Robert Thomas

Start to Finish: Kathleen Wood

I unequivocally love the foodservice industry. Since I was 14 years old, being around this business has been my life. The local Italian restaurant in my town growing up was my first experience, and I held almost every job there, including cooking right alongside the grandma of the family-owned establishment. I then had a great opportunity to work for McDonald’s, and even though I never forecasted it to be a career, the industry became a passion for me. With McDonald’s, I started as a crewmember, and then became a crew leader, a trainer, and eventually a shift leader.

Start to Finish: Rodney Anderson

Before the burrito was big, both in size and popularity, I remember my friends and I always going to get Mexican cuisine in Chicago. We would seek out places around the city, even going to more nontraditional areas around town, but we loved it; the more authentic, the better. I remember thinking during that time about taking a simplified Mexican menu and placing it in a thriving college town—design it toward a younger audience and see if it would gain some attention.

A Little Help From His Friends

John Nickleby, like so many other franchisees, broke free of a long-term corporate career when he opened a Dunn Bros. Coffee Shop in Hudson, Wisconsin, in 2007 at age 56. With previous experience at American Security and Northwest Airlines, Nickleby was able to funnel his past ventures into his new investment. Since he had little franchising knowledge, Nickleby partnered with his close childhood friends, brothers Rick and Chris Swanson, in the venture.

When Hard Work Pays Off

Having immigrated to the U.S. from Haiti in 2000, Ricardeau Scutt embodies what it means to live out the American dream. Immediately after arriving stateside, Scutt started working at a Saladworks unit located in the Liberty Place shopping center in Philadelphia. Scutt started as a dishwasher and worked his way up to general manager.

The Big Reveal

After spending more than 12 years in the healthcare industry in Massapequa, New York, Laura Maier noticed a problem with her town: There was no Dairy Queen. With memories of family get-togethers at local ice cream shops in mind and a nostalgic desire to provide that atmosphere to locals, the New Jersey native set out to change that.

Balancing Act

Franchisees entering the quick-service space might not need to quit their day job, after all.

A high school teacher for going on 11 years, Chad Knee recently ventured into the quick-serve industry with fruit smoothie and coffee retailer Maui Wowi Hawaiian, opening his first unit in June. Now, with two units and ongoing growth as a business owner and manager, Knee—or Mr. Knee, as he is more commonly called—continues to teach U.S. history, personal financing, and government at a local high school every day.

Take Care of the Community

Jim Pagano knows what it takes to run a successful business venture, having previously worked in electrical product manufacturing in Asia and in home-furnishing stores.

He and his business partner, Henry Talerico, recently took their expertise into the quick-service space and now own a BurgerFi in Winter Park, Florida. Eighteen months after open, Pagano and his partner are operating one of the top-performing BurgerFi units and have plans for 10–15 additional locations, four of which will open in the next six months.

Turn Struggles Into Success

After college graduation and an eight-month stint supervising the post–Hurricane Katrina cleanup, Justin Harris wasted little time in taking on the quick-service industry. Harris, like so many others in the field, signed on with Dickey’s Barbecue Pit without any prior ownership or operations experience. Signing his franchise agreement in 2006 and opening his first unit in the summer of 2007, Harris was abruptly faced with the economic downturn and had no choice but to persevere and do whatever it took to stay afloat.