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20 years of Top 200, there’s stories behind the numbers


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This is our annual Top 200+ issue, which ranks the top franchises in the nation based on worldwide sales. Because it has been 20 years since we launched our first Top 200 list, I thought I would peruse the October 1999 issue to see what we were talking about then, and how much the 200 has changed since.

In my column back then, I highlighted a few of the brands that were innovating: Radio Shack, Perkins and Golden Corral. Or how about this line: “And lookout for T.G.I. Fridays, as an IPO for about $145 million will put them on the fast track to growth, whether it be for Fridays or a fresh, new secondary concept.”

What we didn’t know then was that a small internet start-up called Amazon would later put Radio Shack out of business. And millennials, who were in elementary school in 1999, today are helping restaurant delivery boom, and assist in a casual and family dining slowdown.

We even were tracking the effect of that newfangled technology, the internet, on franchising. In one article, a Franchise Times reporter wrote, “There’s already considerable handwringing from franchisors about selling products over the Internet. While it will boost company sales, it also can cannibalize sales on the franchisee level.”

Or another paragraph from a consultant: “And if done right, the franchised system also can have a leg up on Internet-only retailers, who are already finding that they can’t compete without bricks and mortar stores.”

Ah, the memories.

What hasn’t changed is that the Top 200+ is always made up of personal stories behind the numbers. Take the star of our cover this month, Jennifer Schuler, the almost new CEO of Wetzel’s Pretzels (No. 260), and former chief marketing officer of the company. She’s utilizing social media to create a buzz about the brands. I mean, look at that pretzel on the cover. Now that’s Instagram-worthy stuff. But she’s also putting into play a time-tested tactic used by successful franchisors over the years: She’s asking franchisees what they think.

“While there’s a million things you could do with pretzels,” she told Franchise Times Senior Editor Beth Ewen, she’s looking for those ideas that “pass the fussy test.” If people in the test stores say it is too fussy, they don’t ask operators to roll it out.

Mary Jo Larson

Mary Jo Larson

Publisher
Reach Mary Jo at 612-767-3208
or mlarson@franchisetimes.com

A Top 200+ story that jumped out at me was that of Devan and Morgan Kline. The childhood sweethearts started their workout business in a parking lot with 21 clients. Today, their Burn Boot Camp brand has more than 200 locations and 70,000 clients. Coming from differing backgrounds, they started the franchise as most start-ups do.

“Devan and I were the trainers, we were the operations managers, we were the janitors, the salespeople,” Morgan Kline notes. Now, she says, they are recruiting the people who can teach them. They aren’t shying away from their mistakes, either, and how they learned from them is another hallmark of smart leadership. You’ll want to catch their interesting story.

I’ve got to hand it to Franchise Times Editor Laura Michaels and her team: They have documented the ups, the downs, the companies, the notable quotes and more to make this Top 200+ as fresh as ever, 20 years later. You’ll want to slow down and enjoy this one, page by page. Heck, there may be a trend in this issue that will stand the test of time 20 years from now. You know, that internet thing caught on.

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