Franchise Players is Entrepreneur’s Q&A interview column that puts the spotlight on franchisees. After last week's franchisees under 30, this week we're profiling baby boomer franchisees. If you're a franchisee with advice and tips to share, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Paul Amell knows his fries. With 18 years of experience at Hot 'n Now Hamburgers, Amell had a good idea of what he was looking for when he became a Checkers and Rally's franchisee seven years ago. However, for Amell, people are just as important to his business as serving up what he calls the best fries in the industry. Here's what the baby boomer franchisee has learned during his years in the burger business.
Name: Paul Amell
Franchise owned (location): Checkers and Rally’s in Mt. Pleasant, Mich. and the greater Detroit area.
How long you have owned the franchise?
Getting involved with a great brand like Checkers and Rally’s gives you the image, structure and support necessary to be successful.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
I was a director of fitness centers in Western Michigan.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
I felt that they had a strong upper management team and I really loved their food. Their food is unique and different from the competition. No one has better fries in the industry. I was aware of the brand as I competed against them directly while working at Hot 'n Now Hamburgers. Checkers and Rally’s was once a direct competitor because it had a similar footprint.
How did entering franchising later in life shape your experience?
The experience has been nothing but positive. It has allowed me to bring in friends and family into the business, so as I grow, they can too.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
$650,000 for land, $400,000 for building, $200,000 for site work, equipment and signs, and $50,000 on miscellaneous items.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
I was well versed in the QSR industry as I was a franchisee of another brand for 18 years, so I had a strong background and knew what I was doing and where I wanted to go. Checkers and Rally’s gave me a great opportunity to use my background and be successful.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
Not knowing what to expect in terms of the volume of business when you first open. Everyone can predict what they think will happen, but until you’re in the trenches with the open sign on the board. I could have never imagined the positive response I got for opening Checkers and Rally’s.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
Make sure you have a strong infrastructure of people, you are well capitalized and you understand the market you are going to open in. You must go into a market that will give you room to grow in. You must have a passion for what you are going to do. Make sure the brand you choose has exceptional products and consistent standards across the board, and a great marketing team with a success story to tell, and a great training program for you to learn from. Last I would make sure to call franchisees in the brand to get their feedback on their successes, while also learning from their mistakes.
What’s next for you and your business?
Currently we are looking for the right opportunities to grow. Growth for us is one customer at a time. If we take care of the customer experience the customer will take care of us and allow us to grow. Our industry is all about the guest experience. You must put the customer first.