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Deka Lash attracts cast of characters

John Bianco answers the phone in his thick Brooklyn accent—“How ya doin?’”—and the Deka Lash franchisee in New Jersey sounds exactly like his memorable character in “The Sopranos,” Gerry Torciano.

No sneaking in for Del Taco operator, in Multi-Unit Mindset

In going from worst to top of the system, Paul Hitzelberger put focus on the guest experience and building a team through real incentives.

Gina Rivera is the maven behind the mohawk of Phenix Salon Suites

How a high school dropout with 27 hairdressers in her family built Phenix Salon Suites, a 250-unit franchise that gives salon professionals their own space and all the respect founder Gina Rivera believes they deserve.

Doctor by day focuses on finance, in Multi-Unit Mindset

Cousins Subs deal is latest for a multi-concept franchisee who uses cash flow and growth potential to evaluate concepts. Ultimately, he says, success is all about the people.

From surf bum to SoBol founder, in The Boss

Tell me about your upbringing? I grew up in the town my parents went to school in, which is good and bad, South Shore Long Island. My mom is a big cooker. My grandparents, big cookers. My mother got that from them and passed it to me.

Checkers operator hires all the time, reports Multi-Unit Mindset

Performance reviews are a one-pager at a Checkers franchisee operation that numbers 15 stores, and feedback goes both ways, with employees commenting on management and the other way around.

The Boss: From The Wallflowers to growth at LemonShark Poke

Tell me about your upbringing. My parents got divorced when I was three. My mother had four kids to raise on her own, and finished her master’s degree at Berkeley with us four kids. I didn’t really see this as a big family tragedy. I got sort of an independent spirit. One of my childhood friends, my closest friend, was Richard Gottlieb. We met in third grade, and he’s my partner today in this poke business.

Difficult recovery inspires Pilates ProWorks

It’s not every day a plane crash is the start of a happy story, but surviving a horrible accident in Colombia years ago began Oscar Sanin’s quest to build a better Pilates machine and, years later, the Pilates ProWorks franchise system.

Founder is gung-ho about Dryer Vent Wizard

Dave Lavalle, the founder of Dryer Vent Wizard, has more enthusiasm than you can possibly imagine for cleaning your home’s dryer vent. First, there’s the dark and stormy angle: clogged vents can be terribly dangerous, causing 2,900 house fires, $35 million in properly damage and an estimated five deaths and 100 injuries each year according to the U.S. Fire Administration.

Panera founder Ron Shaich acts as ‘Sherpa’ to operators

Summiting Mount Everest is a daunting feat that few achieve alone. Most climbers rely on someone who has been there, someone who knows the route and how to avoid the many pitfalls.

Forced out of Liberty Tax Service, founder John Hewitt will try again

John Hewitt is poised to launch his third tax prep franchise from scratch after the other two brands he founded, most recently Liberty Tax Service where his alleged actions wreaked havoc, pushed him out in a chaotic mess. Can the man who sold 5,000 units, which he figures has ‘got to be the top 10 in the world,’ gain franchisees’ trust and do it all over again?

Convert to craft beer taps Beerhead Bar

For Krupal Patel, it was a can of Daisy Cutter Pale Ale. Dry, with notes of citrus, papaya and mango, that beer, from Chicago brewery Half Acre, set Patel on a course that’s led him to home brewing and, more recently, to becoming a franchisee of Beerhead Bar & Eatery.

Jollibee’s all in for Smashburger makeover, says CFO Brad Reynolds

As Jollibee Foods moves into the driver’s seat, CFO Brad Reynolds expands his influence on Smashburger’s coming rebirth. ‘We have the right scar tissue,’ he says, and so plans to never make the same mistakes again.

Everything’s local for Jersey Mike’s ‘zee

An operating partner program helps Matt Patterson attract and retain talent, but one rule holds for all. ‘You gotta start by sorting tomatoes,’ he says.

Taking ramen to world is Chef Orkin’s new challenge

Serving delicious, slurpable noodles in two Manhattan restaurants is one thing. Bringing them to the masses via a franchised chain is another. Ivan Orkin, known as Ivan Ramen from Netflix’s ‘Chef’s Table,’ will try to make it work with backing from the new Corlex Capital.

Ripken’s a home run for Roy Rogers

Cal Ripken Jr. fielded dozens and dozens of questions during the past year as part of his marketing partnership with Roy Rogers, including these: Who’s the hardest pitcher you’ve ever faced? How do you hit a 100-mile-an-hour fastball? Should Pete Rose be allowed in the Hall of Fame?

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.
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