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“If you’re going to join a franchise, don’t always worry about building from scratch; find another franchisee that might not be doing well.”

— Aaron Anderson, Original Hot Dog Factory franchisee

Restaurants Editor Nicholas Upton asks what makes multi-unit operators tick—and presents their edited answers in his Multi-Unit Mindset column in each issue. To suggest a subject, email nupton@franchisetimes.com.

How did you get started as an entrepreneur in the music business?

It was just when I got a job. It was looking at the budget that a tour manager had to go on tour, and I asked what that consists of. He said it was T-shirts. And T-shirts were like 16 cents, so I did the research. On the next go around, I said, ‘How about I do the same quantity for a cheaper price and you keep the difference? If you like it, pay me to do it.’ As a little man, I made a profit. I just continued to do those deals and saved and started pricing out equipment and got my own company called Union Printing.

Typically, I like to invest in things that I like. What I would call essentials. You always need clothes. With restaurants, you always got to eat.

What drew you to the Original Hot Dog Factory?

I looked at the menu and saw that it was an up and comer. I said to myself, they don’t have anything like that in the Northeast where you get those particular hot dogs, chicken sandwiches. So, I felt like that would be a great concept. When you understand the concept and you have the product to go along with it, that’s a recipe for success.

What about Rita’s Italian Ice?

I went through the process of becoming a franchisee a few years ago but the timing wasn’t right.

When it comes to Italian ice, there’s no other competitor. There’s nobody in the same market with the flavors and consistency and taste that Rita’s has, so that was a no-brainer.

You opened your first location in March 2020, not ideal timing to be sure. What happened?

When COVID came, it caught me by surprise. I heard about it in December and thought, this is America, that won’t happen here. When they shut the Subaru Park stadium down and one of my restaurants, I thought, ‘This is major. They don’t shut stadiums down.’ When it opened, I knew I wasn’t going to get foot traffic, so I marketed delivery. But then, it wasn’t about money. I catered for two months to frontline works and the Ronald McDonald House. That’s what kept me open.

Ultimately, being an entrepreneur, one of your greatest gifts will always be knowing how to pivot. In a perfect world, you can always say X, Y, Z and you can get this. But the world doesn’t go like that. It goes A, C, D, so you have to change.

You have a strong operator and some long-term employees. How do you hire?

You want to take your time and vet your employees, you want them to be with you long term if you can help it. You want to make sure you’re interviewing and hiring someone that has determination, that has ambition, that is motivated, that understands your vision and is willing to support it. You want those key people to be on the same page. But that’s easier said than done. But you think about all those things and prioritize what you need.

If you could go back to early 2020, what would you do different?

One of the most expensive costs is your buildout. I’d say become a ‘zee, then find another franchise that is interested in selling. Then you’re putting up less money for the buildout, you’ll open up much quicker. The day you sign you can be making money. If you’re going to join a franchise, don’t always worry about building from scratch; find another franchisee that might not be doing well. You can go see what’s going on—well, that’s why you’re not doing well, you’re not offering the whole menu or over staffing. You can always find the opportunities and add your value. But doing the whole buildout, I wouldn’t do it again.

What’s your best advice for a budding entrepreneur?

Stay focused, don’t give up and never accept no for an answer. If anyone said no, I went and created my own path.

Restaurants Editor Nicholas Upton asks what makes multi-unit operators tick—and presents their edited answers in his Multi-Unit Mindset column in each issue. To suggest a subject, email nupton@franchisetimes.com.

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