How did you get your start as a SUBWAY franchisee?
MJ: I started working as a Subway Sandwich Artist Fall of 1985 as a part time job while in my senior year in High School. I quickly moved up to management roles and had my own restaurant within a year. Went onto work for the South Central Texas Subway Development Agent as an Office Manager and took every opportunity to learn about the business to include leasing, marketing, construction, and operations. As a result, I became Director of Operations of a region that now has 492 restaurants. I’ve held this position for the last 27 years. In this interim I purchased my first two Subways with current business partner Rick Riley in 1990. In 1992 Cathy Amato became our business partner. We have a great working partnership that grew into a wonderful long life friendship. Now we own 60+ restaurants together.
CA: I started with Jack in the Box as an Assistant Manager, and later worked together with Rick Riley as Jack in the Box managers. He left in the early 80’s and became a Subway franchisee and then Development Agent. We kept in touch and 10 years later, I joined the Subway brand.
What are the biggest challenges facing women in franchising?
CA: Especially in the early 90’s, men still dominated as business owners and it was harder to be considered for the same opportunities. Today, it is much easier as more and more women have proven themselves as business owners. The franchise model and the restaurant industry are a great fit for women entrepreneurs. It also helps to have a good friend (Rick) who doesn’t have any biases in the industry.
What is your advice for women looking into franchising?
MJ: Do your homework. Educate yourself on what it takes to open and operate a business. Don’t solely rely on the Franchisor’s information. Call Franchisees in that company and ask them how they feel about the company. What are the pros & cons of the company you are researching? Does the Franchisor have the tools (operational and financial) in place that will set you up for success?
CA: Make sure the franchisor understands the franchise business and the franchisee is the priority. After exposure to other franchise organizations, I have found franchisee profitability and success are a minor priority when compared to their other business objectives. With Subway, the franchisee is King.
What are you up to these days?
MJ: On the business side, continuing to grow our company with our team who have contributed to our success. On the personal side, making sure I make time to enjoy my personal life outside of work. I love to travel with my husband (Jeff), family and friends to experience different cultures through their food and wine. Especially wine.
CA: Continuing to grow our Subway business (will open 7 restaurants in 2015) and develop our management team to take us to the next level. We are staring to develop our own real estate, with Subway being a part of a retail center or a free standing building. Rick Riley, Charlie Amato, and I recently opened our own casual dining concept in San Antonio called Embers Wood Fired Grill and Bar in the last couple months. With this endeavor, I really learned how hard it is to develop a restaurant from the ground up.
What trends are you noticing in the QSR and franchising industries?
MJ: Consumer demands have changed. What used to mean Fresh & Healthy when I started with the company is defined differently today. Consumers want food to be all natural which means GMO & antibiotic free. I’m pleased that our company, has taken steps to remove antibiotics from our meat products.
CA: QSR is harder. Health care reform and minimum wage pressure continue to erode our bottom line. It is critical to be able to compete with the competition on buying power and strength of advertising that only large numbers of locations can provide. In addition, Subway is moving forward aggressively to source the best and real ingredients in the marketplace. Our brand integrity will continue to be that eating at Subway is good for you.
What separates SUBWAY from other franchisees?
MJ: It’s a family. All SUBWAY restaurants are owned by the Franchisees. Therefore the company really wants the Franchisee to be successful. We depend on each other just like family.
CA: SUBWAY is 100% franchised. Everything is about the franchisee and their success. If the franchisee is not successful, there is no Subway. There is also no larger franchise organization in the world.