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    How One Millennial Built a Franchising Empire with TCBY

  • Sam Batt has 21 stores and counting, with no plans of slowing down.

    TCBY
    Sam Batt currently controls three markets within the Carolinas.

    We’ve all heard the comments, right? Millennials don’t rush to restaurant jobs like past generations did. They care more about Ping Pong, perks, and beverage carts than paychecks. Their work ethic pales compared to their Snapchat clout. Regardless of the legitimacy or inaccuracy of these claims, the industry can’t deny millennials’ impact on menu innovation. And it can’t erase the workplace reality that’s affecting brands across the country, especially after four straight months of 4 percent of lower unemployment rates. Fostering entrepreneurial spirit is as important, if not more important, than it’s ever been. Offering a sense of purpose beyond just filling somebody’s bank account is critical. You can’t just get away paying an employee anymore. Either they know and respect why they work with your brand, or they work somewhere else.

    Sam Batt is an example of how franchising can fit into this complicated dilemma. It’s not an industry often associated with millennials, but that’s going to change as the segment matures. It’s also becoming more popular with budding professionals who see gain and fulfillment in running their own business but not being tasked with the massive risk of starting from scratch. Batt, who operates 21 TCBY stores, took some time to chat with QSR about how he got involved with the brand, and how he’s just getting started.

    How did you get into the business? And what led you to TCBY?

    My wife and I decided to move down to Charlotte, North Carolina in 2008 to start a family. I’ve always wanted to own my own business—and this seemed like the best time to do just that.

    Since I had never owned a business before, I decided it would be best to look into franchising so I could learn from others already in the business. TCBY was on my short list, as I grew up loving the brand and the product. Before leaving my hometown of Philadelphia, I noticed a number of selfserve frozen yogurt shops open up. I loved the concept, and decided to approach the TCBY franchisor, expressing my desire to open the first self-serve TCBY shop. At that point, TCBY was still a full-service, over-the-counter frozen yogurt shop.

    When the franchisor learned more about my business acumen, ambition, and passion for the brand, they agreed to allow me to pilot the first TCBY self-serve model in Charlotte, North Carolina.

    What about TCBY resonates with you the most?

    It’s a family-friendly brand with great products and a long-standing reputation

    Millennials tend to get a bad rap in the restaurant industry, and in the franchising world. How has your experience gone against the grain?

    My experience was definitely unique in that the franchisor placed a 30-year old brand in the hands of a 30-year old entrepreneur. I worked very hard and closely with the franchisor to design the self-serve store layout, as well as in training, marketing, and operations to make it more of my own as well. I put everything into my first store!

    Realizing that it was the beginning of the self-serve trend in the southeast, I worked extremely hard at securing the best locations in the market and did my best to open more locations as quickly as possible to keep the competition out. My goal was to maintain the majority of the market share so that TCBY was the first and chosen brand when people wanted a frozen treat. After opening my first six stores within 13 months, I decided to become an area developer, with the focus of expanding the TCBY brand in the best way possible throughout the Carolinas.

    TCBY

    TCBY is a family-friendly brand, which appealed to Batt's purpose-driven outlook.

    How does TCBY, and the FroYo model, fit into today's consumer demographic?

    Is this the perfect time to scale the concept with more and more health-forward diners entering the marketplace? The marriage between the best product in the industry and the self-serve model has proven to fit today's consumer demographic of being able to create and enjoy their treat exactly the way they desire it. From the 12–20 flavors of frozen yogurt to the 50-plus toppings bar, our product is among the healthiest in the market with a variety of options to satisfy all our customersincluding nonfat, low-fat, no-sugar-added, Vegan, protein-rich, and gluten-free. It's a great choice for all ages and dietary needs!

    What has been the biggest lesson you've learned from growing a franchise?

    The biggest lesson I've learned in growing this business is definitely centered around the people. Identifying, hiring, training, developing, motivating, and empowering the right people is the most difficult part of running your own business; but when you find the right people and invest in them, you can accomplish so much.

    What was the most difficult challenge you faced?

    Further attesting to the previous question—learning how to identify, hire, train, develop, motivate, and empower the right people is an ongoing process.

    As a millennial, do you think your path has been any different than other business owners?

    I don't believe so. I've always been very ambitious, and I feel very fortunate that I found something that I love to do that customers also love to consume. Owning a business that gives back to the community and is centered around families making memories—where people come to celebrate birthdays, holidays, sporting events, good grades, and other milestones—means the world to me.

    What do you think you do differently than other franchisees that has been key in your success?

    I manage the business holistically outside the four walls of the store(s). I work very closely with the franchisor on a variety of levels—from determining the marketing strategy and programs to developing partnerships that are good for the brand and whole franchisee system, to most importantly improving the overall customer experience (because that's what it's all about at the end of the day).

    If you could give advice to a young professional hoping to enter the business, what would it be?

    I would recommend that they make sure to love what they do, because it takes a lot of hard work.

    What's the growth goal? Did you always anticipate opening multiple units?

    No, I did not plan to open multiple units. My plan was to open one frozen yogurt shop, refusing to consider other franchises that had a minimum unit requirement. Now, here I am with 21 locations, with another opening next month, and controlling three markets within the Carolinas. As of right now, my only aim is continuing my initial goal of expanding the TCBY brand in the best ways possible.

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