Front Burner Brands’ chief business & people development officer on what he loved about franchising.
With over 115 locations across North America and the Middle East, The Melting Pot has carved out a special space for itself over its 43-year history. A unique offering and high emotional connection are just a few of the key points of differentiation that Dan Stone believes have led to the iconic fondue brand’s sustained success. In a conversation with 1851, the chief business & people development officer of Front Burner Brands, the management company behind The Melting Pot, shared his thoughts on where franchising has been and where it's going.
How did you first get involved with the franchising industry?
I spent the first nine years of my career in hotel operations, and I managed multiple hotels that were franchised. That served as my introduction, not so much to the sales side, but operationally. I managed all of the departments that make up hopel operations, from the front desk, to special events, maintenance, food and beverage and more. I had moved five times with the company when I landed in Florida, which I enjoyed so much, I decided to put down roots. I started to consider Tampa, Florida-based opportunities where I could leverage my experience in hospitality and human resources, which led me to Front Burner and The Melting Pot. I joined the company as director of franchise sales 12 years ago.
What do you love about the industry?
I love the networking. There's a strong willingness to share insight in the franchise industry. Franchising is a vehicle for individuals to achieve their dream of small business ownership. When you have someone who’s been successful in the corporate world who wants to be their own boss, franchising is a great platform to make that happen, and it’s very rewarding to take someone from an initial inquiry to approval to opening, and seeing their success as the years go by is very satisfying.
What do you wish you could change in franchising?
The negative impact that the contractual nature of franchising can sometimes have on the franchisor-franchisee relationship is something I wish I could change. The need for agreements and contracts are important and key to franchise operations, but having to lean on the contract can impact the relationship between parties.
What's the biggest change you've seen in the industry since you started out in franchise development?
Since entering the industry in 2006, the biggest change I’ve seen has been the tremendous increase in competition in available franchise opportunities, particularly in the food category. Fast casual was in its infancy stage when I started in franchise development, and it has taken off as an excellent franchise vehicle creating countless additional brands. There are so many brands competing for the same prospective franchisees, so the challenge that emerges is the competition among lower price point opportunities vying for the same small subset of people who are qualified for the investment level.
What makes a great franchisee?
Great franchisees are those who understand systems are about people. This means recruiting, onboarding and retaining good people to deliver a quality experience to the consumer. Profitability stems from great operational execution, and people who understand that will succeed. Additionally, a great franchisee is someone who has an entrepreneurial spirit but isn't a true entrepreneur. True entrepreneurs can find franchise systems confining because of things like system standards and the need for unit-to-unit consistency, so someone who wants more freedom is better suited for an independent business. Great candidates are people who see the value in franchising and have a desire to tap into a proven system.
What's the number one thing that sells franchises?
No matter the franchise segment, the biggest seller is unit-level economics. Strong franchisee validation helps, but in the end, unit-level economics is the strongest driver and strongest tool to grow a system and sell franchises. When franchisees experience good ROI, they share that within their circle of influence, and that personal point of connection is the most powerful way to grow a brand and must be the compass of any new concept.