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More Personalities

Looking for her next Jamba Juice

In a $200-million take-private deal completed in September, Focus Brands added Jamba Juice to its collection of concepts that already included Cinnabon, Auntie Anne’s, Moe’s Southwest Grill and others. For Marie Perry, the acquisition marked the culmination of more than two years’ worth of work to reinvigorate a Jamba Juice brand she says hadn’t evolved with changing consumer preferences.

Operator sticking to Sonic for life

After nearly 50 years in the Sonic brand, Ricky Davis runs stores that exceed the company average in sales volume, even in small towns. One way he keeps customers coming: Make sure the juice is running down their elbows.

Meet the restaurant Medicis of Salt Lake City

There’s a restaurant renaissance happening in a suburb of Salt Lake City. Much like the wealthy Medici family that bankrolled some of the greatest Renaissance artists, Four Foods Group is empowering early-stage restaurant concepts to become the next Leonardo da Vinci of fast-casual or Michelangelo of sandwich sculptors.

‘New franchise. McDonald’s. Call Ray Kroc.’

Ken Lopaty was fresh out of the Army in the 1950s and playing poker with a few friends. They wanted “to go into this new thing called McDonald’s and they needed a third partner. They wanted $2,000 and I didn’t have $200,” the 88-year-old man recalls today from his seven-store operation in California.

TCBY neophyte now up to 22 stores

Sam Batt is a believer in TCBY, where he signed on when the brand and he both turned 30. He relies on a rockstar manager and a ‘discovery day’ for new hires to make sure they fit the store and vice versa.

‘Pick up the phone and take the heat’—advice from Pure Barre chief, in The Boss

Tell about your upbringing and education. I have one older sister, grew up in Orlando. I was a latchkey kid back when that was legal. I was 3 when my dad got back from Vietnam and they divorced. My mother was the head secretary of the whole bus authority. She bought her own house in 1977. We were proud of her.

Detroit’s comeback story has a Twist

Michelle Lewis says luck has had a lot to do with her success operating Painting with a Twist franchise locations in Michigan but she adds, “that luck is also coupled with pursuing the opportunity at hand.”

Everything matters to Wingstop operator, in The Boss

Tell me about your upbringing. I grew up in Brownsville, which is about as far south as you can go in Texas. Born and raised. I have one sister. I grew up in a single parent home with my mother who was in the real estate business, and that’s a pretty tough business.

For Gigi’s founder, seller’s remorse

“It’s been really hard. You birth a baby and you put it into someone’s hands and you trust them,” said Gina Butler, the founder of Gigi’s Cupcakes who sold 100 percent of her cupcake chain to a private equity firm in June 2016.

Trial, error helped Learning Experience operator

Running three locations in the first six months was a lesson in experimentation for new operators at The Learning Experience. Now their mantra is to empower their employees and ‘get the heck out of the way.’

Kitchen Royalty: 5 reigning chefs in franchising

Chefs at independent restaurants are all the rage these days, attaining celebrity status, trotting the globe and hosting their own shows while they delight diners who flock to their celebrated kitchens. But we know plenty of great chefs are working in franchising, too, driving culinary innovation that can lead to a dizzying number of people trained in their methods and a multiplied portion of the masses who can enjoy top-notch food for a generally dialed-down price. In our new Kitchen Royalty package, planned as an annual feature, we shine the light on five of these innovators whose work is coming to a franchised restaurant near you.

These finance chiefs are stewards of growth

Last month we published the Restaurant 200, our annual ranking of the largest franchisees who posted another year of eye-popping growth. This month we talked to four of their standout chief financial officers to find out how they’re driving their companies forward.

Dad’s guinea pig’ now helms Learning Rx in The Boss

Tell about your upbringing. I grew up in Appleton, Wisconsin, a little college town. I’m the oldest of five kids. I was my dad’s guinea pig. He taught me how to read with flashcards when I was 2. I was kind of an experiment.

No troughs for Rent-A-Center owner

With 76 Rent-A-Centers and two Carstar units in eight states, this operator believes in diversification. He likes industries that may not have huge growth spurts but they also don’t have many valleys.

Into the Zen Den at Modern Acupuncture

Dr. Stephen Gubernick operates a busy location of The Joint in Scottsdale, Arizona, but found himself referring his chiropractic patients elsewhere for acupuncture, something his franchise doesn’t offer. He even had a clever name for the new acupuncture clinic he wanted to open: It would be called The Point, referring to the ancient Chinese practice of pricking patients’ skin with 4-inch needles to gain health benefits, so The Joint and The Point would be side by side.

One idea at a time for Chem-Dry pair, in Multi-Unit Mindset

At first they weren’t good at anything, claims the wife half of this husband-and-wife Chem-Dry operation, but then they learned their strengths. If all else fails, there’s always pie.

