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This Franchise Attracts Franchisees With Its Pro-Veteran Stance As two former Air Force officers, Bob and Barb Rusnak were drawn to Dickey's Barbecue Pit's veteran-friendly business model.

By Kate Taylor

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Bob and Barb Rusnak
Bob and Barb Rusnak

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.

As retired Air Force officers, Bob and Barb Rusnak were on the alert for veteran-friendly franchises when considering business opportunities. The duo found the perfect fit with Dickey's Barbecue Pit. Here's what these veterans have learned in the last two years as barbecue franchisees.

Name: Bob and Barb Rusnak

Franchise owned: Two locations of Dickey's Barbecue Pit in Colorado Springs, Colo.

How long have you owned a franchise?

We opened our first store in Sept. 2012.

Why franchising?

My wife and I looked in to veteran friendly franchises and were impressed by the business model, support, food quality, and franchise opportunity at Dickey's Barbecue. With a franchise you're not reinventing the wheel and it usually makes securing financing a little bit easier. We liked the fact that Dickey's has a proven system they have perfected over many years plus they offer the guidance and support we needed to open a restaurant.

Related: Why This Chiropractor Chose the Franchised Path to Entrepreneurship

What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?

I am a retired Air Force officer considering defense contracting or civil service. My wife, Barbara is also a retired Air Force officer and was rehabbing houses. We briefly considered retirement and then decided to explore restaurant franchises.

Why did you choose this particular franchise?

Everyone loves barbecue. When researching veteran friendly franchises, Dickey's Barbecue stood out. It's is a great business model with reasonable price points. We saw a real demand for good fast casual barbecue in Colorado Springs. This was also a franchise with entry costs within our reach.

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

Our build out was around $140,000, equipment was about $100,000 and misc. expenses cost $10,000.

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

We researched online and Dickey's Barbecue stood out as a veteran-friendly franchise. We liked that. We called the franchise sales team to get more info about the brand and fees.

Related: How This Father-Son Team Discovered a Franchising Opportunity While Trying to Lose Weight

What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?

Finding the right location and getting the restaurant build out completed was more challenging than we expected. Also, evaluating advertising options can be confusing. Knowing what will work to drive business with budget considerations is something we were not very familiar with doing. Luckily, Dickey's offers a marketing department with media specialists who can determine the best advertising for the brand and our specific market.

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

Make sure you do your research and due diligence, ensure you have enough funding, leave your ego at the door and ensure you get a good location.

The best piece of advice I can give any new franchise owner is to be in your restaurant every day and get to know your guests – especially your regulars. I think we are successful because we truly care about our guests and are passionate about our business. It's also important to meet the community and give back.

We are regular guests on KZNT 1460 Newstalk with Mike Boyle and are able to share tips on the art of great barbecue with Saturday morning fans. We love this and our guests feel our excitement for the brand.

We also participate in the Pike's Peak Summer Reading Program by providing "be my guest" cards to local children. Last year we gave away over 15,000 cards to elementary students who worked hard to reach their reading goals. We also support local sports programs like Air Force Academy Football games and Mixed Marshall Arts fights in their area.

What's next for you and your business?

Continue to spread barbecue across Colorado Springs! We plan on expanding again with the opening of our third location this summer, hopefully by July 2015. If all goes well, perhaps a fourth store in 2016. All together that would put us at four stores in just four years which is pretty fast growth for a couple of retirees!

Related: The Story Behind the Debut of This Potato-Centric Franchise

Kate Taylor

Staff Writer. Covers franchise-related trends and topics.

Kate Taylor is a staff writer covering franchises for Entrepreneur.com. Related areas of interest include chain restaurants, franchisee profiles and food trends. Get in touch with tips and feedback via email at ktaylor@entrepreneur.com or on Twitter at @Kate_H_Taylor. 

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