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United PF crosses 100-unit milestone plus more from our bloggers and tweeters


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Trey Owen, CEO of United PF Partners, at the celebration for passing 100 Planet Fitness gyms.

“Somebody was going to get there, and it was a real privilege to be the first one to hit that milestone,” says Trey Owen, speaking about United PF Partners surpassing the 100-club mark this past fall and becoming the first Planet Fitness franchisee to break that barrier. Flash back to November 2, 2016, when Owen played point guard in combining five different franchisee groups including his own into one company, United PF Partners based in Austin and backed by Eagle Merchant Partners and JLM Financial Partners. United PF had 58 clubs then and the three entities won a Franchise Times Dealmakers award in 2017 for the complicated transaction. Reached in late December, he said, “As we literally sit here today we have 112 locations, with another seven to open before the end of the year. So kind of a mad rush to the end of 2018, when we anticipate 118 clubs.” Owen likes to challenge his team to think about “not just today, but envision ourselves having 50 clubs, 100 clubs, 1,000 clubs, and operate in that mindset.” United PF “can’t emulate someone else, so one of the things is we can find people that have seen this movie, and they can help us reach our organizational goals.”


Gigi’s Chapter 11

Two items are noteworthy in the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in January by Mr. Gatti’s Pizza, Sovrano and Gigi’s Cupcakes: a $20.2- million term loan from Equity Bank to Mr. Gatti’s and Sovrano, its parent company, and a $9.2-million term loan from Equity Bank to Gigi’s Cupcakes.  Both loans are dated June 28, 2018. A bit over six months later, on January 4, 2019, the debtors claimed “a liquidity crisis” in the bankruptcy filing. Said Jeffrey Cohen of Cohen Law, the attorney representing 18 Gigi’s Cupcakes franchisees in ongoing litigation: “It’s a term loan, not a line of credit. What happened to the cash?”


Way Better Delivery

The characteristics of a well-made hamburger—the juicy patty, melted cheese, premium fixings—are also the very attributes that make travel tough and present a problem for restaurants wanting to capitalize on consumers’ desire for food delivery. The popular accompaniment of fries, too, can be problematic, and that’s what got John Eucalitto thinking after he saw something in a report from a third-party delivery provider, “that they believed soggy fries were OK.” The president of Wayback Burgers, Eucalitto decided it was up to him to find a better way for his brand to deliver. Enter Viddl-It, Wayback’s new electric vehicle initiative that combines the on-site cooking of food trucks with on-demand delivery technology to ultimately bring consumers a better product.


Shaich on Franchising

The franchising model can take many forms, but the leader behind Panera says there are some key factors that enabled the brand’s incredible franchise growth over the last 26 years.  Panera now has more than 2,040 restaurants across the country, more than 1,100 of which are franchised. But the company still has just a handful of franchisees, which have an average of about 44 locations each. Ron Shaich, the leader behind Panera’s growth, said they stuck with the limited franchise model because it worked really well for the company and the franchisees.

“Long after we had financing needs, we had a pristine balance sheet, we continued to franchise because it was a great model and they ran great stores. But we only had 25 franchisees,” said Shaich. “There was a joke at Panera that we’d call a franchise meeting and have all our franchisees fly in on their own jets. Which was great, that’s what we want,” Shaich told Franchise Times. The franchisees were more than happy to gas up the Gulfstream for a little face time; after all, they make pretty good money. Franchised locations bring in net sales of $2.5 million. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) was 14.9 percent for company stores with a 10 percent net profit, or around $11 million in net profit for the average franchisee.

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