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Franchise Development Leaders: Jackie Lobdell of Slim Chickens

Slim Chickens’ Executive Director of Franchise Sales chatted with 1851 on all things franchising, from relationship building and franchisee support to the digital-focused future of development in the industry.

Self-described as “motivated, result-driven and competitive,” Jackie Lobdell is a sales professional, through and through. Over the course of her 25-year career in the field, Lobdell has found her passion connecting with clients and offering them guidance navigating through the franchise world. In order to do well in the industry, building and solidifying client relationships is paramount––and also happens to be Lobdell’s strong suit. 

In her role as Executive Director of Franchise Sales with Slim Chickens, Lobdell has found a key point of differentiation in the extra touch of hospitality the brand provides that’s very much lacking in most fast casual and quick-service brands. Slim Chickens is on pace to hit the 100-location milestone before the end of 2019, proving that her work to connect prospects to the brand’s hospitality focus is paying off.

1851: How did you first get into franchising? 

Lobdell: In my previous role as a national marketing and advertising sales representative, I specifically focused on franchisors and multi-unit franchisees, so I got to know the field very well. I realized I loved the franchise industry and I pursued a group at Focus Brands––they were reluctant to hire me because I didn’t have any industry-specific experience. I told them, “Listen, you won’t be sorry,” and they weren’t. My first year, I won Rookie of the Year and the year after, I won Salesman of the Year. A head hunter for Slim Chickens soon came calling for me and I’d never heard of the brand, but once I did my research and met the team, there was no turning back. I saw the passion everyone had for the brand––it’s such a phenomenal organization that I knew I had to become a part of.

1851: What do you love about the industry? 

Lobdell: From introduction to close, you work intimately with individuals who are trying to figure out if your brand is the right opportunity for them. It’s such a pleasure working with entrepreneurs in the franchise development field and helping them grow. I’ve worked with people who bought their first location ever, and now, I’m working with multi-unit groups who are diversifying their portfolio with Slim Chickens. I love the spirit my clients bring to the table—it’s hard to beat. I’m constantly surrounded by individuals who put their blood, sweat and tears into their businesses.

1851: What do you wish that you could change about the industry? 

Lobdell: In my career, I’ve been privileged to work with a couple of brands like Slim Chickens that take really great care of their franchisees, which is one of the qualities that sold me on coming to work here. Slim Chickens has such an incredible infrastructure on the front end to service and support its franchisees. 

I’ve worked with many businesses that unfortunately don’t provide a blueprint or road map for their franchise partners, something that’s crucial to successfully duplicate the business. I think many franchisees are promised that time and time again, and more often than not, are left in the dust. That’s one thing I think that’s so important—even if you’re a multi-unit owner, you really need to do your due diligence to make sure you’re going to be supported––it’s critical to anyone’s success.

1851: What is the biggest challenge franchisors are currently facing in franchise development and what are you doing to overcome it? 

Lobdell: Our biggest challenge for Slim Chickens is finding that quality franchisee. We’re very careful about who we bring into the brand––not only for the brand’s success, but for the individuals who might be on the fence about whether this is the right brand for them. We would never want to put anyone in a position where they’re not set up for success. It’s really not about getting as many franchisees as we can, it’s about getting the right groups that fit the culture and the requirements for the brand.

1851: What do you think the biggest trend in franchise development will be in 2020?

Lobdell: I believe all of the innovative digital technology that’s happening right now in restaurants will be a huge trend in the upcoming years. The kiosks are extremely convenient and customers love them because they tend to be less stressed when interacting with kiosks versus a person taking their order. The only downside to kiosks and other ordering machines is you lose that customer interaction. 

People appreciate good service and hospitality—that’s all part of the customer experience and you have to put that at the center of everything you do, or you’re going to lose.

1851: What's the No. 1 thing that sells franchises?

Lobdell: You have to have a passion for the brand––bottom line. It can’t just be about the money––we have to go beyond that. But when it comes down to it, potential franchisees are going to look at the brand’s profitability. If your economics aren’t where they should be, people won’t be interested. Potential franchisees want to be a part of an exceptional brand that’s growing, profitable and can expand with. Slim Chickens has the culture and passion that prospects want. Groups who come to our discovery days are truly blown away by our brand, our team and our culture.