Franchise Players is Entrepreneur’s Q&A interview column that puts the spotlight on franchisees. In celebration of Memorial Day, we're running a series celebrating veterans in franchising. If you're a franchisee with advice and tips to share, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Veterans Day is a big deal for Chuck and Denise Kerr. Both spouses are veterans, with Chuck serving in the Army and Denise in the Air Force. And, more recently, the couple opened their first franchise on Veterans Day in 2013. Here's how military service shaped these veteran franchisees.
Name: Chuck Kerr
Franchise owned (location): Mooyah Burgers, Fries & Shakes in Baton Rouge, LA
How long you have owned the franchise: Seven months
I chose a franchise because of the systems that have been developed and tested. There is also a higher than normal success factor with franchises which, in today’s business world, any “edge” is needed. Lastly, the support that you get with a franchise with regard to marketing, supply chain, systems, training, etc. are much more cost effective than having to pay outside parties for the same services.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
I had been a franchise owner earlier in my career. I had owned two Subways in the 90’s for about nine years. Also, I had been in the corporate world mostly involved in operations management. I have also sold insurance for a short period of time as well as have been a bar owner. I even consulted for small to medium size business across a wide spectrum of industries.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
I chose Mooyah for several reasons. The first and most important reason is the product. It is a fresh, quality product that I thought would be very “sellable”. I have to be a fan before I can ask my guests to be a fan. I also liked the fact that they had fresh, quality ingredients and served everything in a fun environment. Their motto is “To deliver the best burger and fry experience and have fun doing it”. Lastly, I liked that the Mooyah franchise was relatively new (founded in 2007). I liked the fact that there was an opportunity to help the brand grow in a positive direction. Being the first Mooyah in Louisiana almost gave me a blank slate to show how awesome the Mooyah experience could be.
How did your experience in the military prepare you for franchise ownership?
There are so many ways the military has helped me in all that I have done. I guess the most prominent, with regards to a franchise, is the structure and systems. In the Army structure and systems were a common way of life. Another aspect that followed me was a loyalty to my employees and the realization that I could not accomplish this without them. Much like the Army, this takes a team effort to get the mission accomplished.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
I spent around $530,000 to open this business. This is a bit more that most Mooyah franchises but I went big with a 2860 square feet space that seats 98 guests. The construction was a majority of the cost at about $320,000. The kitchen equipment ran about $90,000, dining area equipment was about $30,000, Insurance of $10,000, Inventory of $9,000, Small Wears $6,000, Training Labor was $10,000 and the remaining went to miscellaneous startup costs.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
I was able to use some of my knowledge on franchise operations from my experience with Subway. With regard to researching Mooyah, I was able to speak with several franchisees. Of course I also ate at just about every Mooyah in the Dallas area to measure the consistency of the brand and the taste of the burgers, fries and shakes. I wanted to make sure that the systems actually worked in practice.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
In opening any business it seems as though even the most thought out plan will have unexpected challenges. In the case of opening the Mooyah we ran into some timing issues which, drawing back to my military experience, “adapting and overcoming” was the motto of the day. We were facing timing issues with getting the permitting completed and under a hard open date of November 11 at 11:00am (11/11 at 11:00am). This was also Veterans Day which was special to both my wife (Denise, who spent six years in the Air Force) and I. With perseverance, many phone calls, schedule changes, and a General Contractor that was willing to go the extra yard, we met our goal date and opened on time.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
Find a franchise that has a product that is easily marketed and that has a wide potential customer base. I chose Mooyah because of the amount of Americans that just love a good burger. Find a franchise that has good systems and that can support your growth plan. Start early developing a good relationship with your banker as you never know when you will need some additional financial help. It’s good to let them know your character. Lastly, try and build a solid relationship with your employees as they will be your biggest assets.
What advice do you have for other veterans who want to own their own franchise?
As with their experience in the military, not all things come easy. This is also the case when trying to open your own business. Find a business that you believe in and that has a marketable product or service. Develop a solid business plan to present to your financial institution(s) and be ready to stand behind it. Most important, set your goals and focus on achieving them, especially in the initial startup.
What’s next for you and your business?
Having only been open for seven months, I would like to first get a solid foundation of customers and employees. Within the next year I would like to be in construction of my second location. Ultimately, I am planning on having three Mooyah locations within the next three years.