New Capriotti’s Franchisee Stakes Ground in Pacific Northwest
From Sweeto Burrito to Capriotti’s, restaurant veteran and multi-unit franchisee Steve Holdeman has his sights set on bringing sub sandwiches to the Pacific Northwest. Capriotti’s and Holdeman inked a deal that will see 17 new units go up in multiple states by 2025. The development of six restaurants will add to Capriotti’s presence in Idaho, where the brand has a location in Twin Falls, while Holdeman’s other units in in Arizona, Washington and Montana are going up on newer turf where the brand has limited awareness.
Holdeman, a 30-year foodservice vet who is well acquainted with restaurant management, has been involved in the industry since he was a teenager.
“I have worked in the restaurant industry non-stop from the time I was 16 as a junior in high school,” he said. After high school Holdeman headed to Washington State University where he majored in hotel and restaurant management. He then worked as a restaurant manager for a Pizza Hut and was later promoted to regional manager, a role that had him overseeing 79 stores spanning Washington, Oregon and Idaho.
“During my time as an area manager/region manager, I met my future partners as they were construction contractors for NPC,” continued Holdeman. His partners knew the founder and franchisor of the Sweeto Burrito restaurant chain that happened to be looking for an operator in the state of Idaho.
“My future partners had no restaurant experience outside of building them, so they reached out to me to see if I would partner with them in starting a restaurant company. I met with the three of them, met with the Sweeto Burrito executive team and decided it was a bold move I wanted to take.”
This turned out to be the perfect opportunity for Holdeman to get his foot in the door of franchising.
Shortly after cutting the ribbon of his first Sweeto Burrito location, Holdeman and his partners began searching for another brand they could simultaneously develop alongside Sweeto Burrito.
“We were looking for a brand that has reasonable costs while still providing high quality product and service in the fast-casual market,” said Holdeman. “We saw Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop at the ICSC Convention in Las Vegas. The food was fantastic, and the officers of the company were down to earth and professional.”
Holdeman and his partners did their research on the Capriotti’s brand and visited multiple locations before reaching out to corporate executives about their expansion interest. While the deal includes new markets for the brand, Holdeman’s experience developing Sweeto Burrito in Idaho gives him a leg up.
“The advantage in Idaho is that we know the market, the real estate, and have people we know we want to hire on as managers from day one,” said Holdeman. The Arizona development plans are supported by one of Holdeman’s partners, Eric Wall, who is from the Phoenix area and is knowledgeable on marketable locations. And an area manager approach will have groups of four or five shops getting focused attention, said Holdeman.
“While that number is small for an area manager, we believe we will need local and attentive support for each group of shops to keep standards high, to keep management training ongoing, and to continue to be growth oriented,” he said.
Building a strong management bench is key to Holdeman’s development strategy.
“By only selecting high quality candidates for shift management and above in our locations, we are able to hire a good core of management team members that give us a solid platform on which to build our business, as well as hopefully hiring in-house candidates to transfer to new locations,” he said. “We are building a restaurant company that they will be able to not just grow in, but be a part of the collaboration of growing new shops.”