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 email@example.com.
Darin Beck has been operating restaurants and lounges for more than 30 years. When economic realities blocked his plans of franchising his own concepts, he got in on the ground floor as a franchisee with Hurricane Grill & Wings. Find out his biggest challenge and what he’s planning next.
Name: Darin Beck
Franchise: Hurricane Grill & Wings (Waterloo, Iowa; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; and West Des Moines, Iowa)
How long have you owned a franchise?: I opened my first Hurricane Grill & Wings restaurant 2 years ago.
Why Franchising?: I was interested in learning more about franchising and what makes a franchise so effective at marketshare. For years, I’ve been conceiving and operating my own independent restaurants, nightclubs and lounges. In 2008, I began the process of becoming a franchisor of a few of my concepts and got about 2 years into the process and legal work when the economy finally took its toll on our operations in 2010. So before I could get our franchising business off the ground, I found myself shutting that dream down. In 2011, I decided it would make more sense to find a franchise concept with big potential and get in on the ground floor if possible and then learn everything there is to know about franchising by being a franchisee. Today, I have learned that being a franchisee is by far less risky than being the franchisor and when you’re with a great brand like Hurricane Grill & Wings it is very rewarding.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?: I’ve been an independent operator of restaurants and lounges for 33 years. I opened my first business at the age of 19 and never looked back. I have been a serial entrepreneur my entire adult life and have been involved with all kinds of food and beverage concepts as well as few technology companies. Some of my endeavors have been successful, some not as much- but all of them have taught me valuable lessons!
Why did you choose this particular franchise?: Hurricane Grill & Wings was the only restaurant brand that I was connecting with, and the company seemed to have a solid concept as well as a ground floor opportunity with plenty of territory left to build upon. I also really liked what I saw in the executive team. Incredible experience and menu engineering are just some of what makes the concept so great.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?: I have 3 Hurricane Grill & Wings stores and each of them came in at different start-up costs due to the markets they are in. Two were new construction and one was a retrofit into a TGI Friday’s location. I would estimate an average of $875,000 total in the two newly constructed locations with around 40% going to equipment, installation and décor. The other 60% went to construction costs including all electrical, plumbing and HVAC work. In both cases the landlord reimbursed $250,000 of the construction in Tenant Allowances bringing the out of pocket number down to a $625,000 average.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?: I has been looking for about 2 years for the right franchise by searching online, reading various websites, magazines and blogs. I found Hurricane Grill & Wings attending the Restaurant Finance & Development conference in Las Vegas. I then went for a Discovery Day in West Palm Beach and fell in love with the brand at Hurricane’s headquarters- the rest is history!
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?: Hiring in today’s competitive environment has proven to be our biggest challenge. I believe our whole industry is faced with an employee shortage that is only getting worse. Having the better brand and the more successful operation is what today’s employees are looking for- after all, our new store hires always come from our competitors!
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?: Do your homework and know that there is no substitute for experience. I wouldn’t buy into any restaurant oriented franchise if I didn’t have restaurant experience and background. Margins are very slim in today’s economy, and the business comes with many challenges that require experience to deal with them.
What’s next for you and your business?: I plan to continue to grow our portfolio of restaurants and lounges and look forward to growing our independent concepts as well as our franchise division. I’m always looking for the next big opportunity!