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British Swim boss is all-in on retention

When Bonnie Alcid did an audit on how long employees stayed, it was an eye-opener. Now the British Swim School operator emphasizes finding and keeping staff above all else.

Why Domino’s will eat Pizza Hut’s lunch

As the second-largest pizza chain eclipses $10 billion in sales and goes all-in as a high-tech pioneer, it expects to overtake Pizza Hut before 2020. CEO Patrick Doyle describes the fateful decisions that started Domino’s fast run-up.

Jerky vegans get their comeuppance

Friends don’t let friends drive drunk, and apparently in a parallel universe they don’t let them be vegans either.

Drew Brees adds Dunkin’ to holdings

As speculation mounts about how long Drew Brees will continue as quarterback for the New Orleans Saints, it’s becoming clearer that one of the most famous and talented players in the NFL has teed himself up to be a major player in the franchise world for many seasons to come.

Unishippers owner is ‘luckiest guy’

But Frank Czar doesn’t leave everything to good fortune. The owner of eight Unishippers territories said he plans for the worst, especially big hits to cash flow.

Erbert and Gerbert’s franchisee aims high

Spend just two minutes on the phone with Aubrey Janik, age 23, and you’ll quickly have an appreciation for her outsized share of ambition and fearlessness. She’s got a two-, three- and five-year plan, and if it all works out, franchising may have found its newest up-and-coming star.

Fear is relative for Best in Class CEO

Failure is a subjective term for Hao Lam. The founder and CEO of Best in Class has had life-changing failures—10, he says—including running from gunfire and being sent to a Vietnamese prison on several occasions.

DQ boss likes the word ‘accountable’

This operator grew from seven locations to 180, all in the Dairy Queen brand, while still in his early 30s. But his advice for other young operators is to make one unit profitable before adding another.

‘Don’t quit’ is motto for Shoney’s operator

‘What truck just hit me’ is a question many multi-unit operators ask. But for Rory Smith of Shoney’s, the answer is always to get up and press on.

Valerie Daniels-Carter, the ultimate do-good franchisee

If there had been an opening in our cover story line-up earlier than November, I would have been the one to break the news that Valerie Daniels-Carter is the coolest woman in Wisconsin. As it was, e-magazine PureWow chose Daniels-Carter back in September to represent Wisconsin in its state-by-state listing of cool women doing impressive things.

HB Boys boss never likes to say ‘I told you so’

‘There has to be an allowance for people to make mistakes,’ declares Gary Moore, operator of 58 Burger Kings plus three other brands. Judging from the operation’s success, many more hits than misses are likely.

From five cents to 500 million for Nathan’s Famous

How to last for 100 years? For Nathan’s Famous, it’s the hot dog, stupid. And if you’re Nathan’s boss, Wayne Norbitz, the only way to eat it is plain. ‘That’s the way God intended it to be,’ he says.

Every day is game time for Denny’s operator

When it’s third-and-one at 10 a.m., it’s not time to punt, declares former Colts great Donnell Thompson, today a Denny’s operator. We asked him to share his playbook.

Saints QB Drew Brees suits up for his next franchise gig

Shouts, cheers, clapping, honest-to-goodness screams—that’s business as usual when Drew Brees makes an appearance in Walk-On’s, the brand he has just thrown his considerable celebrity behind. Here’s a look at where the New Orleans Saints superstar is going after he throws his last professional pass down the field.

Sexy staff at RazzleDazzle Barbershop

There have been a lot of ironies in Elena Linares’ life—the most noteworthy of which is as a former battered wife, she created a 1940s-style barbershop, RazzleDazzle Barbershop, where men are pampered while being titillated by scantily clothed beauticians.

For Rita’s developer, ice is nice

Eli Ailloni, 12, strolled into the Rita’s Café in Bloomington, Minnesota, stowed his backpack, and after parking himself, headphones on head, at a table by the window, tucked into an Italian ice topped with custard that was on the house.

Blue Moon Estate Sales sells it all

As much of the world is now learning from the likes of American Pickers and Pawn Stars, there’s a whole culture around pricing, collecting and selling yesterday’s news—antiques, old cars, collectible items and random junk. Talk to the people buying and selling, and you’ll find there’s a story for everything and everyone.

Big Poppa Pump wrestles to open Shoney’s

If Scott Steiner gets booed at work, he knows he’s doing a good job. After all, you don’t earn the nickname Big Bad Booty Daddy for being too nice to slam your opponent’s head into the ropes.

