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Robots Handle Fed Cash, but a Real Person's at the Top

Business reporters are often told to follow the money, so our edit team decided to do just that when we visited the Federal Reserve Bank in Minneapolis last week. Turns out, you would have to be a robot to actually get your hands on any of that dough, but new President Neel Kashkari has a human touch.

Restaurant Finance Gathering to Draw Strategists, Dealmakers

A fountain out front and a font of capital inside, the Restaurant Finance and Development Conference is almost here, presented by our sister publication, the Restaurant Finance Monitor. It runs from November 14-16 at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas.

Watching a Potential Hotel Slowdown

Times are good in the hotel business, but for an industry that often pegs its future success on America’s GDP, anecdotal evidence suggests these roaring times in the hospitality business could be slowing down.

Americans Playing With Less Fun Money

Although I’ve tended toward a generally bullish attitude on our economic future in recent months, a pronounced slowdown in the restaurant category along with reports like this from the SBE Council suggest the American economic recovery is slowing, if not stalling nine years after the technical end of the Great Recession.

Cottman Man Draws on Celebrity Status for His Own Book

Cottman Transmission is shifting the adult coloring book trend back to children with the release of its new coloring and activities book starring none other than the Cottman Man.

Harvard Case Study Attracts BBX Capital to MOD

It’s not often a franchisor attracts a prospect by being the subject of a Harvard Business School case study, but that’s what happened for Seattle-based MOD Pizza. BBX Capital just signed on as a franchisee, with plans to develop 50 or more of the fast-casual pizza chain’s restaurants across central and southern Florida over the next seven years.

TOMS Shoes CEO Reflects on MOD Pizza's Mission

How do you sustain a mission-driven company as it grows in units and geography? I put this question to Jim Alling in an interview this week, for an upcoming story I’m doing about Seattle-based MOD Pizza, where Alling is an early investor and serves on the board.

Marriott-Starwood Merger a Go; More to Come?

With this week's news that Marriott’s acquisition of Starwood received antitrust approval in China, the two hotel giants are slated to become a combined entity on September 23. As the hotel business remains hot with sales growth across the board and a raft of hip, new flags, there’s an obvious question: Are more hotel weddings on the horizon?

International Adaptations in Franchising

There’s no topping the amazing adaptations cooked up by Mother Nature, but as an ever-growing flock of U.S.-based franchised brands expand overseas, I’m planning a deep-dive into international brand evolution at the Restaurant Finance & Development Conference in November.

A First-Timer at the IFA’s DC Fly-In

As a political junkie, I loved the chance to wander the halls of power surrounding the U.S. Capitol at this week’s IFA DC Fly-In. Aside from the fun of wandering around Capitol Hill, it was a clear demonstration that the International Franchise Association has learned how to appeal to its members in a less caustic manner.

Nunn to Lead Franchise Team at Chase

JPMorgan Chase recently announced that Clarence Nunn will join the firm to lead the continued middle market expansion strategy in the Southeast.

Healthcare Tops All Others in FT's Top 200+ Ranking

Here are a few things I learned about franchising while preparing the Franchise Times Top 200+ package: Healthcare franchising is booming, with systemwide sales for the industry segment up 14 percent, better than all 11 other segments.

IMC Bets On Healthcare With Right at Home Stake

RiseMark Brands, the parent company of Right at Home and IKOR, has a fresh infusion of capital now that Investors Management Corp. has invested in the Omaha-based senior care franchisor.

Mooyah Franchisee Assists Flood-Ravaged Louisiana Coast

After severe Louisiana flooding soaked or destroyed an estimated 40,000 homes, people and communities are struggling to recover from its devastating effects. The Baton Rouge Mooyah location, along with franchisee Chuck Kerr, has been stepping in to lend a hand in the wake of the disaster.

Burger 21’s Better Burgers Catching On

Do you stop and think about how good we have it in terms of food here in the 21st century? It’s somewhat crazy how much better the average new-concept restaurant is these days compared with 10, 20 or 30 years ago. Rather than a new take on Sysco’s greatest hits, so many of today’s are both excellent and creative. Even so, the world’s a cruel place and even well-intentioned, high-quality concepts will fail.

Tutor Doctor Settles Dispute With Attorney Kestenbaum

Tutor Doctor has settled its lawsuit that sought $20 million in damages from East Meadow, New York, attorney Harold Kestenbaum for $3 million, putting to rest allegations Kestenbaum failed to properly register the franchise in nine states.

Nature’s Table Expands as Americans Eat Healthier

It must be refreshing to be Rich Wagner these days. He’s the co-founder and senior vice president of Nature’s Table, a 68-unit healthier-eating fast-casual concept that started in Florida back in 1977. Now, after 39 years, the concept is finally growing quickly as Americans are generally starting to favor healthier and more transparent restaurants.

