Franchising | October 2013 | By Robert Thomas

4 Lessons From the Front Line

A Domino’s franchisee explains how his experience as an entry-level employee prepped him to become a successful operator.

A Domino's franchisee experience as fast food employee prepared him to be boss.
Domino’s franchisee Reece Arroyave uses his background as a unit-level employee to inform his everyday decisions as an operator. Domino’s
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From passing out fliers to owning and operating 11 franchise units in the Chicago area, Reece Arroyave has done it all with Domino’s. Arroyave was just 12 years old when he started passing out fliers for the pizza brand outside a Chicago-area store. Today, his restaurants span across Chicago, including neighborhoods like Crystal Lake, Glenview, and Chicago proper. Arroyave has been with Domino’s for so long that his only prior work experience before quick service was mowing lawns and delivering newspapers.

With three recent acquisitions and two new stores on the way, Arroyave isn’t slowing down. He attributes much of his franchising success to his extensive experience with the brand. As a franchisee, he is able to channel his experience as an entry-level worker, which has been the key to his success as a business owner.

Arroyave explains how his years of experience with Domino’s and the various job titles he’s held help his decision-making skills as a franchisee on a daily basis, as well as how all franchisees can harness their prior work experience.

1. Have a proactive approach

Every position I have had at Domino’s has helped make me a well-rounded and experienced business owner. I took a fairly fast track starting out with the brand. My first job was passing out fliers outside the store, and at the age of 14, I was answering phones and making the pizzas. After that, things happened pretty quick: I was pizza maker and shift runner for about four years; general manager for six months; supervisor for 18 months; director of operations for two and a half years; regional manager for two years; and now a franchisee for almost 11 years. Through every level of lower, middle, and upper management, I’ve learned that to be successful, one must be proactive in his or her approach to learning.

If I don’t take advantage of each opportunity and learn from it, I’m doing myself a disservice. There is always something that this industry is showing me, and I’m constantly learning. A lot of franchisees have come up through the ranks delivering pizzas or answering phones, but being able to use that knowledge later in your own stores and your own management is really where you can separate yourself from the pack.

2. Never stop improving

Even with all the jobs that I’ve done, it seems there’s no getting used to how this industry operates. Domino’s has seen some big changes over the years, as have most other brands. Our new pizza rollout in 2010 really helped us reconnect with our customers. The image of our brand significantly improved through this turnaround due to honesty, transparency, accountability, and boldness. And I think the same sort of strategy can be applied to franchisees.

Through all of these different jobs with the brand, I’ve learned from mistakes and built upon the positives to make sure I am always focused on operating with integrity and providing the best product, service, and image to my customers.

A franchisee should always be honest and accountable for the betterment of your employees, stores, and overall business. The great part about having this past experience is all the training. The industry is always changing and the learning never stops. Every franchisee needs to be a sponge and absorb all the information given. Whether it comes from the top or from a customer survey, absorption should never stop.

3. Think before reacting

There hasn’t been one single job or duty that I had with the brand that has brought me to where I am today. It came down to work ethic and integrity. Those willing to do what it takes will keep going further and further. I don’t necessarily think it’s pertinent that every franchisee should have some sort of quick-serve experience, but being able to work and identify with your customers and employees is critical.

Moreover, having the ability to work in high-pressure situations and multitask under those conditions is crucial. That’s why a lot of franchisees can do what they do on the business end and still handle a dinner rush.

What’s great is when I can use my experience, which I do on a daily basis to improve my opportunities and strengthen the positive aspects of my business. I can now think of the outcomes before I react. It’s a tremendous help, and I don’t think I would have been able to do it as well without my years of experience. Luckily, for those who might not be able to home in on these years of experience, there is a huge support network from fellow franchisees and the corporation. Domino’s, for example, has a franchisee association that is a great place to seek advice. Networking with other franchisees is essential.

4. Create a happy customer at all costs

What’s great about having the extensive experience I have is that the common measure of success—the happy customer—continues to evolve. In the last few years, I have focused more on the customer experience and doing whatever it takes to provide a memorable one. I want to meet and talk to all my customers and make sure their experience makes them want to come back.

What’s great about being a franchisee and having worked in the field before is that I now want my team members to have a similar experience—an experience that makes them want to return to work the next day and provide a customer with that aforementioned experience just like I did when I was an employee.

Do you have tips you'd like to share with other franchisees? E-mail them to FranForum@qsrmagazine.com.