Successfully breaking into the restaurant industry is no small feat. The business is filled with obstacles to overcome—between finding the right staff, staying ahead of consumer trends and everything in between, there’s a seemingly endless list of things that could go wrong. And for Dave Sobelman, the founder of emerging franchise brand Sobelmans Pub & Grill, being successful seemed impossible at first.
Sobelman didn’t set out to launch a growing franchise. In fact, he never even wanted to run a restaurant—his background was in the carpet cleaning business. But after meeting his wife, Melanie, while she was waitressing, things changed. The owner of the restaurant she worked at was ready to retire, and needed someone to take over another one of his locations. So Sobelman jumped at the opportunity.
“When I first started out, everything was a challenge. Being behind the bar and in the kitchen is a lot different than being seated at a table, and I wasn’t sure what I was doing. But even though it was tough, I was learning every single day,” said Sobelman. “The biggest obstacle for me wasn’t figuring out the menu or recipes that I wanted to use—it was creating the right kind of environment for both my employees and customers. Ultimately, I wanted Sobelmans to be in the business of making people happy. We’ve done that by finding the right balance of quality food, friends and family.”
Today, Sobelmans is rapidly expanding. The brand’s first franchise opened its doors in Waukesha, Wisconsin last month, and it’s already seeing the most traffic out of the brand’s four locations. Sobelmans is also gearing up for another franchise opening in the next few weeks. But even though the brand is growing, there are still obstacles to overcome.
Those problems come with launching a new franchise concept—ensuring brand consistency from location to location is a challenge that even the largest companies face.
“Being a franchisor provides its own unique set of challenges. But the biggest one I’ve had to deal with so far is ensuring that Sobelmans is staying true to its brand name no matter where it opens up,” said Sobelman. “Solving this problem has come down to training. When we’re gearing up to open a new restaurant, I like to be in the kitchen overseeing how things are running. We also go through a series of soft launches to get all the kinks out—by the time the grand opening comes around, I want to be 100 percent confident that Sobelmans will continue to be successful.”
Whether or not franchisees are doing their job properly can make or break a business. At the end of the day, consumers frequent brands that they respect and trust. Sobelman says earning that reputation starts with creating a positive relationship between franchisees and franchisors.
“I’m very straight forward with the local owners who join my system. Being in the restaurant business is hard—it’s a lot of long hours, and it can be tough on families. But if you have the drive and passion for the brand, it’s all worth it,” said Sobelman. “Now that I’ve been in this business for a while and have started franchising, I’m more confident in our direction. And when other obstacles come up—because I know they will—I’m ready to use what they learn to further our success.”