Franchise Players is Entrepreneur’s Q&A interview column that puts the spotlight on franchisees. If you're a franchisee with advice and tips to share, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marriette Simoni was an entrepreneur before she became a franchisee. Throughout her career, both she and her husband have owned and managed real estate and luxury brands. However, in 2009, Simoni decided to look into entering the restaurant and hospitality industry. A dinner at Johnny Rockets was all that it took to spark her investigation into the franchise. Five years later, she owns two locations and plans to open up to six more. Here's what she's learned.
Name: Marriette Simoni
Franchise owned: Johnny Rockets in Camarillo and Rancho Mirage, Calif.
How long have you owned a franchise?
I’m going on my fifth year as a Johnny Rockets franchisee. I have two Johnny Rockets’ restaurants– one in Camarillo, Calif. and another in Rancho Mirage, Calif.
When we were looking for an entrepreneurial opportunity, my husband and I knew that we wanted to enter the restaurant and hospitality industry. We also knew that in this industry, brand reputation is key. With the right franchise, guests know that they’re going to get great food and an enjoyable experience.
Additionally, training is important in all aspects of owning a business, especially when operating a restaurant. We wanted to join a team that we knew would help us train and teach our employees to provide outstanding service and food. There is a sense of accountability when you’re part of a franchise system and we wanted to be part of an organization full of business owners committed to the experience. Johnny Rockets was the ideal choice for our family for these reasons and more.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
My husband and I are both entrepreneurs. We've owned and managed several real estate and luxury brands. Our extensive experience in business and guest relations is what sets our success. My husband is a successful real estate developer with an engineering background and I have a degree in marketing and management with many years of high end retail and guest service. Our energy works for us. He builds and I operate.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
We came into contact with Johnny Rockets after speaking with a few other franchisors and immediately realized that Johnny Rockets truly listens to its franchisees and provides extensive support. You have the opportunity to have a great relationship with a hierarchy of talented people. Your success is their success, so they do everything they can to give you the tools you need. Johnny Rockets is an "A" rated franchise with a huge international and national guest following. Johnny Rockets recognizable brand with a fresh concept and dynamic team.
My husband and I both have a strong work ethics, so we’re not afraid of any challenges or getting our hands dirty. Johnny Rockets by far is the most fun business we've ever owned. Having the pleasure of interacting with our local and tourist guests each and every day makes it hard to call this work.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
We spent around $800,000 to open our first location. We received the store with only shell walls, so it took a team to build our restaurant.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
After selling several of our real estate investments and businesses, we decided franchising was the next step for us. We relied on our own independent research and interviewed a few options for franchising. During this search, we ate in a Johnny Rockets, and were reminded of the brand’s reputation that is loved by millions of people across the world. We met with the team at Johnny Rockets and learned about the support and training system they have in place, which was a major selling point.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
To be honest, the operations team with Johnny Rockets is so efficient, we didn’t have any issues. From an economic standpoint, we did open up in 2009, which was one of the worst times of the recession. This made opening a new business even more challenging, since many Americans didn’t have much disposable income at the time. Our customer has many choices in dining, and it's very important to understand that. Therefore we at Johnny Rockets give excellent guest experience and serve delicious all American meal every time.
We built it from the ground up, which involved a lot of hard work, especially given the state of the economy at that point. It took a lot of community involvement to start the successful restaurant and now Rancho Mirage is the second largest Johnny Rockets in the United States.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
You have to believe in the franchise you invest in and enjoy the work that comes with it. Johnny Rockets Camarillo and Rancho Mirage are our playgrounds. I believe in hiring talent and training them. I love talent and that's what I look for in my team.
Set your standards high for your team, and make sure they meet those expectations. We currently have great team in place with both of our locations. We have pillar employees and some fillers. The pillars set the example and fillers follow to become pillars.
Once a franchisee has its team together, the next step is community involvement. First and foremost, join the local Chamber of Commerce, participate in organizations and fundraisers and networking with local groups. It's very easy and fun.
Last but not least, make sure that the quality of your product or service is superb and pick a franchisor that offers extensive support and is easily accessible.
What’s next for you and your business?
We are currently scouting areas for our third and fourth locations with the corporate team as part of our eight-store agreement. We were fortunate to move forward with a franchisor that truly values its franchisees and we’re excited to grow with the brand and continue to offer the all-American, Johnny Rockets experience to our guests.