Roswell, Georgia--Heavenly Ham has rolled out a new program targeting potential franchisees. That means the chain is targeting its customers.

During the past few years, the Roswell, Georgia-based Heavenly Ham has changed from a strictly specialty-meats shop to a sandwich-café operation. It has more than 200 franchised units in 32 states, and 70 percent of its franchisees are loyal customers who decided to become owner-operators, according to Wade H. Brannon Jr., senior vice president of franchise development.

"It's due to brand awareness," he says. "I think people try our products and somehow or other find out we're a franchising opportunity."

Because Heavenly Ham believes it gets a higher quality of franchisee from among its customers--and because some customers aren't aware of the franchising opportunity--new packaging for the chain's box lunch will include a number to call for information.

The program has the potential to reach millions of possible franchisees. Last year Heavenly Ham sold between 4 million and 5 million box lunches, Brannon says. The lunches consist of a sandwich, side dish, cookie and drink for less than $7.

"Our box-lunch business is 40 percent of revenue, and, as a result, we knew there was a marketing opportunity for people who weren't aware that we are a franchise company," he says.

Soliciting franchisees through information on packaging is an inexpensive alternative to recruiting through traditional ad and Web site venues, which can cost $20,000 or more to convert a single prospect into a franchisee, says Brian Schnell, co-chair of the franchise practice group at Gray Plant Mooty, a Minneapolis law firm that represents companies in their franchising activities. -Nation's Restaurant News