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For Love Of Java

New cafe/bar franchise makes love connections.
June 1, 1999
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/17854

If you embrace the need for more love in this world, you may be able to do something about it. New York City's much-hyped coffee, liquor and dessert bar, Drip, is now franchising. Its MO for success: matchmaking (bow and arrow not required).

Prior to starting the business in 1996, Nancy Slotnick, 32, brainstormed ways to energize the lackluster singles scene. After ruling out a relationship-oriented bookstore, she settled on a cafe setting that would serve as a meeting ground for love-seekers.

It's a place where you can relax on a '70s-inspired sofa and sip on a Cap'n Crunch milkshake. Patrons searching for a soul mate can either peruse the 60 note-books scattered around, hoping to connect with one of the 23,000 customers who've filled out profiles, or request a profile sheet from the bar and fill in their own likes and dislikes in hopes of being courted. Because customer phone numbers aren't disclosed, all dates are arranged by, and take place at, Drip.

According to Slotnick, Drip would thrive in any city with a large singles population. Already registered to franchise in California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, DC, the former corporate recruiter is merely waiting for perfect matches.

"Because I own a new company that's innovative and different," says Slotnick, "I'm looking for people who are entrepreneurial yet know how to follow a system. A unique blend, if you will."

Future Shock

Franchising in the new millennium

By Laura Tiffany

It's time for Y2K predictions again, and this time franchisors are taking a turn. But unlike those ubiquitous bug stories, franchisors are making positive predictions: 1999 unit growth projections of 12 percent, a broader international presence and sales growth in current units.

Franchise Recruiters Ltd., a franchise executive-management search firm in Chicago, asked 100 of the largest U.S. franchisors about the future of franchising in its recent Franchise Business Development survey. The franchisors surveyed are focusing their efforts on strengthening relationships with franchisees while creating new products and services to attract both new customers and investors.

"They're trying to get units to produce more at the store level than they have in previous years," explains Jerry Wilkerson, president of Franchise Recruiters. "It's part of the pattern of growth for any business to concentrate at some point on unit sales instead of just building more units."

On the development front, franchisors are looking overseas and to the future. Wilkerson says the euro will make doing business in Europe easier and more affordable for franchisors. Canada, Mexico and South America also remain prime targets for franchisors seeking international development deals.

Surveyed franchisors also expect more growth in unit development should the U.S. economy experience a predicted downswing. Wilkerson says baby boomers will be an important part of this growth. "Franchising is going to [attract] a sizable group of people," says Wilkerson, "who have the financial wherewithal to basically walk away from what they've been doing, transfer the capital they've been able to save and develop businesses for themselves."

Making Nice

New Midas CEO puts emphasis on franchisees.

By Michelle Prather

Even before Wendel Province took over as chairman and CEO 18 months ago, Chicago-based Midas Inc. was actively pursuing the approval of its franchisees.

In October 1998, Midas sold its "marginally profitable" European operation for $100 million, $30 million of which was distributed last winter via a $15,000 check to every North American shop. The mission: overall refurbishment of shops, including repainting, new signage and computer upgrades. Midas also chose to turn all its company shops into franchises in order to focus more attention on its franchisees.

To solidify the already improved bond between Midas and its franchisees, Province has committed himself to making the relationship more personal. At press time, he'd met about 800 of 900 North American franchisees through group meetings.

There are no major plans for expansion of the 2,700-shop franchise until the end of 2000, according to Province. And as for the reception to his friendly tactics, the CEO says, "It seems they're welcoming me with open arms. But right now, I'm kind of on a honeymoon with them. At least I made it through the first year [and a half], and they're not throwing rocks at me."

Financing 101

No-hassle loans for franchise borrowers

By Lori Francisco

For many entrepreneurs, a franchise opportunity is very appealing--nationwide support, guidance, an established name--but the cost usually isn't. Often the problem is where to find financing. Well, look no further. Since 1993, the AMRESCO Business Lending Group has originated more than $1 billion in loans, much of which went to franchisees.

Based in Dallas with loan offices nationwide, AMRESCO is a diversified financial services company that specializes in commercial and residential real estate as well as asset management services and commercial finance. In 1993, the company began franchise lending, providing financing to franchisees of Burger King, Taco Bell and KFC.

"Since our inception, the franchise borrower has been a vital part of our business," says Marvin Franklin, AMRESCO's managing director. "We strongly feel franchisees are a critical part of our transaction pipeline and a critical part of the restaurant finance industry." The company looks not only at the structure of the transaction in terms of loan devaluation and fixed charge cover ratios, but also the borrower's credit history in terms of payment consistency, credit lines and whether he or she has ever filed for bankruptcy.

AMRESCO is a cash-flow-based lender, so there's no maximum loan amount; the money can be used to refinance existing units, acquire additional units, develop new units, remodel existing facilities, enhance returns on capital or consolidate existing debt. Many loans are non-recourse, meaning they don't require the loan to be guaranteed by the borrower.

Bryan Applefield, president of Goldco Inc. in Dothan, Alabama, and a Burger King franchisee for 19 years, is one of AMRESCO's biggest supporters. Applefield says, "They're focused on serving the customer and are able to analyze deals very quickly; give you clear, concise answers; and then follow through expediently. That's important in this business."

What's New

By Victoria Neal

Ice Cream And Dream Machines

By Amanda C. Kooser

On Tuesday nights throughout the summer, chrome bumpers gleam and motors purr in the parking lot of a Middletown, New Jersey, Dairy Queen. Brian McMullin and his wife, Michelle, own and operate two Middletown Dairy Queens that have hosted "cruise nights" for the past three years. More than just a way for people to show off their restored older cars and hot rods, Brian sees this as the perfect marketing vehicle for his family-oriented franchise.

"It definitely brings in families. A lot of parents come with little kids," says Brian. "It gives them a night out and it's good for business."

The couple gets just as much enjoyment from cruise nights as the customers do. "We like dealing with our customers on a day-to-day basis," says Brian, a former executive with Hershey and L'Oreal who sold his house to finance his first restaurant six years ago.

Cruise night is Brian and Michelle's own idea, not Dairy Queen's, but the company doesn't discourage it. "What they encourage us to do is represent kids and families," says Brian. "[They want you to do] whatever is going to be beneficial to the Dairy Queen name and to your store."

Contact Sources

AMRESCO Business Lending Group, (800) 307-5363, http://www.amresco.com

Dairy Queen, 447 Hwy. 35, Redbank, NJ 07701

Drip, (212) 665-1110

Franchise Recruiters Ltd., (708) 757-5595

Midas Inc., (800) 621-0144, http://www.midasinc.com