CenterOak Bests 97 Firms to Buy Wetzel's Pretzels

CenterOak Partners, a Dallas-based private equity firm, bought a majority stake in Wetzel's Pretzels this week, ending Levine Leichtman Capital's nine-year ownership in the brand. Co-founder Bill Phelps remains CEO.

Roark Buys Majority Stake in Jimmy John's

With a new majority stake, Jimmy John's is getting plenty of capital without jumping into an ugly stock market.

Could Chipotle Begin Franchising?

Badly burned in recent years with three ugly stock market bets—Valeant (VRX), Herbalife (HLF) and JC Penney (JCP)—Pershing Square Capital’s Bill Ackman on Tuesday announced a $1.2 billion wager on the beleaguered Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG) restaurant chain.

There's More to Picking Up After Dogs Than a Fake App

Pet waste clean-up services have become a mature business category, which may be one of the reasons the media no longer treats us to all those sophomoric references of cringe-worthy (but fun) company names. But a fake app put the spotlight back on our dogs' toilet habits.

Zika Virus Could Bite Employers, Too, Attorney Says

Zika is in the news, the mosquito-borne illness that is linked to birth defects in children born to infected women, and so is this week’s missive from employment attorney Tom Spiggle of Spiggle Law Firm. “Employers are in a tough spot when dealing with the Zika virus and pregnant workers,” he writes.

Why Happy Tax Won't Get Invite to H&R Block's Holiday Party

The CEO of Miami-based Happy Tax, Mario Costanz, threw down a load of chutzpah this week in an open letter to H&R Block’s board of directors that blasts current management at the behemoth tax preparation franchise. “What has happened at your company over the past decade is appalling,” wrote Costanz.

Fantastic Sam’s Ties Up With The Bancorp to Fuel Growth

Massachusetts-based Fantastic Sams is looking to accelerate its growth, and has been approved for a franchisee lending program created by The Bancorp through its primary financial institution, The Bancorp Bank.

Value Meals on the Rise in QSR

The infamous dollar menu has reached its dying days. As commodities and minimum wage steadily rise, it has become all but impossible for QSR establishments to offer substantial $1 or $2 options and still make a profit.

Finalizing This Year’s Top 200+

Longtime readers of Franchise Times are no doubt familiar with our Top 200+, but for the uninitiated it’s an annual ranking of the largest U.S.-based franchises by worldwide sales. Nobody else does it and, from my behind-the-scenes perch, it’s incredible how much work goes into this project.

Workout Anytime’s Milestone Reflects Booming Fitness Market

As more and more Americans look to get active—a 2015 Gallup poll found that 55 percent of Americans exercise three or more days a week—the franchised workout and fitness sector is booming.

A Primer in Master Franchising

Global Franchise Opportunities is using master franchising agreements to take its three brands throughout the world, while working to prevent the dilution that’s inherent in turning over an entire country to a third-party partner.

Mixed Bizness: Today’s Assortment of Indicators

In case you haven’t noticed, many are eyeing slowing growth in the restaurant sector and predicting a recession. There’s no questioning the concerning data, but I’d like to counter that with a grab bag of recent, largely positive macroeconomic indicators.

What if Driverless Cars Are Just Around the Corner?

We had just sent Tom Kaiser’s story about driverless cars to the printer when Ford Motor Co. came out with the boldest statement yet about how near that seemingly sci-fi day is. Said CEO Mark Fields: “We’ll be mass-producing self-driving cars within five years.”

Cost of Bathroom Wars Is $20 Million for Target

Ever wonder the cost for trying to appease multiple interest groups? For Target Corp., it’s $20 million, which it will spend this year to add private, family restrooms to the rest of its stores, executives said in a conference call yesterday.

The Time Is Right to Sell Your Biz

If you’re considering selling your business anytime in the next few years, a franchise business broker has this piece of advice: act now, because we’re at the top of the cycle of this continued but can’t-last-forever seller’s market.

Time for the NextGen to Step Up

Having just interviewed a 22-year-old Erbert & Gerbert’s franchisee from Texas, who impressed the heck out of me, it’s a great time to shine a light on the IFA’s fantastic NextGen in Franchising Global Competition that is accepting applicants for the year.

Warburg Pincus Boosts BlueGrace With Minority Investment

BlueGrace Logistics of Riverview, Florida, got a $255 million shot in the arm this week from private equity firm Warburg Pincus, which its founder says will provide “a major shot of adrenaline” to growth plans.

Good Dog Day Numbers

It’s not just the humidity. As a business reporter, things tend to slow down during the dog days of summer. While the presidential election reaches its climax for boredom or excitement, a fresh round of economic indicators paint a rosy picture of our union as we enter the final weeks of summer.

