Great Resource for Franchisees of All Brands

Multiunit conference 41While working as a loan broker in New Jersey, Vik Patel became intrigued by the franchising world. “We were helping Dunkin’ Donuts franchisees secure financing for new construction and other endeavors. As I learned more about the business model and brand, I began to like it,” says Patel. “I decided it was something I’d like to try for myself.”

So began Patel’s franchising pursuit. After spending a year attempting to purchase Dunkin’ Donuts stores in the Northeast, he began to look for opportunities in a less mature market. He reached out to a franchisee in Florida for whom he had helped secure financing to ask if he knew of any stores for sale in the area.

“It just so happened that he was also a big franchisee in the Bahamas, but had stores in Tampa that he was willing to sell. Soon after our conversation, my wife and I flew out from New York on a 10 degree day and landed in Tampa, where it was about 85 degrees. We just looked at each other and said ‘let’s do this,’” Patel recalls.

In 2006, Patel began his Florida operation with four Dunkin’ Donuts shops. Over the following two years, he acquired and developed more stores until the economy crashed. From 2008 to 2010, he froze expansions, and waited for the rebound. When signs of recovery appeared, Patel pressed ahead. Today, he owns 23 Dunkin’ Donuts in the Tampa market, a few up in the Florida Panhandle and one in Alabama with another in the pipeline. His goal is to expand his network – through acquisitions and new developments – to a total of 40 stores by the end of 2015.

Having found success with his Dunkin’ franchises, Patel opened his first Brass Tap bar and grill in Florida in April 2014; he opened a second just a few months later. Patel says the business – an upscale craft beer and wine emporium with a bistro menu – is taking off. He has another under construction in Florida with more in the pipeline for North Carolina and South Carolina. By the end of this year, he is expecting to have seven Brass Taps up and running.

“I wanted to grow and expand outside of Dunkin’. I was born and raised in England, and it’s definitely a beer culture there. I love beer. We were looking for something that wouldn’t compete with Dunkin’ and that would be a nice complement to it in the area that we had infrastructure so we researched brands,” says Patel.

The Brass Tap concept seems well-timed to America’s growing interest in craft beer. According to the Brewers Association, craft beer accounted for 7.8 percent of total U.S. beer sales in 2013, up 17 percent from the prior year. “Beer has been around for hundreds of years and this is the next evolution of beer. Even bigger domestic breweries are coming up with their own craft beer since people are looking for more than Miller Lite and Bud Light,” says Patel.

Before delving into The Brass Tap, Patel took his management team to one of the bars. “I’m a big team player. My team is tremendous and they’re the reason we’ve been able to be as successful as we have. When I saw that they were on board with The Brass Tap and excited about helping to grow the brand to more than a few bars, it really solidified that we made the right choice,” Patel says.

How to register

Dunkin’ Donuts franchisees are eligible for a discounted rate of $495 with the code BRANCADD15. You can use this code when registering onsite or ahead of time in any of the following ways.

Online registration

Phone registration: 408-402-5681

Multiunit conference 4

Mail registration

Mail your registration form (found online) with check made payable to Franchise Update to:

Franchise Update
6489 Camden Avenue
Suite 204, San Jose, CA 95120

Fax registration

Fax your registration form (found online) with credit card information to 408-402-5738.

Book your hotel

Call 866-227-5944 and inform the operator you are attending the Multi-unit Franchising Conference, then provide the special group code SCMUL5 to receive the $189 rate. After March 16, 2015, the group rate will be offered based on hotel availability only.

New business, new challenges

Patel says while operating more than 20 Dunkin’ Donuts shops has taught him how to run a quick service restaurant and understand the nuances of food costs, moving into a business with a full kitchen, alcohol and food purchasing and a wait staff that earns tips has presented new challenges. He says he is relying on his team to make it successful.

“Dunkin’ customers drive by or stop quick to get a coffee and move on. That’s not the case with The Brass Tap. There was definitely a learning curve with operational differences and location differences,” Patel says. “I’m a big believer in people and if you have the right people in place, it doesn’t matter what you pursue.”

