By Operators, for Operators—a Sneak Peek of FT Zor Awards
Craig Paschich operates an Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Arizona, and is one of more than 20 franchisees who shared advice on how to investigate, select and successfully launch a franchised business for the Franchise Times Zor Awards project, which will publish March 1.
Charlotte Haigler Proctor likes to tell prospective franchisees, “I hope you’re not considering being an absentee owner.” She is one of the super-smart franchisees our edit team has been interviewing for the last several weeks, preparing stories for our March cover package, the Franchise Times Zor Awards. Here’s a sneak peek at some of their advice on how to choose, investigate and then successfully launch a franchise.
“We ran our first store ourselves for a little over a year,” Haigler Proctor told FT’s Laura Michaels about opening a Zaxby’s with her brother Ron in Alpharetta, Georgia, in 2004. “That first year, we were there all the time and a little bit at each other’s throats. Eventually we found our strengths and then it becomes about finding the right managers as you grow.”
Another Zaxby’s franchisee, Sterling Coleman, echoes her point about hard work. “When I opened my first location, I literally opened and closed the store for 90 days straight without taking a day off,” he told Michaels. “It took a lot of discipline and it was also much needed as someone with a lot of business experience but not restaurant experience.”
Many franchisees shared advice about how to find out what’s really going on at the franchises that interest you. “Walk into the restaurant as a guest,” said Jeff Neely, who with his wife, Patti, own 23 restaurants in all, in seven concepts including Old Chicago. “You don’t introduce yourself, and you talk to the managers and the servers, the host, you talk to the busboys. Quite honestly, they tell you the truth.”
When getting to the end stage of signing a deal that includes new-store development requirements, make sure that corporate’s expectations of the pace matches what your operation can handle, especially because more development deals are coming with tougher penalties for breaking them these days, said J.B. Hewetson of The Cypress Group, an investment banker who helped Elie Khoury, a New Orleans restaurant and hotel operator, get into the Taco Bell system.
Khoury is a believer in buying into big, established systems like Taco Bell, and he proves it can be done, even by a newcomer to a brand. You’ll learn why in the March issue.
There’s more, much more, in our upcoming cover story, which prospective franchisees can use as a step-by-step guide to introspection, investigation and then the reality check of deciding which franchise to buy. We thank the 20-plus franchisees who shared their wisdom learned the hard way, in order to ease the path for the next group of new operators.