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February 2020

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In this issue

Can a robot rule the restaurant? Cali Group says yes

In a world where ‘chef techs’ monitor and assist a burger-flipping robot, dramatic decreases in employee turnover mean lower labor costs for restaurants and workers who actually enjoy their jobs. That’s part of John Miller’s vision for Cali Group, the parent company behind CaliBurger, Miso Robotics and robotic kitchen assistant Flippy, who’s already cooking inside some CaliBurger locations. Bringing this futuristic restaurant operating system to the masses, however, means lowering the $20K-plus price tag and finding more partners to play guinea pig. Cali Group is up to the task, says Miller.

What family offices want in their franchise investment

While many of their exact identities are still unknown, more family offices are emerging from the shadows to invest in franchising, taking stakes in huge franchisee operations such as GPS Hospitality, which is nearing 500 units across Burger King, Popeyes and Pizza Hut.

Plant-based meats yield real returns for QSR operators

There’s just nothing better than biting into a tasty burger: the melty cheese, the crunch of pickles and onions, the soft texture of a fresh, warm bun and the soy leghemoglobin trickling down your hand.

‘Never a dull day’ for Dunkin’ Brands finance chief

Investment in mobile, next generation stores, a vendor bankruptcy and even Styrofoam were on the plate for Dunkin’ Brands CFO Kate Jaspon when we caught up with her at the Restaurant Finance & Development Conference. She gave us a glimpse into her playbook.

Wendy’s CEO says international sales can hit $2 billion

The way Wendy’s CEO Todd Penegor talks about company growth doesn’t sound like someone with a CPA background. He has a plan to invest heavily in international growth, pushing overseas markets.

‘Being public is better’ says One Cannabis CFO, plus more M&A news

One Cannabis, the parent of marijuana franchise Unity Rd, plans to go public via a “merger of equals” with Cannabis One Holdings Inc. (CBEI), a stock trading for 16 cents a share in November on the Canadian Securities Exchange. Structured as an exchange of shares for the similarly sized companies, each with about $17 million in revenue, the deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2020.

Learning Experience SVP wants to stockpile ice cream, eliminate email

Who would play you in the biopic about your life? I have a very weird response for this one. I chose Robin Williams, just his method of comedy it kind of mirrors my life—chaotic, frantic but still having fun. In marketing, it’s never slow … you’re handling and juggling a lot of balls.

We check out SoBol, Vitality Bowls, Freshii in FT Undercover

When acai berries first burst onto the food trend scene a few years ago as the next “superfood”—a term that as a nutritional claim, by the way, doesn’t have clear scientific backing—it wouldn’t have surprised me if the tropical fruit faded as quickly as the cabbage soup diet in the ‘80s.

Eggs Up Grill has a new CEO, Yum buys Habit Burger, plus more news

After “a couple decades” helping grow TGI Fridays from five to more than 900 units in various roles, Ricky Richardson is eager to jump back into start-up mode at Eggs Up Grill. The concept with about 35 locations started in Pawleys Island, South Carolina, back in 1997.

New concept Modern Market fights ‘terrible’ food syndrome

Anthony Pigliacampo, co-CEO and founder of Modern Market Eatery, was traveling to a conference last November and had to grab a bite. “The food I had in the airport was terrible,” and he knew he’d feel “crappy” all day, he said.

One River School wants to help you find your inner Bob Ross

Bob Ross, the late curly-haired PBS painter, is back in vogue in recent years. Most everyone has watched him paint at some point, and if you did, he encouraged you to cast off your fears and try it for yourself.

Southern food brand This Is It relies on ‘sinful’ menu

Tamala Fowler, new CEO of This Is It Southern Kitchen & BBQ, was stumped at first to name the chain’s main competition. “We struggled with the answer. Now I say—your grandma,” she said, noting a robust catering business and a focus on homestyle Southern cooking.

Sonic ‘zee diversifies with Take 5, is first female owner

Training and a strong franchisor relationship drew Candice Winterringer to Take 5 Oil Change, where she says her ‘concise communicator’ skills will help drive success.

Tech propels Cowboy Chicken growth

It’s been a slow burn at Cowboy Chicken in the 17 years since Sean Kennedy took over the business, as the Carrollton, Texas-based brand has built its unit count back up and worked to grow awareness of a rotisserie chicken concept that in 2002 had one unit.

