Cresting the 100-location mark is a big deal in franchising. But Teriyaki Madness Chairman and CEO Michael Haith is not exactly taking a victory lap.
"It took a lot longer than I thought it would," said Haith, he's focused the next goal. "We built a five-year strategy, the next goal isn’t 200 but 500."
He is, however, excited about a lot of the benefits of the 100 mark. Haith, said that validation reaches far and wide and separates the concept from all the 20- or 30-unit brands with big growth goals.
"It's nice to have some leverage and be taken seriously by vendors and landlords, that’s probably the most refreshing thing. People now take seriously what we're telling them," said Haith. "Buying power, our distributors, be it Pepsi or Sysco or equipment providers, we're now a valued customer. That’s a great place to be. Instead of begging for someone to take care of us, they're looking for ways to be effective."
The milestone means a lot of validation from the franchise community, which creates a flywheel of franchise interest, as seen in its latest development deal.
"I know that everybody talks a good story, but can you really get there?" pondered Haith. "The franchisees see each other's success. We're really transparent about numbers the system, so they see that there are some people at the top with 20 to 30 percent sales increases, and not just coming out of COVID, we’re up 18 percent through COVID, but that's our normal growth with brand awareness soaring."
The 100-location mark is often one of change. The old adage is "what got you here won't get you there." Haith said there will be some tweaks on the way to 500, but no big dramatic leadership changes or a big sale that are common at major milestones like this.
He said that's because the team was already acting like a 100-plus location brand.
"We've always been trying to focus a few years ahead, not only with technology but our foundational infrastructure, our team our processes," said Haith. "We're at an inflection point and there are things we talk about things that we want to change, what got us here and what we need to get us to 500."
Communication and maintaining a franchise-focused culture is high on the list. Haith said with an ever-growing support infrastructure, it's key that the company vision makes it down to everyone in the organization. It's a good challenge, but a challenge nonetheless, said Haith.
Another good challenge: hiring top talent. The scale of the company makes room for some additional leadership to keep a close focus on the fundamentals.
"I think the value of being able to bring in higher-caliber executives and staff to service the franchisees and work with the vendors and really focus on managing the fundamentals is a real benefit of size," said Haith.
A robust technology stack was a key thing that helped the company dramatically grow sales through COVID-19 as everything went digital. Scale helps the company test what the next great tool might be, and ensure that it makes sense at the restaurant level.
"Part of being a large organization, we have the capabilities to test this for franchisees. I bet we're working on a dozen different programs right now," said Haith. "First and foremost, we want to look at the cost to the franchisee, we're willing to invest our dollars to find improvements. But if it's going to cost the franchisee yet another dollar, is it something you want to do? One hundred dollars here and there adds up really fast, but the beauty is I can deal with the supplier and I can say we have 100 shops, that gives us much better negotiating leverage."