Executive Ladder

After spending time in the Air Force, teaching high school in Chicago and operating a coffee shop, Dustin Jones found his passion at Dream Vacations. “After I went on my first cruise, I realized I love this industry,” said Jones. Jones’ history in training and education will combine well in his new role as vice president of engagement. Since joining in 2011, he has worked his way up from training specialist to managing the support team and training at the travel agency franchise.

‘Patience is not my virtue,’ says uBreakiFix prez

I grew up in South Florida. I’m one of four children, and rushed through school as quickly as I could. I graduated on the same day with my associate’s degree and my high school diploma, then to college. Both my parents were the opposite of entrepreneurs. They worked the same jobs my entire life, 9 to 5. They commuted over an hour to work every day, and retired from the jobs they were in when I was born. Things were pretty predictable.

The mad scientist of Smashburger

Tom Ryan wasn’t interested in being CEO of the Smashburger brand he co-founded in 2007, but as he rolls up in his BMW X6, impeccably dressed and with a full tank of confidence, it seems he was born ready for this role—and this interview. Ryan’s impressive resume precluded his arrival at the restaurant. With a Ph.D. in flavor and fragrance chemistry and the inventions of the McGriddle and Stuffed Crust Pizza under his belt, he looked more like a flashy executive than a food science savant that’s the bedrock of his career.

Farm hand, railman, bankrupt—and then Findley bet on Curves

I grew up in a little small town in Texas. I had 23 people in my graduating class, and I married one of them. I worked for a custom farmer for years, driving combines and building fence. We learned, I think, a very, very strong work ethic.

British Swim operator stays in lane

A fast growth pace, including a new store in another city, proved a problem for a British Swim School operator. He put renewed focus on profitability and is now back on track.

Claim your life, urges Budget Blinds’ CEO

Eight years ago Shirin Behzadi was recovering from surgery to remove a life-threatening brain tumor. During a rehabilitation process that took two years, Behzadi had to learn to walk again, to speak and, as she tells it, to take ownership of her life and help others do the same.

Straight talk from Erbert’s operator

Aubrey Janik is wise beyond her years. Just two years after opening her first Erbert & Gerbert’s location in Plano, Texas, the 23-year-old franchisee has pushed pause on her ambitious five-year business plans to instead create The Franchise Blueprint, an online video-based franchise training course that helps other beginning franchisees avoid some of the frustrating mistakes that often cost newbies precious time and mental anguish.

'It’s OK to dream big’ says Goalz boss

Franchise exec turned franchisee Shawn Eby has big plans to develop hundreds of locations with American Development Partners. His main goal: helping 100 employees become owners

Soap opera over at River Street Sweets

Building an authentic brand that’s true to their family story is of the utmost importance to Jennifer and Tim Strickland, even if it means sharing personal—and sometimes painful—details of what led to the formation of their candy franchise.

Many lessons for Tutor Doctor operator

The fact that everyone shares info in a franchise is a key benefit of the business model for a Toronto-area Tutor Doctor operator.

Dippin’ Dots CEO on complex deals, hot yoga and why he took on Spicer

What was your upbringing like? I grew up in Oklahoma City, and I was a pretty quiet kid.My mother was a schoolteacher. My dad was in oil and gas, a wildcatter, and I had one younger sibling. My dad’s degree was as an astronaut, but there was more money in the oil and gas business back then. I grew up around oil and gas wells, and coming out of college that was one of my first jobs as a petroleum land man. I got into business around my freshman year in undergrad and developed a love for dissecting numbers and looking at businesses and putting together the pieces of the puzzle.

Upward mobility at Black Bear Diner

An ‘aggressive streak' is a desired attribute for a California operator of two Black Bear Diners, with 19 more on the books.

The Boss

What was your upbringing like? I was born and raised in the Seattle area. My dad was in the broadcasting industry. He was able to raise some capital and got into buying troubled radio stations and turning them around. In addition to all the normal stuff, I actually was a student of The Little Gym, that’s where it was founded. My mom was in journalism, with the Seattle Times. By 2002, we moved to Arizona and by 2002 she went to the Arizona Republic.

Left behind, Patel sisters now rocking the Planet

Kalpana, the third youngest of four Patel sisters who are all Planet Fitness franchisees, was super stressed on “expiration date” at her big-box gym in Vancouver, Washington. That’s when you send out mailers with an expiration date, and on that day in particular the gyms have a lot of sign-ups.

Math helped Fitlife Foods add up

Fitlife Foods founder David Osterweil spent six years trying to get his freshly prepared meals retail concept ready to franchise—and the effort included a whole lot of math.

Work until your toes bleed, in The Boss

I grew up in New York City, the daughter of Hungarian immigrants who escaped the communist regime in Hungary in 1956. My mom was 9. I was raised by Holocaust survivors, so our life was work, work, work. My dad was not in the picture. My family left a lot behind. My brother is an actor. We lived in Queens.

Follow the system for Smoothie sailing

Craig and Dianne LeMieux are area developers for Tropical Smoothie Cafe, with more than 60 locations under their purview and two cafes of their own. ‘If you follow it, it works,’ declares Craig about the franchisor’s model.

