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From the Ground Up

This franchisee didn't just wing it: He learned how to run a fast-food restaurant by working there first.

Sometimes employees grumble about their bosses not being able to relate to them or not understanding the hard work they do. But the cooks and the delivery and counter people at Brian Cooper's Wing Zone store in State College, Pennsylvania, can't grumble-their boss probably has more experience at their positions than they do.

Cooper, 27, started out as a part-time delivery driver at the buffalo-wing franchise's first location in Gainesville, Florida. He worked his way up, cooking, managing and eventually becoming a general manager overseeing two Wing Zone stores in the Atlanta area.

Last year, Cooper decided to buy a Wing Zone restaurant of his own. "I got tired of doing the work for someone else when I could put the money in my own pocket," he says.

He moved to State College in December and worked for the next three months to open his Wing Zone location. His knack for wearing all hats came in handy during his transition to franchisee-he was even his new store's contractor.

Cooper's restaurant gained a loyal following soon after its March opening, breaking volume records for the company in its first week. Though business slowed during the college town's summer vacation slump, Cooper is excited about football-season traffic: "We really go after sporting events-whatever brings people to drink beer and hang around their house and eat."

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This article was originally published in the November 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: From the Ground Up.

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