Franchise Players is Entrepreneur’s Q&A interview column that puts the spotlight on franchisees. If you're a franchisee with advice and tips to share, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joe and Laurie Scheibelhut spent 30 years working apart – in the construction and insurance industries, respectively – before working together to open a Hwy 55 Burgers, Shakes & Fries restaurant. The duo had been regular customers of the burger joint prior to franchising, allowing them to get to know the company even though neither had prior restaurant experience. Hwy 55 went from a date spot to a business for the couple in 2012. Here's what they've learned in the last year and a half about running a franchise with your spouse.
Name: Joe and Laurie Scheibelhut
Franchise owned (location): Hwy 55 Burgers, Shakes & Fries, in Jensen Beach, Fla.
How long have you owned the franchise?
We opened Dec. 21, 2012
Without any previous restaurant knowledge, we felt that it was important to join a franchise system with strong operational and training programs in place. We also wanted to avoid some start up risk by purchasing a franchise with a great track record of success.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
Joe: 30 years in the construction industry ranging from home remodeling, project management & fire/water restoration.
Laurie: Over 30 years in the insurance industry as a claims adjuster.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
While living in North Carolina we were regular customers at our local Hwy 55 Burgers, Shakes & Fries location and saw first hand how rapidly the brand had expanded in the North Carolina market. When we decided to move to Florida in 2012 and learned that Hwy 55 had recently began franchising outside of the state of North Carolina, we saw this as an amazing opportunity to get in on the ground floor with a brand that we have great confidence in.
How was the process of becoming a franchise owner different for a couple versus and individual? Seeing that we are a couple and understand each other better than the typical business partner, we have the ability to really take advantage of both of our strengths. Laurie handles the scheduling and compliance, while I handle most of day-to-day operations.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
The initial investment for a restaurant with a build out similar to ours probably would have cost approximately $250,000. We found an excellent opportunity to move into a second generation restaurant space that already had a lot of the necessary equipment and infrastructure in place, which drastically reduced our cost.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
We spoke with many franchisees within the Hwy 55 Burgers, Shakes & Fries system while also visiting and dining in numerous franchise locations. We also visited the Corporate Headquarters for a Discovery Day where we met with the executive staff.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
Our biggest challenge came in securing financing. Given the state of our economy, lending is tough to come by.
What have been the biggest challenges and positives of running a business with your spouse?
Seeing as we are both owner/operators, it is sometimes a challenging to be able to get out of the restaurant and spend time together. With that said, since going into business together, we get the opportunity to be with each other a lot more often than when we were working our other jobs. That has certainly been a positive.
What advice do you have for individuals and couples who want to own their own franchise?
Speak with as many franchisees as possible and visit numerous locations. It’s important to join a franchise system with an executive staff that truly shares in your values. Lorrie and I have a passion for serving the community and providing value to both our customers and our employees and that belief is shared company wide.
What’s next for you and your business?
We are in the process of opening our second location this year in Port St. Lucie, Florida, which is the next step in our plan to open a total of 5 locations.