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Franchisee Buys Chain's First Restaurant

His customers build their own burgers as he builds his burger biz.

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 aƱejo tequila and a cigar with his wife, Jennifer

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This article was originally published in the April 2009 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Buying Into the Burger Business.

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