Delivery helps fuel sales at Sweetberry Bowls

Sweetberry Bowls, a counter-service concept with açaí bowls, smoothies, salads, poké bowls and wraps, was the first restaurant brand to launch a national crowdfunding investment campaign on Republic, an SEC-registered platform that started after the enactment of Title III of the JOBS Act.

At Pirtek, a tiered investment model drives growth

David Burns was ready for a change. After owning a FirstLight B2C senior care franchise for eight years, he decided to make the move to a B2B model. Extensive research led him to Pirtek, the hydraulic and industrial hose replacement service franchise, and he liked what he saw.

Learn how in franchising, HR goes beyond training, retention

HR pros know it’s not just about training or employee retention anymore. Defined career development plans, boot camps, outside inspiration and mentorship are all in the mix, as leaders at four different companies detail below.

Find your one stop franchise investment shop at FIC

The franchise industry has evolved markedly throughout the past 22 years and with it our efforts at Franchise Times to ensure our conferences are worthwhile and relevant for attendees and sponsors.

Site selection tech helps brands reduce cannibalization risk

Franchise systems are often walking a fine line on strategic growth. Building out a market is a great way to take advantage of economies of scale, establish stronger brand awareness and spur revenue growth.

Pieology expands in China with major TZG Partners deal

As it turns attention toward global growth, Pieology wants franchisees who are able to operate the fast-casual pizza franchise without a lot of hand-holding, which is exactly what TZG Partners was looking for in the brand it would bring to China.

Find a diversified market in Sweden, reports Country Profile

Blue with a golden yellow cross extending to the edges of the flag, the colors reflect those of the Swedish coat of arms: three gold crowns on a blue field.

When outside investors call, choose carefully, says Slim Chickens CEO

‘You want them to be more than just a check,’ says Tom Gordon, CEO of Slim Chickens, which last summer took a minority investment from 10 Point Capital. That true strategic partner is worth waiting for, especially for emerging brands with big growth plans.

Support, strong AUVs draw Mike Lester to Walk-On’s

Mike Lester spent more than 12 years as president of The Melting Pot, where he says seeing the success of the brand’s franchisees is what ultimately motivated him to “make the switch.”

New world of biometrics, privacy laws is ‘scary and interesting’

Suppose you blithely swipe your fingerprint to enter your tanning salon or scan your face for faster service at a burger kiosk. Then suppose someone hacks your data to steal your identity.

A fruitful year abroad? Consider these trends and insights for 2020

Unsurprisingly, the appetite for international expansion is set to increase. Franchise systems are more savvy in devising well-informed strategy and implementing their international expansion programs.

In the land of benchwarmers and black swans, consider PE’s impact

It’s a buyer’s market out there. Consider how many franchise buyers there are per year. Do new concepts attract new buyers to franchising, or pull from the existing buyer pool? It’s also a crowded market. FRANdata reports there are 4,000-plus active U.S. franchise brands, and 200-300 new concepts enter annually (5 to 7.5 percent growth). Forty percent of brands entered since 2012. Can this influx continue?

Freddy’s owner ‘bullish on growth;’ SD Holdings adds Fuzzy’s Taco Shop

I often ask multi-unit franchisees why they chose a particular brand. Sometimes people have to dig deeply into their memory banks, which, more often than not, results in a fond reminisce.

As PE interest heats up, watch for more SPAC mergers in 2020

The finance world sits at a record high for special purpose acquisition companies or blank-check companies. In 2017, 2018 and 2019, more than $10 billion flowed through the once novel path toward becoming a public company. That’s up dramatically from 2016, when $3 billion in value hit the public markets through the vehicle.

New boss likes Another Broken Egg’s growth prospects

The chief executive post at Another Broken Egg Café is a fun change for Paul Macaluso, who said he resigned as CEO at Krystal to join an emerging brand. Krystal is an “amazing legacy brand, 87 years old, with an incredible team and following,” he said in early December, just a couple of weeks into his new job.
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Publisher's Column

A flip through these pages tells us the future is now

Strolling down a San Francisco city street on vacation a couple of years ago, husband Doug and I happened upon a coffee shop.
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