All-Star Franchisees: Tom Dake of Pita Pit
All-Star Franchisees: Tom Dake of Pita Pit

All in the Family: Franchisees Build Pita Pit Passion in Ohio

Like many franchisees, Tom Dake took an unexpected route to ownership. Unlike many franchisees, that route was a swift departure from his previous professional life.

Pita Pit became an unlikely addition for Dake, whose day job remains in the construction industry where he works as a fire and life safety engineer. But, as Dake told 1851 Franchise, life has a funny way of sneaking up on you and making you change direction.

It all began when his brother-in-law, Steve, made an unexpected proposition at a family Christmas party.

What was your perspective about franchising prior to joining?

My brother-in-law was working for a Pita Pit franchisee in Bowling Green, Ohio back in 2012, and he had really made a name for himself there, working his way up over five years from delivery driver to general manager. So, we were well acquainted with franchising, and how well Pita Pit has streamlined its franchise opportunities. But, the store where he worked had struggled to boost revenue, and Pita Pit’s corporate team bought it in order to turn it around.

That’s when Steve’s brain began turning. He had other plans.

Steve said to us: ‘the Pita Pit is for sale--we should buy it!’ And, we laughed. But, then we thought: wait a minute. This is such a great business model. It’s so unique and so much better than anything else we had in the area. So, we made the decision that we’d do it.

How has being a franchisee changed your life?

It’s actually brought our family closer together, believe it or not! We became Pita Pit owners in February 2012, and we didn’t wait long before expanding. Our second location opened at the University of Toledo in October of that year, then the third in February of 2014 in downtown Toledo and our fourth location was acquired from another franchisee in Akron in February 2015.

We really have been a family-run operation ever since, and we’ve had to be to expand as quickly as we have.

I deal with all the business transactions, Steve deals with day-to-day operations, and my wife Kate deals with all of the marketing and the social media. It is challenging to maintain consistency in that environment, because, in any multi-unit environment you can’t be everywhere at all times. Going from one to four locations was challenging too, not just in operations, but even in keeping messaging consistent. But, we found the secret formula quickly: relying on each other to help ensure success.

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

Most people don’t understand that growth isn’t dependent on just operations or marketing initiatives, but on the people that make up your franchise. You have to surround yourself with people you trust. One of the three of us is in every store a minimum of every other day, if not every day. You have to be there. We’re maintaining quality. We’re creating a food that has some art to it. And, we take that very personally.

Why did you pick Pita Pit?

The initial equation boiled down to that inside experience from Steve. He had inside knowledge of the brand and its operations. But, we coupled that with the fact that Pita Pit is such a unique concept. It’s a young concept. It’s up and coming. And, it’s very popular in niche markets, particularly in colleges. We took all of that into account, because we were also looking at profitability.

Since that initial decision, we’ve felt a high level of support from the brand. I’m serving on Pita Pit’s Franchisee Advisory Council and I really do feel that the family atmosphere extends far beyond just the doors of our stores. Having the right franchise partner is key, and Pita Pit excels at working with franchisees and making them successful. Our new point-of-sale system is a good example of that. Pita Pit involved the FAC, spoke with the franchisees, and found a system that was customizable and fit our needs. As I’ve gotten more involved in the brand, I’ve quickly discovered how much of a family-run business this really is. Franchisees are families, parents, kids, brothers and sisters. It’s become an avenue for me to grow as a person, but also an opportunity for my family to grow into a great business.

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

Stay focused on your end goal. For us, that’s to open 10 Pita Pit stores across Ohio, and it’s a goal I think we’re well on the road to. When something great and wonderful happens, you should celebrate it, but you have to stay focused. It’s a process. We’re taking one step at a time and keeping that end goal in sight. Ultimately, we want to pay off our investment quickly and put money in our pockets. Because of this great partnership, we’re on the right track to get there.