Experienced Lending to the Industry

“First Franchise Capital Corporation (FFCC) specializes in lending to the franchise restaurant industry. Our team works with well-known brands across the country to create customized financial solutions,” says Tom Schuldt, president of FFCC. “Loans might be for the purchase of real estate and/or equipment, remodeling, new construction or acquisitions. We can also assist clients in evaluating their overall capital structure, including debt capacity and cost of capital. Our goal is to build partnerships with business owners to promote economic growth and to enhance the overall profitability of the business.”

FFCC’s parent company is First Financial Bancorp, which just announced its 89th consecutive quarter of profitability. First Financial, based out of Cincinnati, Ohio, has more than $6.5 billion in assets.

“Our loans to the franchise industry range from $100,000 to $15 million. Our borrowers are multiunit franchisees of one of our approved brands (the list can be found at firstfranchisecapital.com). The approved list includes national quick-serve, fast-casual, and casual dining restaurant brands, and 2013 has FFCC looking to add strong, well-established regional chains to the list,” says Schuldt.

Borrowers must have a track record of good business practices, with at least three to five years of experience in the brand or concept.

Aside from loans for required remodels (typically every five to seven years) and the other purposes outlined above, FFCC also works with franchisees to assess the feasibility of refinancing existing debt. With today’s historic low interest rates, it is a good time to review long-term debt and consolidate existing loans, resulting in improved overall cash flow of the business.

“We have years of combined business experience in the franchise finance industry. Our team understands the nuances of the business and works to provide our clients with customized solutions to help their business grow.”

FFCC reaches out to potential clients with a sales team across the U.S. Account managers source and qualify leads and partner with seasoned sales associates to tailor a financing package to meet client needs. Once the loan is submitted, a dedicated team of underwriters and closers, who specialize in franchise finance, process the loan request.

FFCC builds long-term relationships with its clients. “We do quite a bit of repeat business. We have strong, well-established relationships with our clients. We want to help a franchisee grow,” Schuldt says.

To that end, FFCC is also able to provide, within the First Financial Bank’s footprint, complementary services such as treasury management and wealth management (401Ks, for example) to the businesses and to individuals in those businesses.

Asked about future challenges and opportunities, Schuldt says, “The good news is that many of the franchisees we do business with have enjoyed favorable sales trends for the past 18 months, but certain challenges remain.

“First there is uncertainty about some costs, such as the cost of labor, which stems from uncertainty regarding the actual cost of health care in the future and talk of a possible increase in minimum wage.

“Second and third, there is an increase in commodity costs for these businesses and an increase in gas costs, which will have an impact on drive-thru sales—the bulk of the sales in the quick-serve sector.”

Schuldt adds, “And finally, regular remodel requirements require a good amount of capital.

“As a result of these challenges and pressures, we see some of the smaller operators, who have just come through this recession and either don’t want to employ more capital or cannot access more capital to meet these challenges, considering selling to larger franchise holders within their concepts.”

Of course, that presents the larger operators with an opportunity to grow within their existing markets, and FFCC is there to support that growth with acquisition financing.

“We have years of combined business experience in the franchise finance industry,” says Schuldt. “Our team understands the nuances of the business and works to provide our clients with customized solutions to help their business grow.”

For more information about franchising opportunities with First Franchise Capital Corporation, visit firstfranchisecapital.com