Web Exclusive | October 2011 | By Lori Zanteson

Auntie Anne's Named No. 1 Food Franchise

Brand is followed by Firehouse Subs and Jet’s Pizza on the “Top 30 Food Franchises” list.

According to a new report released by Franchise Business Review, Auntie Anne’s is No. 1 on the “Top 30 Food Franchises” list. One executive at Auntie Anne’s says an intense focus on supporting the people of the brand helps sustain strong satisfaction levels.

“Our focus is on our people because we genuinely care about our franchise partners, we care that their business is successful, and we care that they have the right location, the best equipment, and a sound marketing plan,” says Mele Sarmiento, director of franchise sales and development for Auntie Anne’s.

This “partnership mindset” drives the extensive support that corporate provides its franchise partners, which fuels brand success and franchisee satisfaction, she says.

Auntie Anne’s franchisee Scott Rubin is a multiunit operator based in Chicago. He and his business partners have been with Auntie Anne’s for 18 years and recently opened their 55th store. He says he appreciates the dedication he receives from his franchisor.

“The growth and overall strength of the brand today is because of the cooperative relationship between the franchisor and franchisee,” he says.

“That’s what’s really put us where we are today.” A shared goal among Auntie Anne’s franchisees for mutual growth and success with the brand, Rubin says, is another thing that makes “our level of satisfaction as strong, if not stronger, today than on day one.”

Training and support scored especially low among food franchisees, with only 52.4 percent of them saying they were satisfied with their franchisor’s efforts in that category.

Auntie Anne’s was followed by Firehouse Subs, Jet’s Pizza, Ground Round, and East Coast Wings & Grill on the “Top 30 Food Franchises” list.

According to the survey, the average annual profitability for a food franchisee is $77,511, which is 13 percent higher than the average profitability of all franchisees.

The average profitability of the Top 30 jumps 16 percent, at an average of $89,749.

There’s no denying the satisfaction behind a nice profit, and the savvy franchisor understands the interdependence of the two, says Tom Scalese, vice president of East Coast Wings & Grill. By helping franchisees drive more revenue, he says, “that adds to them being happy. Ultimately, it makes it easier when you’re making money.”

The philosophy at East Coast Wings & Grill is “outside in,” Scalese says. “We have a very transparent company where the franchisees are very involved.” It’s as normal to see someone from corporate in the kitchen as it is to see a cook from one of the units submitting a new menu item and getting paid for it, he says. “We keep the juices flowing.”

According to Franchise Business Review, franchisees that gave high marks in the survey emphasized the importance of a concept that prioritizes franchisees and offers strong support and resources, as well as a sense of partnership and community.

Staying that course is how Scalese plans to climb the Top 30 list. This year’s No. 5 rank, he says, “lit a fire in our corporate team” to work to become No. 1. “In five years,” Scalese says, “we’re going to look back and I know we’ll be No. 1.”

Nearly 2,000 franchisees from the food sector were surveyed for the report. They represented 75 brands and more than 20,000 total franchised businesses. Franchise Business Review surveyed a total of 10,073 franchisees in various franchise industries.