If you’re looking for a new career, you may want to consider opening a franchise restaurant. This advice may come as a surprise with the coronavirus pandemic making life challenging for the hospitality industry. However, that’s exactly why opening a franchise restaurant in 2021 and beyond can prove so lucrative. American diners desperately want to dine out, and once we put COVID restrictions behind us, aspiring restaurateurs should find plenty of available locations to choose from.
As the owner and CEO of nine popular family restaurants (and growing), I have a strong idea of what it takes to do well in this business. While our family expands the reach of our authentic, fast-casual Greek grill, Apóla; through franchise agreements, we use a rigorous screening process to determine whether potential franchisees will make a good fit.
Here are five qualities we believe make an effective franchise partner.
- Be open to embracing a new working culture. We all have been exposed to different working cultures, carrying different types of baggage. When embracing a new work environment, it is important to let go of all ego and jump at the opportunity. You cannot be too opinionated, too self-centered, or too proud to admit mistakes or to learn from others or you will not fit into an existing company’s culture and will likely fail. One person alone does not know everything, and success comes by working as a team. It goes without saying that if you do not know everything, we do not know everything either. But as a team, we can make anything happen.
- Keep an open mind. The ideal franchisee is someone that understands that Rome was not built overnight. Potential franchisees have to be open-minded, patient and recognize that they have to stick to the program to reach their goals. Be open for discussion and willing to review different options and opinions. The degree of your success will depend on your willingness to learn and to communicate with your customers and with your franchisor.
- Work hard. Be willing to put in the work. Your success is a function of the amount of time and effort you are willing to devote to learning and executing each phase of the business. Do not get envious of the single location restaurant owner that is never at his restaurant and spends most of his day at the golf course or at the gym and drives the fancy car. Though there are exceptions, chances are, he is over-leveraged and highly dependent on one single employee/manager. Once he loses that employee, he probably won’t know how to pick up the pieces. Know every single part of your business and be ready to take over any position at any time. That doesn’t mean that you can’t go play golf or go to the gym, it means that you will have the skills to support your business whether you own one location or grow to 20+.
- Practice gratitude and community service. Be grateful. Understand that it takes a team to be successful and show appreciation for every member’s contribution and the role they play. Thank them and acknowledge a job well done. An unhappy frontline customer service representative wears his displeasure on his face. Be part of your community, too. You depend on your community and its members to keep coming in to support your business so when the community asks for support, whether it is to host a fundraiser or to donate some gift cards, always show your appreciation! The Yorba Linda (California) Chamber of Commerce selected us as Chamber Member of the Month due to our significant role in the community (we donate a generous portion of opening week’s profits to the community for each location we open) and we are nominated for 2020 Chamber Member of the Year.
- Feel comfortable with your franchisor. Get to know the company’s background. How long has it been in business? How many locations has it opened and closed? How long do franchisees stay, on average? My brother, Stefano, and I opened our first Apóla in 2017, after planning for it for five years, and our second in 2019. That said, we launched our first fast-casual dining concept back in 2008, and our pater (dad), who’s also involved, has owned and operated more than two dozen places over the past 43 years. Check its reputation. Read reviews by critics and customers. Yelp users have voted Apóla a top-ten Greek restaurant and we have a 4.5 star rating on GrubHub.
Make sure you buy into the onboarding process and ongoing services. Take the partnership you form with each of your franchisees very seriously; this relationship is the foundation of your success.
Apola Greek Grill is an Authentic Greek Grill that is taking the US by storm with its truly authentic Greek gyro. Their work has already been featured on Yahoo Finance, US News, Food Service Exchange and on TV’s ‘This is LA’ among other publications. For more information about the restaurant or to become a franchisee, please visit: https://www.eatapola.com.
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