After graduating from Indiana University with a degree in business management, Ryan O’Keefe returned to his home state of New York to start working for a startup company. Eventually, he realized his heart was in the hospitality industry and made the leap to Focus Brands in 2017.

In his first role at the company, O’Keefe oversaw the development of the Carvel Ice Cream brand in the Northeast and Florida markets. Since then, he’s taken on more responsibilities and now directs franchise sales in the Northeast for all seven brands under the Focus umbrella. He also helps manage Focus’ Southeast sales team.

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O’Keefe works with Focus’s existing franchise base and is constantly seeking prospective operators. In addition to finding new franchisees, O’Keefe is also the one to help them acclimate to the culture and operations at Focus—something that plays well to his strengths.

“I’m a relationship person,” he says. “I’m service-oriented.”

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During the pandemic, O’Keefe added more responsibilities to his plate. Instead of selling the brand to potential franchise partners, his attention was partially diverted to existing stores, which were struggling to stay open. “That became the forefront of everything I did in 2020,” he says. 

Some of his new duties included educating partners about the various assistance programs and essential services that could help their business weather the storm.

“Those were some incredibly difficult times,” he says. “It was a very emotional rollercoaster for a lot of folks. All of our teams and departments were forced to make pretty quick adjustments at the drop of a dime, and I truly feel the organization did an exceptional job managing what we were able to control.” 

These efforts didn’t go unnoticed. Focus named him Chairperson of the Year in both 2020 and 2021, which is awarded to the top salesperson in the company. He says his accomplishments wouldn’t be possible without a strong foundation at Focus.

“What I do on an individual basis comes with a lot of assistance, support, resources, and capabilities from other departments,” he says. “It’s a team effort.”

Looking forward, O’Keefe says he is excited about the collaborative efforts between Focus’s seven brands. “We’re looking very closely at bringing another brand into the portfolio, and that’s something we’re very excited about,” he adds. “I think the sky is the limit for us.”

Fast Casual, Fast Food, Franchising, Story