How Franchising May Be the Solution for Independent Bar and Restaurant Owners
The restaurant and sports bar business can be a taxing one. The juggling act that is required of a successful restauranteur or bar owner takes a mixture of passion and stamina spread over what can turn into 60 or 70 hour weeks.
Dan Doulen saw this impact first-hand during his decade working as a supplier at Lexington-based Critchfield Meats while visiting both independent and franchise owners.
“With independent owners, I was always working with them directly. They had to be there and put the hours in from open to close. Sometimes it seemed like they didn’t own the sports bar – the sports bar owned them,” Doulen said. “However, with the franchise locations, I would be less likely to see the franchisee once the location was established. I was working with their general manager or employee.”
Doulen saw many more benefits of a franchise concept, and left Critchfield to join Buffalo Wings & Rings, an elevated sports restaurant franchise based in Cincinnati, where he now works as the Director of Franchise Development. In the role, Doulen now works with entrepreneurs who are interested in owning their own restaurant and sports bar business – but don’t want to do it alone and recognize the value of having the support of a proven concept and business model.
Buffalo Wings & Rings has been around for more than 30 years and began franchising in 2005 behind a new ownership group that still owns it today. The brand has grown to more than 70 locations in operation across the globe.
“After seeing both the independent and the franchise business ownership routes as a supplier, the prospects I talk to who truly appreciate the positives of joining a franchise system are the ones who have had to go through that process and investment of time and effort into creating their own menus, developing their own recipes, training people and retaining quality employees, and many more tasks that can pile up,” said Doulen.
Doulen added that during his time as a supplier, franchise locations were locked in to a certain price for food costs, and he saw the business benefits that franchise owners enjoyed versus the independent restauranteurs and bar owners.
“The franchise concepts – and Buffalo Wings & Rings was one of my clients – usually got their product at much cheaper prices and it was a more consistent product due to the exact specs we had to meet from the negotiated deal. It could be as much as a nickel per pound on chicken. So, over the course of the year, for just chicken, it could be up to $5,000 savings per year on food cost back then. It was also a noticeable difference in volume that I was taking to franchise units versus independent units too.”
The Buffalo Wings & Rings model provides a turnkey opportunity for dedicated operators who understand the value of executing against a proven system. But new franchisees aren’t just thrown the keys and left to fend for themselves. Buffalo Wings & Rings has invested in a robust corporate team to aid in the overall process leading up to the opening and continued success once doors are open.
“You don't have to reinvent the wheel when you sign up to open a Buffalo Wings & Rings location,” said Eric Sponseller, Training Manager for Buffalo Wings & Rings. “You have a support team in place that can really aid with all needs that you have. You don't have to spend the time creating something from scratch since it’s already been created.”
Like Doulen, Sponseller also has an extensive background in the restaurant industry. He’s done it all as a cook, dishwasher, front of the house, management and more before joining Buffalo Wings & Rings five years ago as a general manager. Within two years he joined the training team where his focus is on setting up new franchisees for success.
Ahead of any new restaurant opening, franchisees split training in Cincinnati between observing and working in the field at corporate-owned Buffalo Wings & Rings restaurants and classroom learning. That training lasts for four-five weeks.
However, those who have had experience as a restaurant or sports bar owner previously typically catch on to the basics quickly and so the training team focuses additional efforts on differentiators of the brand like the Buffalove® Service Promise, elevated menu, and “club level” experience. These are all elements that have helped fuel the brand’s success including 12.5 percent average unit growth year-over-year for nine years and twenty consecutive quarters of positive same store sales growth.
“One of my favorite things when talking with new franchisees is when they have ideas of how to tackle certain issues that might arise, and I can share the solutions we have in place and how we arrived there. With a franchise system, you have a bigger brain trust to pick from. I've worked with a bunch of franchisees and none has come from the exact same concept or type of business. So, those diverse backgrounds continue to help us build on the successful model we’ve already established.”
That model has also helped owners expand on their success by opening additional restaurants. Doulen noted operators in a franchise system like Buffalo Wings & Rings have the freedom to focus on scaling their business beyond just one restaurant which then leads to a more lucrative venture for the owners and their families. More than half of new Buffalo Wings & Rings locations are being opened by multi-unit franchisees continuing to invest in the brand.
“After a couple of years of getting a franchise location going, many franchisees are looking to open additional locations because they have the system in place. There is a lot of multi-unit ownership rather than just owning and operating one location with franchising. The confidence, system in place, and the cash flow helped those franchisees open other locations I worked with when I was a supplier, and helps our franchisees at Buffalo Wings & Rings grow today.”
Buffalo Wings & Rings signed 12 new franchise agreements in 2016, opened four new restaurants in the first half of 2017 and are on pace to open an additional four to five locations before the year’s end. The company is actively looking for experienced restaurant operators interested in the franchise opportunity and are negotiating open markets throughout key development states at a strategic but rapid pace.
Those who are ready to take advantage of the Buffalo Wings & Rings franchise opportunity can learn more and apply for consideration today by visiting http://ownabuffalo.com/.