It’s January 2021, and aren’t we all glad? We can officially put 2020 in the rearview mirror and look for better things to come. There isn’t a person reading this who has not been touched by the pandemic in some way. I think back to a year ago: I was so blissfully naïve, going out to concerts and movies. Visiting friends. Life was so easy—and I didn’t even realize it.

But for the subject of our cover story this month, adversity showed up on his doorstep a long time before COVID. Meet Sonu Chandi, a Mountain Mike’s Pizza franchisee based in Northern California. In October 2017, his restaurant in Santa Rosa burned to the ground, a result of the Tubbs Fire that swept the area, burning 6,800 structures in its wake, FT Editor Laura Michaels writes.

“…We literally had zero asset left. We drove around Santa Rosa that night, and it was unreal, something you see in these crazy imaginative movies, that’s the kind of devastation,” Chandi said then. “As a family, we’ve been through a lot.”

Pile on a couple more California wildfires, and frankly, COVID was just one more adversity to overcome for this restaurateur. His outlook for his business is sunny, despite (or maybe because of?) what he’s been through. You won’t want to miss reading his story for a dose of inspiration.

Also, in this issue is our annual Fast & Serious ranking: The exclusive list of franchises growing quickly in a sustainable, smart way. You’ll read about everything from fitness studios and family entertainment centers to chiropractic clinics and fast-casual pizza. The one thing that struck me was a common thread emerged as I read the stories. Most were continually refining the franchise to help make it better for franchisees.

Pet-sitting franchise Dogtopia, No. 12 on the ranking, hired a real estate firm to help it cut out $100,000 from capital expenditures with suppliers and vendors. And, it cut down the time from the franchisee signing the agreement with the franchisor to actually opening the location.

Over the last few years, The Joint, the chiropractic franchise that has moved up to No. 17 on the list, has “focused intently on the time it takes franchisees to break even, lessening it from 18-plus months to about six months.” The franchise studied operators who broke even faster and put those ideas in place. And, as always, says CEO Peter Holt, the company continues to emphasize unit economics.

And No. 7, uBreakiFix, the device repair franchise, added 400 vans across the nation to take the repair services to the customer. “…we’ve been really, really focused on the customer experience,” said CEO Justin Wetherill. “Everything we come in and do every day is about making that better.”

I think Chicken Salad Chick CEO Scott Deviney sums it up well: “I talk about this with our team,” he told Franchise Times. “We’re trying to build a brand that outlives us.” Others franchises could learn a lot from these stories.

As always, we have this issue packed with information you can use, stories to motivate and help us all excel. It is always good to learn from the past, even if that past is one we never want to have to think about again.

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