“Franchising on a military base is not for the faint of heart. A lot of people look at a base and think it’s a great opportunity to give back to the military, and they’re going in for the right emotional reasons, but their experience is not such that they should go into this operation. You can really get yourself in a bind with a government contract if you don’t perform right, and you have to understand that,” Hart says.
Running a nationwide network of on-base stores surrounded by stringent security measures poses another unique challenge. It can be difficult for supply trucks and even employees to get past entry points and gates to arrive at units, and operators must adhere to certain standards and procedures set in place by the federal government.
Hart’s strategy for running stores set inside these security-bound areas is simple: Hire staff who already know the territory. His franchises have a “hire vets first” policy, and around 50 percent of team members in all 11 up-and-running stores have served or are family members of veterans or active duty military.
Hart says that, while many other positions are filled by a strong showing of the 16- to 20-year-old children of military, his senior staff is mostly made up of veterans. For managerial roles, he looks to hire previous service members that typically have a ranking of mid-grade sergeant or junior officer, meaning that they already understand the inner workings of a base and are better equipped to skirt security concerns.
Hart based his operating model on a military model of running a web of sites that spread over large geographic distances, meaning that each store manager acts as owner-operator of his or her unit. These managers are supported by traveling district managers who visit locations every three weeks or so, with the assignment of helping managers find opportunities and areas to improve, rather than grading them.
Hart’s recipe for on-base success is a mix of this model, hiring staff with military background, and a required six-week training program that the franchising company hosts at Colorado’s Fort Carson for those in managing roles. Hart credits his own background for the development of this strategy.
“I tell people all the time that the military taught me everything I needed to know about how to run a business except a P&L. That was my only learning curve—as far as communication, security, logistics, and planning go I strictly apply everything I was taught in the Army,” Hart says.
Hart’s 2020 units are slated for various bases in Ohio, Arizona, Texas, and Kansas. He says the company is working on the logistics for opening some additional stores that are outside of Dunkin’s current available territory, in the interest of not only supplying all bases but also growing the Dunkin’ brand.