Brian Bourlier is a big success as a franchisee with Buffalo Wings & Rings, but there’s something else that makes him even prouder. Last year he was named citizen of the year in North Port, Florida — a huge honor for him.
“We do a lot of work to support our community,” Bourlier says of his Buffalo Wings & Rings staff at his two locations. “We support schools and Little League and Neighborhood Watch groups. You need to make sure you give back, and when there’s a need, you have to step up and do what you can.”
His employees are a big part of the philosophy of helping people, he says. “They love to be part of helping others and being a strong member of our community,” which is near Sarasota.
Bourlier also is proud to have his children living near him in Florida and helping him operate the family’s two Buffalo Wings & Rings locations.
He and his wife, Karen, lived in Michigan for many years and eventually decided to move to Florida, where the winters are much kinder. His three sons — David, Darrell and Derrick — are part of the management team.
“It’s a huge blessing,” he said. “The whole family is here. … Buffalo Wings & Rings has allowed us to all be working together.” His daughters-in-law also work at the restaurants and he jokes that he wishes he could “put my grandchildren to work, but they’re a little young right now.”
The next generation is solidly in place for the business. Bourlier said he and his wife wanted to set up something permanent for the future.
“We did this for the kids. We didn’t do this for us.”
The Bourliers opened their first BWR in 2009 in North Port. The second one, in Port Charlotte, followed last year, and the family is working on a third location.
The early days were tough ones. Bourlier says they worked 80 to 100 hours a week at first.
“You need to do that to make it work and be successful. You have to put everything into it. To just hire managers to run the place won’t work. … We’re family-owned and operated. You want to put your personality into it.
“It won’t run by itself.”
Bourlier worked at Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn, Michigan, and took a buyout offer in 2007. He knew he wasn’t ready to retire. He and his wife looked at BWR in Ohio and spent the day talking with the owners of the company. They liked what they saw and heard, so they became the No. 42 franchise.
“We loved the family-oriented concept. We’re not the wild ones. We’re the family place for food and sports,” he said.
He also is impressed with all the support he has received.
“One nice thing about a franchise is that they have people in operations to help you with all aspects of running a business,” he said. “They help you build a business plan.”
Successes are piling up for the team. Sales are up this summer compared with last year and son David was named manager of the year for BWR.
“They support us well, and they had things in place to help us out,” Bourlier said. “We still have contact with the owners. It’s always nice to know who you’re dealing with and that they support you.”