Back in 2004, Brent Weaver had been a sales rep for Anheuser-Busch for 17 years with East Coast Wings & Grill as one of his customers, and he and his wife were also frequent diners at the Winston-Salem, N.C. restaurant. When he heard that the company was beginning to franchise, Weaver decided to take a leap of faith and told them that he’d be the one of the guinea pigs for the business model.
His first location was in Peters Creek, N.C, and he is now going on his 12th year as an East Coast Wings & Grill franchisee. He has since opened up two more stores, all about 45 minutes from each other.
Weaver never went to college but said he was always good at saving his money. He invested his money and had assets. So when he was ready to go into business for himself, he said he was ready to sit down with the right people who knew what they were doing.
Below, Weaver explains how well he now knows the system and how he enjoys being able to offer his knowledge and experience to the up-and-coming franchisees.
Name: Brent Weaver
Franchise owned: I own three East Coast Wings & Grill locations. Peters Creeks in Winston-Salem, Mt. Airy and Reynolda, all in North Carolina.
Q: How long have you owned a franchise?
I was one of the first franchisees to join the East Coast Wings & Grill family. I opened my first location 12 years ago off Peters Creek Parkway in Winston-Salem, N.C. At that time, the franchise was just called East Coast Wings and a few years later, it became East Coast Wings & Grill.
Q: Why franchising?
I chose franchising because of the clear and proven business models that are put into place. Prior to becoming a franchisee, I didn’t have any hands-on experience of working in the restaurant industry, so having defined systems gave me confidence where I was lacking knowledge. Additionally, joining a franchise meant that my business and I would have the support of an entire company behind us, which was very appealing.
Q: What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
Before becoming a franchisee, I was a sales representative for Anheuser-Busch for 17 years. East Coast Wings & Grill was actually one of my customers, which is how I met Steve Kontos, who had recently purchased the brand with Sam Ballas. When I learned that they were beginning to franchise the restaurant, I took a leap of faith and offered to be their guinea pig on the business model. It’s been 12 years -- and I haven’t looked back since!
Q: Why did you choose this particular franchise?
It has always been a dream of mine to work for myself, and becoming a franchisee was the most effective route to accomplish this. In addition to having East Coast Wings & Grill as a customer at my old job, my wife and I were frequent East Coast Wings visitors. When exploring our investment options, we wanted to be part of an up-and-coming franchise, and East Coast Wings & Grill became the clear choice.
It’s been incredible to see the company evolve into what it is today. Twelve years ago, if you weren’t living in Winston-Salem, you weren’t familiar with the East Coast Wings name. Now, East Coast Wings & Grill has become a household favorite throughout North Carolina and is quickly expanding across the nation.
Q: How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
My costs have been all over the board since I was the first franchisee, and they all came into existence in different years.
Q: Where did you get most of your advice / do most of your research?
When I opened my first franchise, the Internet wasn’t what it is today, and there wasn’t as much research out there. I noted the success of the original store, connected with the corporate team and also compared this franchise opportunity to others.
Q: What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
The largest unexpected challenge I ran into was hiring the right employees and teaching them to follow the systems in place.
Q: What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
Even though there are proven systems in place, owning a franchise is no easy task. You should expect to be very hands on with your business. Expect that you’ll be spending a lot of time at your store, restaurant, location, etc. I’ve hired fantastic general managers for each of my locations which has helped immensely, but I still come into each location to connect with the managers, make decisions, stay involved in daily communications, etc.
Also, it’s key to research the franchise and decide if it’s the right fit for you. At East Coast Wings & Grill, there’s a mix of franchisees who run their restaurants differently. There are investors, who just find the right people to run the store, there are people like me who handle the administrative paperwork and such, and then there are others that are so involved that they cook the food!
Q: What’s next for you and your business?
Considering my youngest store is 10 months old, I’m really trying to perfect and smooth out all the management systems. I’m not in a big hurry, but I would like to purchase a fourth store in the future. I take my time during every step of opening a location to ensure my stores to be very successful.