It’s a brave new foodservice world. The quick-service restaurant community is facing increasing competition from supermarkets, convenience stores, and big-box retailers that are offering their own prepared food choices and branded restaurant concepts. While retail food offerings are not a new concept—Woolworth’s and many dime stores featured lunch counter service several decades ago—the fresh innovations, competitive pricing, faster service, and strong marketing of modern-day retailers are luring more consumers to their doorsteps—and potentially away from quick-serve restaurants.
A 10-year franchisee of Moe’s Southwest Grill, Larry Wilson often turns his job into a party. For the last four years, each of his locations—he runs 12 Moe’s units in central New York and northeastern Pennsylvania, and has six more opening this year—has held monthly fundraisers to benefit local high schools, which not only allows his business to give back to the community, but also helps it make new friends in the process.
As CEO and president of Marlu Investment Group, Tony Lutfi has his hands more than full with a large quick-serve empire; his company operates 21 Jack in the Box, 47 Church’s Chicken, 53 Arby’s, five Little Caesars Pizza, and five Sizzler units. Most recently, Lutfi’s company acquired all five Captain D’s units in the Kansas City area.
Vik Patel is a man driven by two different business passions: the fast breakfast fare of Dunkin’ Donuts and the upscale bar atmosphere of craft-beer emporium The Brass Tap Bar & Grill. Through his Purple Square Management company, Patel oversees 22 Dunkin’ units and, now, his first Brass Tap unit in Oldsmar, Florida.
After working nearly 30 years in television syndication selling off-network reruns and first-run TV shows, Paul Danylik made a bold shift.
He sought out a new career and a franchise to take on, knowing that comfort food was a good bet for long-term success. A longtime fan of Handel’s Ice Cream & Yogurt, Danylik knew that the brand had a small presence in Southern California but had room for expansion.
The father-son team of 57-year-old Jon S. Crowe and 28-year-old Jon P. Crowe shines at their two Toppers Pizza units in Nebraska. The pair opened a store in Lincoln in February 2012 and one in Omaha this past June. By next summer, they plan to add another new location in each city. The duo’s business savvy garnered them the Franchisee of the Year award from Toppers for 2014, as well as another six-unit franchise agreement.
It’s been said that the success of a restaurant, be it fast casual or fine dining, comes down to location, location, location.
Every franchisee has the opportunity to bring specialized business savvy to its quick-service units, but it’s rare that a single operator affects the entire system.
Paul Hitzelberger hasn’t exactly had a normal retirement. After serving as chief marketing officer for Del Taco from 1986 to 2001 and being part owner for all but three years of that time, he chose to take over some of the company’s worst-performing franchise locations, all located in Utah, and turn them around. His wife, Jane, joined the venture to help with administrative tasks, and the pair began to reinvigorate eight locations in the Salt Lake City region.
Today, the Hitzelbergers run 26 units around the city, with two more in development and nine more under consideration.
For David Beaton, working for Tim Hortons has been a lifelong passion. The Nova Scotia native started working for the 50-year-old Canadian chain after graduating from business school in 1992 and has helped grow its presence in the U.S. His wife, Allanna, a former teacher, has been his partner in the endeavor for the last 15 years.
The couple took over their first two U.S. locations in Lockport and Amherst, New York, in 1999, and since then have steadily amassed a collection of restaurants, now running 25 Tim Hortons units in the Buffalo, New York, area.