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Former Arby’s and Jimmy John’s Exec on How Sensing Strong Teamwork Through Franchisee Validation Inspired Franchise Ownership

Hungry Howie’s franchisee Bill Tokar on how the brand’s enthusiastic franchisee validation helped him make his decision to join the brand.

Bill Tokar already had several years of food industry experience before he decided to franchise with Hungry Howie’s.

He worked at Arby’s for 11 years and at Jimmy John’s for seven years before that, where he held several positions on the corporate side of both brands as a training consultant, district manager and general manager. “So pretty much, I’ve spent my entire life in food,” he said.

Tokar had been in the business for a long time and knew he wanted to be his own boss. He wanted to provide others with the same growth opportunities that had been given to him.

“I like to tell people I got tired of having to ask other people what to do,” he said.

Originally from the Detroit area, Tokar was very familiar with the Michigan-founded Hungry Howie’s brand. He signed his franchise agreement with Hungry Howie’s, a three-store deal, in November 2017. His first restaurant opened in December 2018 in Clinton, Utah.

As part of his research, Tokar spoke with four Hungry Howie’s franchisees. He was impressed by what they told him and how well they spoke of the brand and its corporate team. Whether the franchisees were long-term franchisees or newer ones, they were all excited to be part of the group, he said.

“I think it was just how they spoke about the brand, first of all,” Tokar said. “It was in a very positive way. It always seemed to be about how good things were going and how beneficial things were and the way that Hungry Howie’s would help and support them in the things that they needed.”

Tokar was also impressed by the supportive, close-knit vibe.

“We felt comfortable with Hungry Howie’s as a franchisor because we believed that the brand was looking out for our best interests,” he said. “What I got out of our conversation was that it’s all about teamwork and everyone puts in the same amount of effort for the franchise to be a success. The greatest part about deciding to franchise with Hungry Howie’s is that since we are one big family, we always have each other’s backs.”

One topic the franchisees brought up were the strides in technology the company has made. The Hungry Howie’s franchisees told Tokar about the technology they were using for back-office tasks and their POS systems.

“I was really impressed with the strides that they took and I got that feel from the franchisees, as well, that they were happy that they could see a proactive approach towards the future, looking forward instead of just trying to look at the now,” he said.

Having worked in the food industry for so long, both for and with franchisees, Tokar knew that franchisees don’t always have the most positive things to say about their franchisors and that they can even feel unsupported.

“When I spoke with the franchisees for Hungry Howie’s, I didn’t get that,” he said. “I got the ‘Hey, they are great at supporting me. When I needed help with this, they did this.’”

Of course, Tokar also attended Discovery Day, and he was impressed by what he saw.

“The most useful information I received at Discovery Day was how Hungry Howie’s continues to stay ahead of the curve in technology and customer service,” he said. “I also loved how they discussed what they do to support their franchisees. I genuinely felt that the brand considers everyone at Hungry Howie’s a part of a greater family that is willing to help each other. This changed my perception by giving me a peek at what happens behind the scenes. Additionally, I grew up eating Hungry Howie’s and love the quality of the pizza, but to know now that there are quality people at all levels, as well, was the real selling point. They are truly people I can trust.”

Even though Tokar signed a franchise agreement, that doesn’t mean he’s no longer getting support from existing Hungry Howie’s franchisees. He still keeps in touch with some of the people he originally spoke with in preparation for his opening day and beyond.

“Some of the newer ones I still call. A lot,” he said.

One Hungry Howie’s franchisee in Logan, Utah even invited Tokar to come up to his franchise and work with him ahead of opening day so that he could “keep fresh so I didn’t lose everything that I learned in training,” Tokar said. Tokar is even encouraged to bring managers he’s hired so that they can all learn the system.

Tokar advises anyone going into franchising in any industry to talk to everyone involved in the franchise they decide to move forward with.

“I truly believe that to be a successful franchisee, you need to get along with your franchisor and know who they are in order to gauge if you mesh well,” he said. “One or two people can put on a show, but when you see a consistent attitude, work ethic, and smile from everyone, you know what you are getting yourself into. The best question to ask is how will the franchisor support you once you open your business. Know what to expect from them and what you need to do on your own. Be sure that you are willing to put in the effort necessary to succeed."