DDIFO members from the Northeast region gathered on March 8 at the Doubletree Hotel in Westborough, Massachusetts, to mark their successes and prepare for tomorrow as they networked with fellow franchisees and DDIFO Sponsors, heard from compelling speakers, and exchanged ideas and concerns. The theme for the DDIFO Spring Northeast Members Meeting—Where Do We Go from Here? Onward & Forward!—conveyed the accomplishments Dunkin’ Donuts franchise owners have achieved over the past few years as well as the constant eye franchisees and DDIFO keep on the road ahead.

DDIFO President Jim Coen opened the meeting with remarks echoing the meeting theme. He reminded the more than 80 franchisees and others in the room that DDIFO is actively advocating for issues and developments that are important to the franchisee community, including the recent merger of the regional DCPs into a national entity (NDCP), which results not only in streamlined supply chain operations, but also in one board of directors guided by a singular, unified mission. Under the new long-term agreement with the Brand, the NDCP will control both sourcing and distribution, which will lead directly to cost reductions for franchise owners. Coen also spoke about DDIFO as a positive force behind the collaborative relationship that now exists between franchisees and Dunkin’ Brands (DBI). And, Coen noted that during this peaceful period, DDIFO has doubled its membership making for a stronger and more cohesive association that can effectively speak on behalf of franchisees.

“We are fully engaged in strategic issues like fair franchising legislation and changing the existing Massachusetts law regarding tip pooling. Once we are successful here, and I fully expect we will be, that will ripple throughout all regions,” Coen said. “No matter what opportunities or challenges are on the horizon, I want you to know that the strength of this organization—its collective and independent voice—will continue to work for your best interests.

Keynote speaker Gene Marks addressed the looming impact of current trends in politics, economics and technology on the business sector. Marks—a columnist, author and small business owner—told franchisees they must think ahead. The three main actions he advised all franchise owners to take are:

  1. Watch C-Span
  2. Have dinner with your accountant
  3. Follow the Fed

What these translate into is first, paying vigilant attention to political debates, bills, votes, etc. especially those involving the “big issues:” the national debt and deficit which, if they continue to spiral out of control, could lead to higher taxes, higher interest rates, a shrinking economy, a weaker dollar and political turbulence. Secondly, Marks said it’s imperative to get prepared for (and make sure your accountant is planning for) a number of changes in taxes over the next few years including new W-2 filing requirements, changes in Social Security and Medicare, the expiration of the Bush tax cuts and the impact of the health care mandate. Lastly, Marks said to watch for moves by the Fed related to stimulating the economy. For example, he said that the minute the Fed says it’s raising interest rates it should set off alarms for business owners to immediately begin to plan accordingly. Marks’ overall point is to have a long-term view: “Don’t overspend when things are good and don’t panic when things are bad.”

Dave Andelman, CEO of Phantom Gourmet and Founder and President of the Restaurant and Business Alliance (RABA), followed. Aside from a personal message to put the Smokehouse Sausage Breakfast Sandwich on the menu permanently, Andelman spoke passionately about his desire to reverse the injustices he perceives against restaurants and other small businesses, such as the inherent unfairness of hikes in the meals tax and the disgrace of the tip-pooling lawsuits. Andelman explained that issues like these provided the incentive to start RABA, trade organization that aims to provide restaurants and businesses with a strong voice in government and the media. He proudly acknowledged RABA’s success in helping to propose and pass the Restaurant Rejuvenation Act, which allows restaurants in Massachusetts to serve alcohol beginning at 10 a.m. on Sunday instead of noon, adding two more hours of weekend operation with full beverage service (where most full-service restaurants make their profits). He encouraged meeting attendees to continue fighting the good fight through DDIFO and invited franchisees to check out RABA and submit issues the organization should add to its agenda.

The Town Hall Meeting focused on an update from NDCP CEO Kevin Bruce and a discussion about franchising legislation and the Guest Satisfaction Survey (GSS). Bruce thanked members for their input and help in achieving the DCP merger agreement and spoke about looking forward to resulting cost savings. He said the NDCP is focusing on matters of governance and decision-making as well as on issues of product costs, transportation and distribution.