Yadav credits tough critic, his wife

‘If you don’t take the risk you’ll never see what’s behind the door,’ says Anil Yadav, who has jumped big most recently into TGI Friday’s. That sentiment—and an honest voice at home—are his keys to success.

Antonio Swad started Wingstop, struck again with Pizza Patron

A bored Antonio Swad was sitting next to a wife he was no longer interested in talking to, watching a less-than-stellar Dallas Cowboy football game, when he did the math in his head. A chicken in every seat in Cowboy Stadium still wouldn’t add up to enough wings and drummies to meet the demand of Wingstop’s growing supply chain. Once he realized the brand he created was routinely responsible for the death of more chickens than could watch an NFL game in three hours, he decided it was time to return to pizza.

Charlie Morrison realized investor dreams with IPO

It’s a good time to be Charlie Morrison, Wingstop’s CEO—two stock offerings, sales surging beyond expectations, international growth on multiple continents, and 133 net new stores in the last four quarters capping 12 consecutive years of same-store sales growth. He asserts that simplicity is the key to the brand’s success. Having no direct competition, he adds, is the cherry on top.

UFood Grill hopes weighty woes in past

UFood Grill’s CEO decided to slim down by eating off his chain’s own menu. Now he hopes to leave other baggage behind as well: financial problems for the brand he bought in 2013 and is trying to grow.

QSR International chief fears nothing but debt

Richard Eisenberg of QSR International operates more than 120 restaurants across Central America and the Caribbean. Fresh from the sale of 35 KFC restaurants, he is looking for his next growth vehicle.

Sweet Lorraine’s in the Gritty City

It was a gloomy day in Cadillac Square Park as I held a five-foot-tall camera flash to keep it from blowing over in the wind. From the west side of the park, I had the perfect vantage point for the good things happening in downtown Detroit—a city many Americans have left for dead.

Mickey Thomas and his pathway to Heaven

There was a stiff price to pay if one wanted to be the lead singer of Jefferson Starship back in the ‘80s. “The rest of the band got to party” after a concert, says lead singer Mickey Thomas, still a bit miffed. “You can change strings on your guitar; I can’t change out my vocal cords.”

How Del Taco and 11 more FT Dealmakers landed suitors

If good things come to those who wait, then Del Taco’s long-sought deal with Levy Acquisition Corp. serves as proof. Chicago restaurant tycoon Larry Levy vetted the brand, gathered investors and then engineered a transaction that took the 550-unit Del Taco public and wiped out most of its debt. Del Taco’s CEO Paul Murphy and his management team are happy to get growing again, and to capture Franchise Times’ designation for Deal of the Year.

Tint World’s CEO: ‘Don’t hire dirtbags’

Charles Bonfiglio, a Brooklyn native with the accent to prove it, started his business career in high school, when he opened a pizzeria. Next he designed a clothing line and then sold it, while working at a car stereo shop. Then he discovered Meineke, and “all of a sudden things turned on for me,” he says.

Pizza Press rides black-and-white wave

Living in the resort hinterlands surrounding Disneyland, Dara Maleki felt a lot of the local restaurants served up poor service and lackluster food with prices seemingly aimed at fleecing the throngs of tourists that flock to Anaheim, California. Even with no experience in the restaurant business, he felt he could do better, so he dreamt up a concept that could appease tourist-weary locals as well as mouse-eared visitors.

Zoup’s boss likes to rattle cages

When soup is the heart of your business, you can’t serve just the basics. That’s why founder Eric Ersher tries to keep dreaming up new soups, sometimes from the unlikeliest places.

Newcomb family poses a triple threat

It was long after the lunch rush, but Chris Newcomb still wasn’t comfortable taking up a booth in the Jackson, Mississippi, restaurant that bears his nickname, Newk’s. The reason was what James Patterson was holding in his hand—a camera. As Newcomb sat in the booth with an ahi tuna salad and a slice of pink cake in front of him as props, he raised and lowered his chin, looked away, looked at the camera just as Patterson, the photographer, instructed, but it was clear he wasn’t enjoying it, no matter how many times he reassured us he was fine.

Rockin’ the role of CEO, at School of Rock

Dzana Homan is School of Rock’s forcefully passionate CEO, focused on growing the chain of music schools and leveraging its power as a cultural tastemaker for today’s young, UP-AND-COMING rockers.

