All-Star Franchisees: Christopher Alford of Lennys Grill & Subs
All-Star Franchisees: Christopher Alford of Lennys Grill & Subs

The first time franchisee explains how he turned his love of the Lennys brand into a successful career.

Owning an operating a Lennys Grill & Subs restaurant is something new for Chris Alford—he spent his entire career in corporate America. But after working in industries ranging from federal law enforcement to medical device sales, Alford set out to be his own boss. That’s when he discovered his favorite sandwich shop was a franchise.

Alford was immediately drawn to Lennys’ franchising opportunity. He’s a loyal customer, and is passionate about growing the brand where he lives in San Antonio, Texas. For Alford, Lennys’ concept is almost nostalgic. By using freshly sliced and grilled meats on all of its subs, the brand gives consumers an experience that isn’t widely available anymore.

1851 Franchise recently caught up with Alford to learn more about his passion for the Lennys Grill & Subs brand, as well as how breaking into the franchising industry has changed his life.

What was your perspective about franchising prior to joining Lennys Grill & Subs’ system?

I didn’t have a very strong grasp of what the franchising industry was all about before I got first-hand experience with Lennys. That’s not to say my view of the business model was negative—I just wasn’t exactly sure how the relationship between the franchisor and its franchisees worked.

What is the top thing you think people don’t understand about franchising?

No matter what your specific business or brand is, being successful in a franchise system requires a ton of work. I think that’s the biggest misconception—people don’t understand the amount of effort that goes into making it all come together. You wear a lot of hats being a franchisee. The role requires you to be the head of human resources, payroll and everything in between. Franchisees are ultimately the glue that holds the entire operation together.

How has being a franchisee changed your life?

Being a franchisee has taught me to think on an entirely different level. I thought that I knew how to multi-task before, but franchising has really forced me to step my game up. If I’m not juggling three to four things at once, then I’m having a slow day. But even though it’s a lot of work, being a franchisee is a real labor of love. It has given me the opportunity to be my own boss and work for an amazing brand, which is what I’ve been looking for in my professional career.

Why did you decide to franchise with Lennys Grill & Subs?

Lennys is a real up-and-comer in the sandwich industry. However, it’s still a smaller operation, so there’s a real sense of community and family across the entire franchise system. What first attracted me to the brand was the food—Lennys sandwiches are all outstanding, and they’re made to order every single time. We even slice our meat every time we make a sub, which is something that isn’t done in the U.S. anymore. Our competitors all take their food out of plastic bags and serve it. But Lennys has created this culture that’s almost like an old school deli, and that really resonates with me.

Why should other entrepreneurs buy a Lennys Grill & Subs franchise?

There are so many franchisors out there that disappear as soon as they get local business owners to sign on the dotted line. That’s definitely not what Lennys is about. The corporate team invests time, energy and dollars into every one of its locations to ensure that their franchisees are successful. And we don’t have to go through layers of red tape to get help—we can call the CEO directly if we need to. The brand is incredibly accessible.

What advice would you have for someone looking to become a franchisee?

Be prepared to work 80 to 100 hours a week when you’re first trying to get your business off the ground. Your franchise will be your baby, and you really need to take ownership of that. I wouldn’t call being a franchisee a sacrifice, but it’s definitely an investment. And I don’t just mean financially, although that’s certainly a part of it. Being a franchisee is an emotional and psychological investment too.

That’s why my biggest piece of advice for entrepreneurs looking to become franchisees is to make sure you know what exactly you’re getting yourself into. Some people seem to think that they can flip on an open sign and their business will start printing money. But there’s no shortcut to success.