Jim Coen related that State Senator Joyce of Canton, Massachusetts introduced the fair franchising bill and that several other states have introduced such legislation subsequently. Coen spoke about DDIFO’s continued efforts in that realm, including lobbying the Brand for automatic renewal for franchisees who are in compliance with the franchise agreement, as well as efforts to amend the tip-pooling law in Massachusetts and halt similar legislation in Rhode Island.

New York franchise owner, BAC member and Co-chair of the Restaurant Excellence Subcommittee (RESC) Scott Campbell addressed questions about GSS. Campbell indicated that GSS has been a hot topic for the RESC and BAC and, while GSS does provide value for the franchisee community by giving guests the opportunity to provide feedback—it’s a program that will continue to evolve.

“I, personally, expect to see upgrades in GSS and we will likely see the systems we use to monitor guest feedback evolve, if not change to fit our needs over the next few years,” said Campbell, who invited DDIFO members to share ideas and comments he can bring to the RESC and Dunkin’ Brands.

Massachusetts State Representative Linda Dorcena Forry served as the dinner guest and speaker. Forry spoke about her personal background as a first-generation Haitian-American who grew up in Dorchester inheriting from her parents a strong work ethic. She spoke of her deep-seeded commitment to economic growth, job creation and business and community development. She spoke of the small business sector as the backbone of the state economy and applauded the Dunkin’ Donuts franchisee community for its role. As Chairman of the Joint Committee on Community Development and Small Businesses, Forry is a champion of the tip-pooling amendment and fair franchising legislation. She proudly stated she is the lead sponsor on the tip-pooling amendment, which has successfully passed the House. After touring the state to survey small business owners concerns directly, Forry found the top three issues are over-burdensome legislation, limited access to capital and health care costs.

One result of a better appreciation of these concerns was the passage of the omnibus economic development bill in 2010, which included provisions for changing and reducing business-related legislation. As a result, Forry said that Governor Patrick has announced changes to about 100 regulations and the elimination of another 41. Forry also indicated she is working on a new bill that would provide relief to small business health care costs. She encouraged franchise owners to engage in the political process and learn more about resources available. In the Small Business section of her website (lindadorcenaforry.org), you can learn about National Small Business Week (May 16-20) and the Top Ten Resources for Small Business Owners in Massachusetts, as well as submit your thoughts and questions via a simple online form. Forry concluded by saying, “Small businesses are critical to the economic growth and vitality of the entire Commonwealth, and I strongly believe it is only through building partnerships with you that we will envision and realize policies enabling our communities to thrive once again.”

DDIFO leadership, members and sponsors alike were very pleased with the content and atmosphere of the meeting. Jane Couto, a second-generation franchise owner with 13 stores in Connecticut, said, “I love these meetings. I thought it was beneficial and a relief to hear about the relationship with the Brand and the DCP moving forward well. It was also good to see an array of new sponsors with valuable products and services, and new franchise owner faces, too.” Steve Gabellieri, a Rhode Island franchisee with four stores, said, “The Town Hall is the most valuable aspect to me. It’s a good forum for franchise owners to voice concerns about the business. I also appreciate how these meetings give us the chance to interact with our peers and share ideas about best practices.” Sabrina San Martino is VP of Starkweather & Shepley Insurance Brokerage, Inc., a DDIFO Sponsor of the meeting. “I got to see a lot of my clients, franchisees who have been doing business with me for 20 years,” she said. “I think they’re very proud that we’re a sponsor and that we come to these meetings. It shows how much we really care about them and their

DCP Employees Helping Out Julie McCarthy and Carol Lancisi

Special thanks go to registration volunteers from the NDCP, Carol Lancisi of Fleet Support and Operations and Julie McCarthy, Member Services Supervisor; Communications Director Matt Ellis; Sponsor Coordinator Joan Gould; and of course, the participating DDIFO Sponsors, whose resources made this meeting possible.