The path to success in the restaurant industry is rarely linear. Nonetheless, the entrepreneurial spirit currently emerging is extensive, especially among younger generations looking to gain their foothold.

New talent is emerging from every corner of the quick-service space, like Captain D’s, Subway, and McAlister’s, all of which have top franchisees who fall under the age of 35. 

Anil Dossani began franchising with Captain D’s, a leading fast-casual seafood chain, in 2018 and operates five units in the Atlanta area. He has explored every prototype the brand has to offer—from express to traditional—and continues to grow in his community. 

In his early 20s, he got his foot in the door with Steak ‘n Shake. Looking back even further, it’s really his parents who inspired him to start franchising. 

Immigrating from Pakistan to the U.S. was a challenge for Dossani’s parents, but restaurants provided them with a starting point for the rest of their lives. His parents began as dishwashers in local restaurants and worked their way up to being multi-unit operators.

“The restaurant industry is the most forgiving one in the world,” Dossani says. “My parents are a true testament to this … It gave them a chance to have a better future for their kids.” 

From his parents’ first restaurant to their first gas station, Dossani always helped, mopping bathrooms and sweeping floors. He felt as though he had a keen business sense due to his upbringing, and in his early college days, he thought he would go into real estate. 

“But I always ended up somehow going back towards restaurants,” Dossani adds. “There’s something about just being able to be around people and stand behind a brand with great qualities.” 

Two pillars that have guided his success in franchising from an early age are staying humble and not getting ahead of himself. He says his work ethic has not changed, no matter his age. At first, as a 23-year-old opening a $2 million restaurant, he experienced a lot of doubt and a lot of questions, but he never let it stop him. 

“It’s a driving factor for me … Now, I’m one of the youngest franchisees on the [Captain D’s] board, and a lot of these guys have been with the company for 20-plus years,” Dossani says. “Ultimately it gives us the best of both worlds.” 

Keshuv Kash Aggarwal, president of KK Corporation, grew up similarly to Dossani, with the entrepreneurial flame lit by his mother, Renu Aggarwal. Renu founded KK Corporation in 1997 when she purchased her first Subway restaurant in Houston. 

Aggarwal began working as a store manager at 16 years old. Since taking over the company in 2019, he has become one of Subway’s largest operators with 146 units. Most of those locations are in Houston, apart from 11 in upstate New York. 

He always wanted to be a 100-plus unit operator and a leader of people. Aggarwal says it’s special to find passion at an early age. The same fervor led him to where he is today. 

Operating through the pandemic, especially early in his leadership role, was an obstacle, but Aggarwal borrowed lessons he learned from Hurricane Harvey back in 2017.

“During the hurricanes and COVID-19, we tried to supply as much support as possible to our staff and our guests,” Aggarwal says. “When Hurricane Harvey happened, I took a kayak to get to one of the stores … We gave away food and funds … We wanted to take care of everyone on a better level.” 

With the pandemic in the rearview, Aggarwal and Subway have been on an upward trajectory, with 11 consecutive quarters of positive same-store sales. The young franchisee has goals of expanding, not just in unit counts but also in his team. He is set on taking the company to new heights through leadership seminars and an emphasis on education and fun.

He is optimistic about the future of Subway, with recent menu innovations such as the Subway Series and Deli Heroes. 

“You have to be aggressive in transformation, and as a franchisee, you have to be very adaptable to the change,” Aggarwal comments. “I have to be okay with that. If you are adaptable as a franchisee, you will grow.” 

At 21 years old, Taral Patel joined the franchising world while pursuing his master’s degree in finance. The young entrepreneur owns one McAlister’s, the leading fast-casual restaurant under Focus Brands. 

A third-generation hotelier, Patel was deeply inspired by his parents’ love for hospitality. He always knew he wanted to own a business and was introduced to McAlister’s by a friend. Patel quickly became interested in the revenue, brand, and operations. 

His first unit opened in February with 75 employees, significantly higher than systemwide averages. He learned the importance of a formidable team from his parents, who believed in a positive, robust work culture. 

Patel cherishes the hands-on experience of operating the business, something years of schooling could not offer him. According to Patel, running the McAlister’s has taught him patience and time management. Even while still in school, Patel is working in the front and back of house at least three days a week to support his team. 

He’s locked in with McAlister’s, with a second deal inked for a unit in Somerset, Kentucky. Patel continues to have a hand in the hotel industry, as well. Similar to Dossani and Aggarwal, he does not let discouragement cloud his vision—he lets the challenges fuel him. 

“When it comes to [franchising] and starting a business, being passionate is the biggest thing,” Patel says. “You are always going to encounter roadblocks, and if you are not passionate, then it is easy to let go of what you want to do. I always had the willpower to push through, even when times were tough.”

Franchising, Growth, Operations, Story, Captain D's, McAlister's, Subway