When it came to entering foodservice, Rich Ryan took the long and winding road.
After receiving his MBA from Xavier University, Ryan embarked on a career in brand management and corporate marketing. In 1985, he teamed up with a business partner to form a company that fueled another passion: construction. The two originally set out to build homes alongside their other full-time careers, but in 2001, Ryan left corporate marketing altogether to focus full time on his now thriving home-building business in southeastern Pennsylvania.
When housing took a nosedive in 2008, Ryan once again looked to other avenues for new business. While visiting his son in Los Angeles, he visited Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt for the first time and fell in love with the brand. He decided to become a Menchie’s franchisee and opened two units in Allentown, Pennsylvania, with his son and business partner, Kevin. In a stroke of luck, Ryan found himself with the opportunity to build his own units rather than renovate existing real estate.
Ryan shares the importance of a quality build for a better business.
1. Look inside the store
I remember first stepping foot into a Menchie’s while visiting my son, and I thought it was such a unique brand. Not just because I wasn’t all that familiar with the fro-yo concept at the time, but more so being inside the physical space. I thought it was such a unique-looking brand, and it partnered with the product. I became obsessed with pursuing a business opportunity.
Sure, I did my due diligence on the actual business of the brand, but there’s a lot to say when you can simply step into a space and feel something. I think that’s important in this industry. It’s got to be tough when you don’t have that draw and excitement, and that’s what I felt stepping foot into a Menchie’s for the first time. Being inside the store and feeling it’s a right fit for you says a lot. It’s more than just strategically finding the right concept in your area.
I was convinced that Menchie’s was the brand for me, and that I’d be able to sustain its business model long-term. After managing for a lot of different companies, I knew I had the business acumen to deliver, but the experience is what first drew me to Menchie’s. Regardless of the concept, franchisees should have that feeling when being inside a prospective store. It makes everything so much better.
2. Invest in great construction
I felt very motivated and confident in our abilities when I approached the franchisor about building my own units. My construction company was still going, and at the time, we were building million-dollar homes. We knew that we could handle a smaller-scale commercial build. I never thought both of my ventures would merge, but after looking at the build plan from the franchisor, I saw the opportunity. I had to submit a lengthy application and get approval, but we did eventually start construction.
It’s important to always lean on the side of quality construction and not cheap out when it comes to building. There’s a huge benefit to your store looking great, and that is in large part from the materials you use. It will hold up better and last longer. Our stores have yet to see any big replacements or maintenance issues.
Franchisees should get knowledgeable on the construction process of their stores, whether it’s a completely new build or a build-out of an existing unit. Don’t just assume that everything is going according to plan and not spend time in the unit during the construction. Follow the recommendations of the franchisor. Don’t cheap out on materials; build a unit that will withstand the heavy traffic for years to come.
3. Commit time to learning ins and outs of the business
From my experience, I learned a lot about construction just from simply being there. In the past, I took on a project by myself and was in the trenches so to speak when it came to the specifics like electrical, plumbing, or framing. That experience catapulted me and forced me to learn everything there is to know about building a house and construction in general.
With franchisees just starting out in the quick-serve industry, spending the ridiculous hours in the beginning and in the first year is crucial to your long-term success. There are a lot of franchisees I’ve met who do other work alongside their franchising endeavors, but spending as much time as you can in the store is so important. My son and I were extremely active at all waking hours because we knew this was prime time. We struggled in the beginning to manage our labor effectively, and had we not been there as much as we were, we would not have made the proper adjustments.
Spending this much time is difficult, especially to those with other business commitments, but you have to make the time. I’m still building homes and also looking to build more Menchie’s for new, nearby locations in the future. It’s all a matter of the time you put in and learning everything there is to know about the business. My son and I still operate the register from time to time or clean the store when necessary. We do so not to just be good leaders, but to appreciate every aspect of business.