Franchisee Buys Chain's First Restaurant

His customers build their own burgers as he builds his burger biz.
This story first appeared in the April 2009 issue of Entrepreneur. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Franchisee: Peter Katz, 52
Franchise: The Counter, a build-your-own burger chain with 18 locations in the U.S., Australia and Ireland
Number of franchises: Four in Northern California owned by Katz and partners

Before franchising, Peter Katz: Worked in the software industry for 20 years and ran sales and marketing for a number of companies and startups

Why he chose The Counter: Most other franchises seemed formulaic and prefabricated and didn't offer anything unique to customers. "[But] I saw a lot of myself in The Counter," says Katz, who became the restaurant's first franchisee. "I believed in the concept. I believed it was different."

Startup costs: $700,000 to $1 million per unit for new store openings, plus the cost of Northern California territory rights

Financed with: Personal contributions, SBA loans, private investors and partners

Biggest startup mistake: "We let other supposedly more experienced people tell us what to do," Katz says, "even when it was against our instincts."

Gives back by: Mentoring new franchisees

Future plans: Opening locations in Corte Madera, Calif., this year, and Sunnyvale, Calif., by early next year

Sales: More than $10 million projected for this year

A few of Katz's favorite things: Winter sports, backpacking, travel, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, and his DVR

Favorite burger at The Counter: Two-thirds-pound beef burger (medium rare), with blue cheese, pepperoncinis, dried cranberries, honey-cured bacon, avocado and barbecue sauce, on a plain bun

Entrepreneurial icons: Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield of Ben & Jerry's

What helps him unwind: Enjoying a glass of añejo tequila and a cigar with his wife, Jennifer

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