I Found in Denver

As previously mentioned here, I flew out to Denver last week to check out Franchise Expo West in its new, mile-high home. Foot traffic at the show was slow, but I enjoyed exploring the city’s excellent downtown while catching up with industry contacts and meeting some new franchise friends.

Ruth's Chris Steakhouse Promotion: Genius or Flop?

Ruth's Chris Steakhouse in Ann Arbor thought it had a great deal on the docket for University of Michigan football fans. For every point the Michigan football team scored, guests were able to get 1 percent off their check. It was a fun, creative idea until the Wolverines actually took the field and dominated the Scarlett Knights 78-0 last Saturday.

Design Is Secret Weapon for Growth-Minded Franchises

For a story about how architecture can help franchise brands expand, we peeked at the drawing board of Greg Terry, design director at Studio Four Design in Knoxville, Tennessee. He offers these design tips, with more to come in next month’s issue.

Grandson of Founder Criticizes CKE With Poison Pen

The poison pen of Jason LeVecke is rattling management’s cage at CKE Restaurants, the California-based franchisor of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s restaurants.

Going Where My Feet Can Take Me

With this week’s upcoming Franchise Expo West in Denver, I’m packing my bags and building an itinerary to see the best sights in the Mile High City. The one requirement? I’m only going where my feet and public transit can take me. Surprisingly, in such a transit-friendly town, this gives me a lot of options.

Best Performers in This Year’s Franchise Times Top 200+

In a year with stunning sales drops at some of franchising’s largest brands, it’s equally notable how many brands posted excellent sales growth numbers. Take RE/MAX, for example, which increased its year-over-year sales by 13 percent and moved from No. 11 to No. 8 on our exclusive annual ranking of the largest U.S.-based franchise companies.

Belski Picks Best Debate Stocks on Economics & Politics Panel

As we enter presidential debate season, there are four stocks everyone should own, believes Brian Belski, chief investment strategist at BMO Capital Markets, who spoke on an “Economics & Politics” panel in Minneapolis last week.

Robots Handle Fed Cash, but a Real Person's at the Top

Business reporters are often told to follow the money, so our edit team decided to do just that when we visited the Federal Reserve Bank in Minneapolis last week. Turns out, you would have to be a robot to actually get your hands on any of that dough, but new President Neel Kashkari has a human touch.

Restaurant Finance Gathering to Draw Strategists, Dealmakers

A fountain out front and a font of capital inside, the Restaurant Finance and Development Conference is almost here, presented by our sister publication, the Restaurant Finance Monitor. It runs from November 14-16 at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas.

Watching a Potential Hotel Slowdown

Times are good in the hotel business, but for an industry that often pegs its future success on America’s GDP, anecdotal evidence suggests these roaring times in the hospitality business could be slowing down.

Americans Playing With Less Fun Money

Although I’ve tended toward a generally bullish attitude on our economic future in recent months, a pronounced slowdown in the restaurant category along with reports like this from the SBE Council suggest the American economic recovery is slowing, if not stalling nine years after the technical end of the Great Recession.

Cottman Man Draws on Celebrity Status for His Own Book

Cottman Transmission is shifting the adult coloring book trend back to children with the release of its new coloring and activities book starring none other than the Cottman Man.

Harvard Case Study Attracts BBX Capital to MOD

It’s not often a franchisor attracts a prospect by being the subject of a Harvard Business School case study, but that’s what happened for Seattle-based MOD Pizza. BBX Capital just signed on as a franchisee, with plans to develop 50 or more of the fast-casual pizza chain’s restaurants across central and southern Florida over the next seven years.

TOMS Shoes CEO Reflects on MOD Pizza's Mission

How do you sustain a mission-driven company as it grows in units and geography? I put this question to Jim Alling in an interview this week, for an upcoming story I’m doing about Seattle-based MOD Pizza, where Alling is an early investor and serves on the board.

Marriott-Starwood Merger a Go; More to Come?

With this week's news that Marriott’s acquisition of Starwood received antitrust approval in China, the two hotel giants are slated to become a combined entity on September 23. As the hotel business remains hot with sales growth across the board and a raft of hip, new flags, there’s an obvious question: Are more hotel weddings on the horizon?

International Adaptations in Franchising

There’s no topping the amazing adaptations cooked up by Mother Nature, but as an ever-growing flock of U.S.-based franchised brands expand overseas, I’m planning a deep-dive into international brand evolution at the Restaurant Finance & Development Conference in November.

A First-Timer at the IFA’s DC Fly-In

As a political junkie, I loved the chance to wander the halls of power surrounding the U.S. Capitol at this week’s IFA DC Fly-In. Aside from the fun of wandering around Capitol Hill, it was a clear demonstration that the International Franchise Association has learned how to appeal to its members in a less caustic manner.

Nunn to Lead Franchise Team at Chase

JPMorgan Chase recently announced that Clarence Nunn will join the firm to lead the continued middle market expansion strategy in the Southeast.

Healthcare Tops All Others in FT's Top 200+ Ranking

Here are a few things I learned about franchising while preparing the Franchise Times Top 200+ package: Healthcare franchising is booming, with systemwide sales for the industry segment up 14 percent, better than all 11 other segments.

IMC Bets On Healthcare With Right at Home Stake

RiseMark Brands, the parent company of Right at Home and IKOR, has a fresh infusion of capital now that Investors Management Corp. has invested in the Omaha-based senior care franchisor.

Mooyah Franchisee Assists Flood-Ravaged Louisiana Coast

After severe Louisiana flooding soaked or destroyed an estimated 40,000 homes, people and communities are struggling to recover from its devastating effects. The Baton Rouge Mooyah location, along with franchisee Chuck Kerr, has been stepping in to lend a hand in the wake of the disaster.

Burger 21’s Better Burgers Catching On

Do you stop and think about how good we have it in terms of food here in the 21st century? It’s somewhat crazy how much better the average new-concept restaurant is these days compared with 10, 20 or 30 years ago. Rather than a new take on Sysco’s greatest hits, so many of today’s are both excellent and creative. Even so, the world’s a cruel place and even well-intentioned, high-quality concepts will fail.

Tutor Doctor Settles Dispute With Attorney Kestenbaum

Tutor Doctor has settled its lawsuit that sought $20 million in damages from East Meadow, New York, attorney Harold Kestenbaum for $3 million, putting to rest allegations Kestenbaum failed to properly register the franchise in nine states.

Nature’s Table Expands as Americans Eat Healthier

It must be refreshing to be Rich Wagner these days. He’s the co-founder and senior vice president of Nature’s Table, a 68-unit healthier-eating fast-casual concept that started in Florida back in 1977. Now, after 39 years, the concept is finally growing quickly as Americans are generally starting to favor healthier and more transparent restaurants.

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.