Franchise Players

How This Army Vet Found Camaraderie in a Burger Franchise

How This Army Vet Found Camaraderie in a Burger Franchise

Daniel Kimelman

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 ktaylor@entrepreneur.com.

Though he’s only in his mid-twenties, Daniel Kemelman has accomplished a lot. He served a tour of duty with the Army National Guard before he could legally drink, and now he’s the owner of the first Bareburger franchise in Philadelphia, with aspirations to open more in the area. In this interview, he explains how trusting the people on your team is as important for franchise owners as it is for soldiers.

Name: Daniel Kemelman

Franchise owned: Bareburger: Philadelphia, in Philadelphia, PA.

How long have you owned a franchise?

We’ve been open since Sept. 1, 2014.

Why franchising?

I was 21 years old with a lot of military experience and not much else. I had a goal of owning my own business, and a good franchise is a great way to break into an industry when you're virtually starting from scratch. Making sure people are well-fed and happy is a pretty awesome gig.

Related: From Military Pilot to Engineer to Personal Trainer

What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?

I was an infantryman in the Army National Guard, deployed in 2012. After that, I worked for [the financial advisory firm] Capital-Markets-Advisors (CMA) in the early part of 2013. Then, I found Bareburger.  

Why did you choose this particular franchise?

Before moving to Philly to open Bareburger: Philadelphia, I lived in Manhattan. I dined at the Bareburger near my apartment quite frequently, and I loved the concept, the food and the [all-natural, organic, fair-trade] philosophy. I reached out to the franchise to learn how I could be a part of it. After getting to know the Bareburger team and examining the financials, it was very clearly a perfect fit.  

How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?

I spent $750,000, plus a $100,000 liquor license. In total, it was about $850,000.

Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?

Michael Hartig (co-founder of CMA) helped me a great deal while I was doing my research on the franchise. My father advised me as well. Once I signed on with Bareburger, Euripides [the company’s "Chief Bear"] became my mentor and friend on this adventure through the organized chaos that is the hospitality industry. On the research side of things, aside from paperwork, I took the time to build relationships with franchisees and discuss their thoughts and opinions on Bareburger.

Related: How a Struggling Veteran Found Success at a Train-Themed Restaurant Franchise

What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?

Finding things I didn't know I needed to know. And then learning them. I got very lucky with my contractor Frank Esposito, who helped me out a great deal by advising me on how things worked locally.

What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?

This is the single most important lesson I've learned throughout this process: The numbers aren't everything. The people matter just as much, if not more. Get to know the franchise, the culture and how the leadership operates. Understand your audience, your customers, your supporters. Your success, especially for someone purchasing their first franchise, will be based on the support you receive from your franchisor, and your ability to understand the company and give your guests the experience they have come to expect. The Bareburger Team has held my hand every step of the way, and I owe my success to all of them.

What’s next for you and your business?

Right now I am focused on boosting sales for the first location and developing a comfortable management structure. Once I am comfortable with how the first store is operating, I'd like to open more Bareburger franchises in my area, maybe become a district manager. Baby steps.

Related: Getting Into the Growing Business of Fast-Casual Pizza