Franchise Development Players: Q&A with Tom Monaghan, Chief Development Officer at Philly Pretzel Factory
Franchise Development Players: Q&A with Tom Monaghan, Chief Development Officer at Philly Pretzel Factory

1851 Franchise sat down with Tom Monaghan, Chief Development Officer at Philly Pretzel Factory, to talk about his experience in the franchise industry

Benefiting from a unique specialized concept in the foodservice segment, Philly Pretzel Factory has secured an enviable position in the franchise world. The pretzel brand has over 100 locations across the U.S. and maintains a particularly dominating presence throughout the Mid Atlantic, where the brand originated and became a household name.

Tom Monaghan, Philly Pretzel Factory’s chief development officer, has been in the franchise world for his entire life. The son of a franchisee broke into franchising’s corporate world after college and worked for a number of large franchise brands before being hired by Philly Pretzel Factory in 2015. Monaghan talked to 1851 about why a wealth of franchise options is both a good and a bad thing for franchisees and why it’s important that franchisees fully understand a brand’s business model before signing on.

1851: How did you get into franchising?  

Monaghan: I grew up the son of a franchise. My father owned a number of franchise oil service stations, so I was always in that world, and I always assumed I’d start a career there. I considered becoming a franchisee, but I was curious about the corporate end since I hadn’t had any experience there.

When I graduated from college, I had the opportunity to meet the other Tom Monaghan, of Domino’s Pizza. That was an amazing experience, and it really opened my eyes to the corporate end of franchising. Tom asked me to own a Domino’s store, but after that meeting, I was determined to work in corporate. So I set out for a career in the corporate side of franchising, and eventually I was hired as a business consultant for a franchise. I learned so much about the behind-the-scenes operations of franchising and what goes into building a brand, it really renewed my passion for the industry. 

1851: What do you love about franchising? 

Monaghan: There is nothing better than helping people achieve their dreams. And it’s particularly special to be helping people achieve that classic American dream of building and owning something for yourself.

Not many franchisees grew up saying, “one day, I want to own a pretzel store,” but most of them always wanted to own a business, and because of franchising, they can do that in all sorts of ways they may never have anticipated. It really opens up a world of possibility to people.

I take that very seriously. People are trusting us with their dream, so we’ve got a huge responsibility to treat that with the utmost respect and support.

1851: What do you wish would change in franchising?

Monaghan: I’ve been in this industry my whole life, and I’ve worked in the corporate end for 29 years. In that time, franchising has only changed for the better. There are far more concepts than there ever used to be, which is not only great in terms of choice for franchisees, it has also offered a number of improvements and best practices that have become standardized across models. A lot of the risk has been removed from franchising, which is obviously a good thing, but there is a downside. Prospective franchisees are a little less selective than they used to be, which can be dangerous. A franchisee has to be passionate about the brand they represent, and if they are selecting the brand that advertises the highest or fastest ROI without any personal interest in the brand or product, it could end up being a bad experience for the franchisor and franchisee. So I preach caution and research to prospective franchisees. You need to know what you are getting into, and you need to feel strongly about the brand you select.

1851: What makes a great franchisee?

Monaghan: A great franchisee has a strong understanding of the brand and the franchise model before signing on. Each model is different and requires a slightly different skillset, so the best franchisees are those that have teamed up with a model that complements their specific skillset. 

For Philly Pretzel Factory, that skillset is oriented around team and community building. I think of our best franchisees as great quarterbacks. They know every play inside and out, and they get on the field and execute. They trust that the franchise is calling the right plays, and they lead their team accordingly.

1851: What’s the most important thing that drives a prospective franchisee to sign up? 

Monaghan: Ultimately, that’s going to be different for everyone, but I think it often comes down to the franchisee finding a brand that they can get behind and a business model that allows them to live the life they want to lead. 

The franchisee has to be able to think about their day-to-day work with the brand and know that they’ll be able to get up and every morning and believe in what they are doing and enjoy doing it. On top of that, they have to be secure in the knowledge that, if run correctly, the business is going to provide the income and support to accommodate the lifestyle they want for themselves. Of course, that may not come in year one, but the franchisee has to see a clear path to that goal.