Legendary Eater Kobayashi Wins Chronic Taco Challenge

The taco-eating challenge at The Palms in Las Vegas this year was chronic, if not pretty. The legendary eater and reigning champ Takeru Kobayashi gobbled down137 chicken soft tacos in 10 minutes to claim the $5,000 cash prize and the flowered skull trophy of the 6th Annual Gringo Bandito Chronic Tacos Challenge.

Zerorez Operator Sues Olympics Over Free Speech

Michael Kaplan, owner of a Zerorez franchise in a Minneapolis suburb, simply wanted to congratulate the “11 amazing Minnesota athletes” competing in the Olympics in Rio, using social media to do so. But when his attorney warned him against it, citing aggressive actions against other small businesses by the U.S. Olympic committee to protect its trademarks, Kaplan decided to sue in federal court.

Moe’s Southwest Grill Eyes Detroit

After news that Little Caesars is building a new headquarters in Detroit comes another great Motor City tidbit: Moe’s Southwest Grill, an Atlanta-based burrito brand, is looking for multi-unit franchisees to bring the brand into the resurgent Midwestern city.

Wingstop Rocks Q2, Inks 100-unit Saudi Arabian Deal

In a joint release, Dallas-based Wingstop announced its second quarter ‘16 financial results showing revenue up 18.2%, 69 new locations opened, same-store sales up 3.1 percent and—perhaps most significantly—the signing of a new international franchise agreement that will bring 100 new Wingstops to Saudi Arabia.

Who Pays the Legal Bill, 'Zor or 'Zee?

Just in case you don’t have enough things to worry about, attorney Whitney Fore of Gray Plant Mooty adds one more: Who pays the legal bill in cases where franchisees and franchisors land on the same side of a lawsuit.

A Dazzling Display at Europea, but Where's the Food?

When the waiter brought a miniature clothesline to our table with two pieces of dried beef hanging from it, attached by tiny clothespins, we knew the evening at Restaurant Europea in Montreal would be like no other.

Smoothie King Hits 800, Shoots for 1,000

As Smoothie King celebrates a major milestone—its 800th store opening—the New Orleans-based company is focused on hitting 1,000 units by the end of 2017. It’s a lofty goal, but its owner and CEO, Wan Kim, is no stranger to achieving massive goals both as a master franchisee in South Korea and, now, as leader of one of the franchise industry’s healthiest brands.

Is a Restaurant Recession Coming?

A pair of damning reports predict some dark times ahead for the restaurant industry. Paul Westra, an analyst with Stifel, issued a report that announced the firm is taking a bearish stance on all restaurants and issued a “restaurant recession outlook.”

Romp n' Roll Founders Don't Regret 'Shark Tank' Snub

Michael and Babz Barnett had their 15 minutes of fame six years ago on the hit TV show "Shark Tank." Like other contestants, they pitched their concept—a modernized kids’ gym called Romp ‘n Roll—to high-powered celebrity judges, and got the coveted offer. Then they promptly turned it down.

First-timer Dives Into a FDD

The latest issue of Franchise Times has a new feature by Julie Bennett where she examines a franchisor’s financial disclosure document—the FDD—in search of strengths and red flags. It inspired me to dive into an FDD on my own for a look at what this document contains for nervous first-time franchisees.

Chicago Hilton Ensures the Lion Sleeps Tonight

The animals at the Brookfield Zoo may wish they still rested their weary heads on the Savannah grasses in the wild, but at least their new beds have a high-thread count. That’s because the Hilton Chicago /Oak Brook Hills Resort and Conference Center has donated 500 sheets, pillow cases, blankets and duvet covers to the zoo as off-exhibit area bedding for its endangered animals.

Young Talent Revs Business at SafeWay Driving

If it seems the people in the corner office (or more likely today, at their standup desks in the middle of an open floor plan) are getting younger and younger, Safeway Driving Schools’ two new vice presidents are cases in point.

When in St. Petersburg, It's All About the Beer Watching

I’ve never been a beer drinker. In college, my dates had to pony up for sloe gin or a really nice bottle of white zinfandel if they wanted me to enjoy keggers. So only a mother’s unconditional love for her child induced me to go on a brewery tour with my son Zack in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Will Arby’s Roast ‘Beef’ After His Logo’d Performance in PGA Championship?

Negotiations between Arby’s and pro golfer Andrew “Beef” Johnson on changing his nickname to “Meats” came to a screeching halt when Johnson finally told the fast-feeder in no uncertain terms it would not be able to claim “We have the Meats.” But they could say, “We have the Beef.” (Not to be confused with “Where’s the beef,” which is Wendy’s hole in one.)

Roark Sells Batteries Plus Bulbs as Retail Heats Up

After several years of ownership by Atlanta-based Roark Capital, Batteries Plus Bulbs has been acquired by Los Angeles-based private equity firm Freeman Spogli & Co. Finalized at the beginning of July 2016, the acquisition’s financial terms were not disclosed.
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