If the Chicago Cubs can win the World Series and snap the franchise’s 108-year drought, expect keys to the city, ticker tape, and merchandise to be handed out in bulk.
Not to mention, the Windy City will also be one Freshii franchise richer.
David Grossman, the brand’s Chicago master franchise holder, was talking with his 21-year-old son recently when a certain parallel became clear. Eight years ago, Grossman opened his first Freshii location in the Water Tower Place shopping center on North Michigan Avenue. His father always preached, no matter what line of work he pursued, to make sure he opened his own business. That day, during a speech to team members, Grossman choked up at the realization that this dream was coming to fruition. The idea of the Cubs actually—finally—breaking the Curse of the Billy Goat was compelling enough to warrant a similar feeling.
“I said, ‘How cool would it be if the Cubs won the World Series?’ It would be like a dream come true,” Grossman recalls. “If that happens, maybe I can help someone else’s dream come true and offer a free franchise.”
Grossman’s son agreed it was a great idea, and the plan was set in motion. Freshii, which has locations in more than 85 cities across 20 countries, will give away a franchise if the Cubs can bring home the team’s first title since 1908. From the aforementioned Billy Goat curse to Steve Bartman, Chicago’s North Siders have shared a long, arduous relationship with disappointment. Last year, Chicago, with former Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon at the helm, was swept in four games by the New York Mets in the National League Championship Series.
Grossman believes, like many people, this year might just be different.
Chicago, which begins the Division Series tonight against San Francisco, went 103-58 during the regular season, winning the most games since the 2009 Yankees, who went on to capture their 27th title that year. Only 47 teams since 1901 have won that many games, including only 22 since 1962—the start of the 162-game era.
Along with much of the city, Grossman is caught up in possibility. It’s the same sentiment he’s hoping to hand to a worthy franchisee, American Dream style.
As word gets out, Freshii continues to field early inquiries through email via email@example.com. If Chicago ends up with the trophy, the organization will propel the process forward. As for what it takes to top the pool, Grossman says it’s a little more complicated than just unadulterated fandom. The brand will waive the $30,000 franchise fee, but the other benchmarks remain in tact. A perspective operator must have viable capital and the right background and disposition to join the company’s rapidly expanding family. Chicago was the second city Toronto-born Freshii popped up in, and the footprint is massive. There are currently more than 30 locations in the Chicagoland area, with plenty more on the way, including stores in Oakbrook, Schaumburg, Bucktown, Streeterville, and the Loop.
Grossman notes that with a contest like this, there is a certain amount of red tape involved. He’s not sure exactly how the logistics will pan out, only that Freshii will “do things the right way” when the time arrives.
“I really, sincerely try to help people,” he says. “All different types of people. I always had internships at my companies and I like to teach people and see my staff grow. If there were an opportunity for me to award someone a free franchise and save them some money to help them get that leg up and open their own business, obviously it would be great. It would also be great if it was in Wrigleyville, and it would be great if it was a Cubs fan. But we’ll see how it turns out. … We would love to see the Cubs bring home that championship and we would love to award somebody a free franchise.”
Expect the winner to face the same metrics as anybody else. Grossman has certain traits he targets in possible franchisees, he explains.
After being financially qualified, he turns focus to staff development and personality. “It’s very important to be able to relate to your employees. Just know how to hire them, know how to train them, know how to communicate to them, know how to develop them, and know how to motivate them,” he says. “That is absolutely the hardest part of this business.”
The person also needs to be a Freshii fan and understand what it’s like to operate as part of a franchise system. They should also love the menu and cultivate as well as promote the culture. Another key is demeanor. “I tell people all the time, you have to be able to deal with stuff,” he says. The restaurant industry is, if anything, an unpredictable one. “Every day something might happen. Are you the kind of person that can handle it? Are you somebody who can relax and realize, ‘OK, it’s only food.’ Or do you panic and freak out?”
Regardless of what happens, if this plan unfolds as planned, Grossman believes the Freshii organization will gain an exciting new addition. And the Cubs, not to be forgotten, will have some pretty shiny new hardware of their own.
By Danny Klein