Patel has some employees who focus only Dunkin’ or Brass Tap; there are a few who work on both. Those are brand managers, marketing managers, and development experts. “It’s all about being able to leverage your people. I look around and think, wow we have a lot of great and up-and-coming people on our team who we can expand into other brands,” he says. “You can always open other locations and brands, but do you have the right people to run them and help make them successful? That’s the key question I always ask.”

All the resources in one place

There can be significant challenges for any franchisee who ventures into a new brand. That’s why Franchise Update Media created the annual Multi-Unit Franchising Conference. On April 8, 2015, the 15th annual conference will kick off at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.

“The people who develop the content for the conference are multi-unit franchise owners themselves, so we on the conference board know what multi-unit franchisees are interested in and concerned about, and we make sure the sessions are about things that are most important to us. Plus, we get the brightest and most knowledgeable speakers to talk about these issues,” according to Rob Branca, who is chairman of the Multi-unit Franchising Conference and also owns and operates 80 Dunkin’ Donuts shops – and several other businesses – in three states.

The three-day conference not only features general sessions with keynote speakers; it also has numerous breakout sessions focused on marketing, operations and growth. Branca says because the sessions are organized based on the number of units a franchisee owns, there’s something for every franchisee. For instance, some seminars are targeted toward franchisees with under 10 units or 10 to 20 units while others are for those with 25 to 50 units or 50 units and more.

“If you have more than 50 units, you already know the basics of growing your organization and are probably more interested in alternative financing, private equity investments, or better ways to build and support your teams, but if you have three units and are trying to get to 10, you might want to know, for example, how to leverage your retirement account for growth capital,” says Branca.

Make the most of your attendance

Branca - casual

Rob Branca, chairman of 2015 Multi-unit Franchising Conference, offers these suggestions to make the most of your attendance:

Decide which vendors you want to make an appointment with at the conference;

Before you arrive, look at the agenda to decide which sessions you want to attend and which ones you don’t. That gives you as much free time as possible to mingle and network while you’re there;

Review the marketing materials of the brands you’re interested in and schedule time to talk with their reps and with some of their franchisees at the conference;

Attend all of the franchisee-only events, and don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to anyone.

Gary Robins 3Meet the speakers

Something new at this year’s conference is the opportunity to meet some of the speakers during a roundtable discussion. “This will allow franchisees to interact directly with the speakers, so if they weren’t able to get their questions answered during or right after a session, or missed them at a cocktail hour, they can take this time to personally connect with the speakers,” says Branca. “The networking opportunities of the conference were already outstanding. This will only enhance that.”

Perk of peer-to-peer networking

A top benefit of attending the conference is networking with other franchisees, adds Gary Robins, who owns and operates 44 Supercuts hair salons throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland. Robins has attended the conference for nearly 10 years.

“The first time I went, I had a few stores. It was so helpful to talk with people who had more units than me. As I grew to five, ten, twenty franchises, I’d still go to the conference, and each time I’d come home with knowledge relevant to my business and how I wanted to grow my business,” Robins says. “There is simply no other conference that you can go to with 400 to 500 multi-unit franchisees ranging from those who have two units to 200 units. The friendships and networking that I’ve gained over the years has allowed me to take input from others and leverage it in my business.”

Learn from franchisors and franchisees

More than 200 franchise brands are represented at the conference. Branca says it’s a great opportunity for a franchisee to learn about a brand he/she might interested in developing. “Most brands are looking for multi-unit franchisees, which is different than the past since they are developing more quickly and need to sell more quickly. A brand can do all that with a franchisee who already is well capitalized and knows how to develop and staff an entire network of units because they’ve already done it successfully,” says Branca.

What’s especially unique about the conference, adds Branca, is that after a franchisee listens to one brand make the pitch for why that brand is the right one to invest in, the franchisee can then turn around and talk to a franchisee who is already in that brand. “You’re most likely to get the truth from that franchisee. It’s one stop shopping for some of your due diligence.”

Branca says the conference is also a place to fish for investment opportunities. “I invested in a Papa John’s network down in Florida that’s owned by one of the friends I made as a conference board member and I also invested in a private equity fund started by Aziz Hashim, who I also met through the conference.”

Vendors to the industry are also on hand to demonstrate products and services that are beneficial to franchise owners, whether your business is coffee, beer, haircuts or something else.