What to Know Before Becoming a First-Time ‘Zee

BY BETH EWEN, Franchise Times
May 30, 2014

“I would be a terrible franchisee because I like to do things my own way,” said attorney Justin Klein, a partner with Marks & Klein who moderated a recent panel about becoming a first-time restaurant franchisee.

Jersey Mike’s franchisee Mark Michalak, on the other hand, is completely on board with his franchisor’s playbook, and that’s why he’s successful, he said. “Whatever they said to do, I did. They’ve made all the mistakes.

“I was a social worker by background, and I brought that to the game, working with people,” he said. But how to run a restaurant? He relies on the franchisor for that.

Randy Icard, VP of franchise development for Bojangles’ Restaurant, said the chain looks for experienced multi-unit operators to become franchisees, but they’re willing to take a chance on a first-timer, too.

“At a minimum we’re looking for folks who have energy and drive,” Icard said. “Everyone thinks they can run a restaurant, but it’s hard work.”

Jeff Sturgis, chief development officer for McAlister’s Deli, said prospective owners should ask other franchisees how the franchisor reacts when an issue comes up—which it inevitably will. “Do they shove the contract in your face and say, ‘You signed it.’ Or do they say, ‘Lets’ have a conversation about the business case.’” The latter, obviously, is what you want to hear.

The four spoke May 20 at a Franchise Times-sponsored workshop at the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago.