What started out with skepticism from loved ones has now turned into a thriving business and a family affair.
Buffalo Wings & Rings franchisee Todd Fetter is the epitome of a self-made entrepreneur. From growing up on a farm in Waynesfield, Ohio to taking business risks that have raised a few eyebrows from family members and friends alike, Fetter has spent his career taking one leap of faith after another. And so far, his gut hasn’t let him down.
“I always had that entrepreneurial spirit, I always wanted to be in charge,” says Fetter. “And I just worked really, really hard because I wanted to succeed. The fear of failure is a tremendous motivator.”
After working in factories and in real estate at the beginning of his burgeoning career, Fetter bought a rubber and plastics business in 1989. He was only 23-years old and had to mortgage everything he owned to buy the business, which supplied parts for the trucking industry. From there, he was led to the custom coating business, painting parts for cars, large trucks and industrial vehicles. In 2008, after 19 years of working in the manufacturing industry, Fetter left to become a franchisee with Buffalo Wings & Rings.
Partnering with Buffalo Wings & Rings involves a $20,000 to $40,000 franchise fee, with start-up costs ranging from $2,010,000 to $3,085,000 or$1,244,000 to $1,855,000. Fetter signed onto the brand in 2009 and opened his first location in Piqua, Ohio four years later. Since then, he’s grown his business to include seven locations, with the most recent opening in Liberty, Ohio in late 2016. And two of his stores have been ranked the top two in growth sales throughout the 65 plus locations making up the Buffalo Wings & Rings system.
“Everyone thought I was crazy,” says Fetter. “With the recent economic crash in 2008, it was a difficult time to be in business and it was really difficult for me to get the financing lined up. But now everyone’s involved and it’s a huge family affair.”
Fetter’s wife, Audra, and his two sons help manage and operate the family’s locations, with Audra involved in operations and his sons serving as active managers, moving from store to store as needed. Fetter handles most of the site selection and lining up finances for building out new stores. Whereas many in the franchising industry discuss the trials that come with being a multi-unit operator without the support of a larger franchisee group, Fetter thrives with more locations and the involvement of his family. According to Fetter, opening the first location is the hardest. From there, it’s all about refining.
“We’ve learned little tricks of the trade,” says Fetter. “With other stores, we have the ability to go into a market and hire people for the needed positions and then take them to other stores so that they’re employed faster and we’re able to train them before the opening of the other store. It may raise your cost at that other store, but that’s minimal when you’re looking to get them up and running with a new store.”
At the end of the day, Fetter’s leap of faith - to sell a profitable business in exchange for struggling to gather the financing to open his first Buffalo Wings & Rings location - all came down to what he saw in the brand.
“I loved the food from the first time I had it,” says Fetter. “I said, this food is great and people will eat it if we get our own Buffalo Wings & Rings restaurant and open the doors. And even at that point, I didn’t completely realize the extent of the support I would receive. From site selection, construction, purchasing, day to day operations and all the way down the list, the support has been there.”