NEW! ‘The Boss’ gleans lessons from franchise leaders

What was your upbringing? I grew up in Palm Springs, and never planned to go back to Palm Springs. There’s nothing to do. We played in the dirt and dug holes and rode our bikes all over. My father was a pilot for Continental and my parents got divorced when I was 6 or 7. They were a pioneer with divorce.

Muscle Maker Grill tries populist debut

T-shirts, signs and pop-up ads to promote an initial public offering? Muscle Maker Grill is using those populist tools and others to promote its initial public offering under a new option known as Reg A+ or a mini-IPO.

Beef ‘O’ Brady’s operator tries for Cheers effect

A chance to own 25 percent of a Beef ‘O’ Brady’s started Aaron Carricato’s path to five units. He’s returning the favor, giving loans to promising GMs to become part owner.

No bad Thanksgivings for Flis family

Dominic Flis cannot pinpoint one particular day that was the best ever for his family’s Little Rock, Arkansas-based Burger King operation. But naming the worst day ever is painfully easy: There are two. “The day my Mom passed away and the day my Dad passed away,” he says, in 2007 and 2009, respectively.

Three brands to one for Moe’s operator

Focus became the name of the game for Matt Rusconi, a Moe’s Southwest Grill operator with 14 stores who believes in ‘rewarding versus threatening’ employees

At 40, an up-tempo plan for National Franchise Sales

‘You don’t come to me for a deal. It has to be fair,’ declares Jerry Thissen, the founder of National Franchise Sales, who over 40 years and with 26 employees has built the firm into the largest franchise brokerage outfit in the country.

Attorney Peter Lagarias’ work with kids ‘never gets old’

In his life as a franchise attorney, Peter Lagarias says, “things often don’t resolve for on and on and on.” By contrast, results are immediate from Rotaplast International’s work, in which teams of doctors, nurses and Rotary volunteers travel to foreign lands and repair cleft palates and lips for children whose families can’t afford the surgery.

Exclusive interview with Subway CEO Suzanne Greco

Suzanne Greco was seven years old when her big brother, Fred DeLuca, opened what became the first Subway restaurant in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in 1965. “I stayed in the background while everyone else was working,” Greco said, “but I aspired to be a worker, too. Fred and our mother gave me little chores, like sweeping the floor and drying dishes.”

The newcomer: BoConcept makes U.S. push

Judging on appearances, everything looks better in Scandinavia—the peaceful lifestyle, colorful cottages, lush fjords, sleek Volvos wagons and, of course, the breathtaking, gorgeous furniture that elevates daily living to an art form. It’s a look that’s becoming more common, showing up everywhere from apparel to automobiles.

The turnaround: A&W’s on the road again

Nearly six years after A&W’s disgruntled and demoralized U.S. franchisee association banded together with its largest international franchisee and former President Kevin Bazner to purchase the brand from Yum, now-CEO Bazner is feeling confident as the nearly 100-year-old brand is back to growing sales and adding units.

The up-and-comer: Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices

What does it take to run a company for Warren Buffett? Ask Gino Blefari, the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, one of the few Buffett acquisitions that have been allowed to use the hallowed Berkshire Hathaway name.

NRD’s Susan Beth and her ‘amazeball’ answers

Susan Beth’s car may not be as clean as it used to be, but she still thinks the best job in franchising just found her. Susan (we should refer to her by her last name, but it would just sound like we’re calling her by her first name, so why bother?), the COO of NRD Capital Management, an un-private equity fund started by Aziz Hashim, is the most bubbly M&A adviser you’ll ever run into. “I’m a Type A when I need to be,” Susan says, reassuringly.

Ego’s in check for Halal Guys operator

‘When you’re filled with ego, you’re focused on yourself, not finding someone to help,’ declares a Halal Guys operator in Southern California. Paul Tran and his four partners came together for their love of the brand.

Secrets of the Lost Cajun

There’s a reason no one has successfully franchised a gumbo-based chain before—it’s a long, arduous process to make it just so. But the real secret isn’t in the recipe. Meet the founding father of The Lost Cajun, Raymond Griffin, a widower franchising the concept he and his late wife dreamed up that’s grounded in courtesy and respect.

Flynn on way to ‘nice round number’

The Flynn Restaurant Group is one of the master operators in franchising. So when he changes tactics, the industry takes notice. The Applebee’s and Taco Bell operator has shifted his focus in the past two years with a massive diversification play that has him gobbling up locations in the Panera system.

Club Pilates owner learns as she grows

Passion comes first for Keely Watson, who owns five Club Pilates units in California. ‘I think with any business you dive in headfirst. That’s much easier to do when you’re passionate about it,’ she says.

Pyrotechnics, confetti and the stars igniting Rock & Brews

In a couple of hours, Paul Stanley will have a black star circling his right eye and a furry tail attached to his skintight black pants, and Gene Simmons’ silver tongue will be stained blood red. But first they are playing an acoustic set for the superfans, sans their signature white face paint and 30-pound platform boots.
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