Youthful energy on the Latin American trade mission

It was our idea to pose Sergio Orozco next to a Lego man on the trade mission to Latin America. At 25, Orozco, international manager for Signal 88 Security, was the youngest member of our band of merry franchisors, and thereby, willing to combine work with play. On trade missions, you have plenty of downtime while traveling from airport to airport to get to know the other participants, but not as well as when you give them the Franchise Times Personality Quiz. Here’s how Orozco answered our probing questions:

Dental Fix CEO learns lessons one sip at a time

At age 34, David Lopez has seen success and failure. Dental Fix RX is a prime example of the former; Froots not so much. He’s developed strong points of view along the way. Read on for his particular flavor of Kool-Aid.

Franworth aims to help small franchisors grow

Mentorship comes in all shapes and phases—sometimes you’re the mentor; sometimes you’re the mentee. It all depends on where in the ride you’re picked up.

Why restaurant owners fear the beard

‘Beards are hip,’ says one restaurant owner, stating the obvious. Facial hair used to be verboten in foodservice, but no longer, and many are scrambling to rewrite policies. At least one holdout, though, forbids the beard.

Arby’s do-or-die moment

Paul Brown had never led a fast-food franchise in his life when new investor Roark Capital picked him to run Arby’s—a concept so out-of-touch with today’s tastes it was the butt of comedians’ jokes. But Brown and his team punched back, proudly embracing its meats, and today can boast a fast-food revival against the odds.

Cotti Foods’ CEO embraces the weird

Peter Capriotti, CEO of Cotti Foods, this year added a couple of Pieology restaurants to his stable of 62 Taco Bells and 43 Wendy’s. Thus he joins the slim ranks of multi-unit operators who also take a chance on something new.

How 6 hotshots aim to change the world

Six of the world’s most interesting young entrepreneurs are using franchising to make their mark. Jennifer Kushell is the organizer of a new industry-wide effort called NextGen to connect budding franchisors with established power brokers to help their businesses take off. Meet the group that is debunking myths about young people in business and franchising—and in some cases saving the world.

New concept for Famous Dave’s founder: Jimmie’s

With ties severed to Famous Dave’s, the barbecue franchise he founded, Dave Anderson is back as head pitmaster for Jimmie’s Old Southern BBQ. Can he avoid the mistakes that soured his former experience?

Liberty Tax founder aims to beat namesake firm, now his rival.

When Dave Prokupek, above left, joined Smashburger, it had zero stores. When he left it had 275. Can he apply his golden touch to Jackson Hewitt, where he’s CEO?

College athlete chooses Juice It Up!

Here’s one ‘zee who figures Portland, Oregon, is ripe for more juice-bar competition. A former marketer for Nike shoes, she plans to take on a local chain and the national giant, Jamba Juice, with a three-store deal.

For Curves pioneer, everything’s different at EnVie

He may be back in the fitness business, but former Curves President Gary Findley’s latest brand is operating in a brave new world. Can he make EnVie (pronounced on-VEE) into the next big thing?

Can Potatopia make the potato sexy?

Behold the potato, to some a humble starch. But for the founder of Potatopia, spuds are the main event, and he’s trying to build a franchise around it. Now if only it were easier to pronounce.

Must-answer question: Who’s the boss?

Mike and Linda Boyd discovered the hard way they can’t both be in charge of the same thing at Instant Imprints.

Snap Fitness teams with NASCAR driver, plus more

It may seem as if stock car drivers are pseudo-athletes, but controlling a 3,300-pound car at speeds of up to 200 mph takes strength, stamina and the heart of a marathon runner.

BoeFly aims to finance the masses

BoeFly’s mission to match every borrower with lenders willing to make a loan, and that’s the core service they’ve offered since starting four years ago.

New Orleans QB Drew Brees delivers

Drew Brees has five Jimmy John’s stores, soon to be 20, that are going head to head with New Orleans’ iconic muffulettas and shrimp po’boys.

Marlu’s CEO seeks American dream

Sent to America at age 16 to avoid fighting his own countrymen, Tony Lutfi landed a job at a Jack in the Box. “I loved the speed and the movement,” the son of Palestinian refugees recalls.

Volleyball pro gets a raw deal

Effective April 1, Erin Gray became the Juice It Up franchisee for the Rancho Santa Margarita, California, location.

PizzaRev founders try for bigger slice

Meet the 2014 Franchise Times Dealmakers—the daring dozen who move the money that builds empires.