Franchise Players: International Hooters Franchisee on Taking the Business Worldwide
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Is Hooters an all-American brand? Michael Pruitt thinks so – and he thinks the rest of the world needs more of it. As CEO of Chanticleer Holdings, Pruitt owns and operates 8 international Hooters franchise territories. With locations everywhere from Cape Town to Budapest, and more on the way, here's how Pruitt hopes to take the chain worldwide.
Name: Michael Pruitt, CEO & president of Chanticleer Holdings, Inc.
Franchise owned (location):
Chanticleer Holdings is a franchisee of Hooters in:
South Africa (Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, Kempton Park, Pretoria)
Australia (Campbelltown, Townsville (coming soon), Surfers Paradise (coming soon))
Europe (Budapest, Nottingham UK)
Brazil (Rio de Janeiro (coming soon))
United States (Tacoma, Wash., Portland, Ore.)
Chanticleer Holdings owns and plans to offer franchisee licenses in the future for:
American Roadside Burgers
Concept with Chef Tesar of Spoon Bar & Kitchen to be determined
How long have you owned the franchise?
We opened our first Hooters location in South Africa in December 2010; our first Australia location in January 2012; our Budapest location in August 2012; and our Nottingham location in November 2013. We plan to open our Rio de Janeiro location shortly prior to the World Cup, which is being held there in June 2014.
Our move into Hooters franchising is a unique story. Originally, Chanticleer was an investor in the parent company of Hooters. Through this, we were made aware of opportunities to plan a role in the growth of Hooters in emerging markets, which was very attractive to us.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
I’ve always been involved with finance. Since 1999, I had been seeking out investments with high value propositions, managing those investments, and making capital allocation decisions. Before Chanticleer was formed in 2005, I was working in several different industries, but now with Chanticleer, we’re focused exclusively on the hospitality sector.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
We chose Hooters as a franchise as a result of our original investment in the parent company, and the inside knowledge this gave us about the Hooters brand. The new owners of the parent company, a group that now included ourselves, saw a tremendous opportunity to expand the brand into international markets. We came to believe that Hooters is Americana at its core—an iconic brand that is beloved overseas as much, if not more, than in the U.S. In the U.S., we can find sports bars everywhere, but overseas, that concept is unknown. In the UK, for example, to find a bar that has huge TVs showing soccer is difficult. We are hoping to change this, as we see enormous growth potential and appeal for the sports bar experience worldwide.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
We spent approximately $100,000 in the first three or four months prior to securing our first location, in South Africa. It took us about 10 months to build the location and during that time we spent an additional $750,000.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
I am fortunate to have a group of wonderful resources who I rely on for useful advice and insight. This includes noteworthy private equity investors, such as KarpReilly, LLC, and financial analysts who manage our fund. We also pay close attention to Wall Street analyst reports as well. I am also very lucky for my friends and mentors, Kelly Hall, a franchisee of Hooters in Texas, and Neil Kiefer of Hooters Inc, who have been fantastic resources for me throughout this journey.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
We were struck by the importance of finding exactly the right people to work with us. We ended up buying out our first partner because he was not a fit. Finding the right people to run the day-to-day operations when you are not there to oversee things is particularly important for a company like ours, which has multiple locations across the globe. I personally cannot be there to manage everything. Franchise owners must make sure their interests are aligned, and that there is consistency in representing the brand among all employees, whether in South Africa, Australia or England.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
I have three tips:
- Plan for surprises as best you can, because owning a franchise will always cost more money and take longer than you anticipate. If you don’t start out with sufficient capital, your road to success will be rocky.
- Build a network of people you trust that can help you with research and due diligence. I think of it like a marriage—easy to get into but hard to get out of. You want to make sure that your architect, designers, investors, etc. have an opportunity to provide you with their perspectives on the pros and cons. They may tell you things like, this is a really great location but it would be better for a different concept.
- Listen to your gut. I’m a baseball guy, but there’s a saying that applies here:
“If you don’t swing the bat, you’ll never hit the ball.” Take a risk and build up your experience in the process.
What’s next for you and your business?
Our goal is to open approximately 75 new locations over the next five to seven years. We are always looking for places where Chanticleer can become franchisees in different concepts, particularly in international markets.
We are also fine-tuning prototypes for our American Roadside Burgers, JustFresh Restaurants and a concept with Chef John Tesar of Spoon Bar & Kitchen. We hope that with continued success that we would be in a position to become a franchisor and open up new opportunities with these concepts in the U.S. and abroad.