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.
Amol Kohli began working as a server at a restaurant in suburban Philadelphia when he was 15.. While in high school, he held different positions in the industry from dishwasher to cook to host to shift supervisor. Now, Kohli owns 11 franchises -- multiple Friendly’s and Tilted Kilt locations. Read on to find out about his journey.
Name: Amol R. Kohli
Franchise owned: Tilted Kilt Pub and Eatery of Sicklerville, N.J. (open) and a second location coming soon in the New York area.
Q: How long have you owned a franchise?
I decided to become a franchisee after working a few years as a district manager for a Friendly’s franchisee in southern New Jersey while I was in college. I have owned franchises for more than five years.
Q: Why franchising?
Franchising takes all the “guess work” out of what would make a potential concept successful. Most proven franchise concepts have a far lower failure rate than independent startups. In addition, you have the obvious benefit of a brand behind the concept you are franchising, giving you exposure and reach through traditional and non-traditional marketing channels that an independent concept simply cannot provide. It also gives you an operational platform that has been established and proven as well as a corporate infrastructure for support.
Q: What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
I was attending Drexel University, where I majored in finance and marketing. My required co-op internship was supposed to be at an options-trading firm, but it fell through. As a result, I had to scramble to find a job to meet my internship co-op requirements, so I called my old boss, who had become a Friendly's franchise owner. He hired me to work in his office, handling finances and accounting. I also began supervising operations at nine Friendly's that he operated, all at the age of 21. After graduating I decided instead to become a Friendly's franchisee -- with plans to build my entrepreneurial portfolio.
Q: Why did you choose this particular franchise?
I wanted to continue developing concepts in my hometown that are highly service oriented and entertaining. The Tilted Kilt embodied both of those characteristics, topped off with exceptional food and beverage offerings. After being heavily focused on the family dining category for a number of years through Friendly’s, I decided that I wanted to get into casual dining that would appeal to a wider consumer base as well. I wanted to offer something that had more of an appeal to a sports-based audience, something that would bring people together. I chose Tilted Kilt Pub and Eatery because this concept was a growing, emerging concept that entertained a niche market which I felt was relatively underserved in the Philadelphia market.
Q: How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
Typically a new restaurant opening will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars if not more, but the Franchise Disclosure Documents for any franchise, including Tilted Kilt Pub and Eatery, outline the requirements in detail as to what you could expect to spend to open up new stores. The 2015 Tilted Kilt Franchise Disclosure provides that the initial franchise fee was $75K with a total estimated investment range of 898K - 2.8M. My first Tiled Kilt Pub and Eatery was a new construction, ground up, 6400 square foot, state of the art, all steel frame building with a 1000 square foot outdoor covered, patio.
Q: Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
I have been very lucky and blessed to have some very good mentors in my life. Most of my business advice comes from people that are veterans in the business. Some of them sit as Chairman of companies whereas others are seasoned franchisees in other systems. My general research on brands comes from many different sources, from National Restaurant News to Wall Street analyst reports for certain companies - it is all a part of a continuous learning experience.
Q: What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
I knew that it was going to be difficult and my team and I were generally prepared for just about everything we had to deal with; however, I will say that no matter how much you plan, nothing will truly prepare you for what happens the last four weeks and the first four weeks of opening up a new restaurant. The amount of hours and time you put in during those eight weeks is almost unfathomable. My above restaurant team members and I each averaged 75-90 hours a week during that time. Opening a restaurant properly is so critical to ensuring long term success, I was not willing to take any chances.
Q: What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
You franchise because you are someone who would rather not recreate the wheel, but merely reshape it a bit. I am not an innovator, but an early adopter, and I know that is the main reason why I decided to get into franchising. The reason why you buy into a franchise is for the process, so be prepared to embrace it. Spend as much time in your business until you embody the brand and the concept inside and out. Take your time, and do your research. At the end of the day, you are an investor of any concept you franchise. Ensure it is the right model for you and that it fits your needs financially and fundamentally. Lastly, understand that a franchise will not run itself and that long hours lie ahead when you finally choose the concept you would like to develop.
Q: What’s next for you and your business?
We are in the process right now of doing some acquisitions and new construction projects. 2016 will be a development year for us, but I think long term the goal for the business is to keep it on stable ground and continue to push forward as efficiently as possible. Our development target for the Northern, NJ, New York Metro and New England market has us looking to build multiple Tilted Kilt Pubs throughout the Northeast region through strategic partnerships.