Learn how this former football star used his playbook on the field to help expand the Stacked Pickle franchise.
Having played football since he was young, Gary Brackett has always understood the value of hard work. But as a walk-on at Rutgers University, Brackett faced a new set of challenges to overcome. After his family refinanced their home twice in order to pay for his Rutgers tuition, his parents told him they were no longer going to be able to pay for his third year. After sharing the news with his coach, the coach worked with Rutgers and was able to offer Bracket a scholarship. Brackett’s teammates then challenged him to not focus on the scholarship, but to want for more. With a focus on starting, Brackett’s mindset began to change. He began to work out at a new level. By his senior year, he was captain of the defensive team and won the team's defensive MVP honors.
He took this new driven mentality and leveraged it into a nine-year career in the NFL with the Indianapolis Colts. Although Brackett had a successful career, even starting for the Colts in two Super Bowl appearances, he always knew that he needed to focus on life after football. “We all know the NFL stands for ‘Not For Long,’” Brackett shared. He knew education was the best way to get him to the next level in business. He took executive education classes offered by the NFL in the off-season, and once he was released from the Colts after an injury, Brackett attended George Washington University where he completed his MBA.
During this time, Brackett was already a partner at Stacked Pickle, a local restaurant in Indianapolis, IN. After completing his education, Brackett was readier than ever to take on the business world. “I knew I wanted to have a business where I could leverage my brand. In Indianapolis, they know me and love me, and I wanted to capitalize on that.” Brackett came back to his business partner with the idea to franchise. Uninterested, his partner allowed Brackett to buy him out and Brackett took it from there.
“I knew Stacked Pickle was the perfect restaurant to franchise. I began to work on our branding, our website, the restaurant layout and feel. I knew I needed a proof of concept in order to show that the model worked.” After about a year of hard work, Brackett felt prepared to begin franchising. “For me, to scale quickly, franchising was the way to go. It’s challenging having multiple locations, especially out of state. Having a playbook and being able to coach people through their success is be more effective. Franchising gives me the opportunity to retain more ownership of the company and we are able to grow and scale.”
With an entry point of $650,000 - $700,000, and a footprint of 3,500-5,000 square feet, Stacked Pickle identifies its competitive points as generous portions, fresh ingredients, great prices and superior customer service with a neighborhood feel. Brackett knows it's important to choose the right franchisees to help expand the business. “I look at our competition and look at our landscape and there’s definitely room for growth and it’s all about finding the right people. I look for someone who is a leader and understands leadership. The speed of the leader determines the rate of the pack. As an owner you’re shaking hands, cooking, you’re doing everything -- you have to be willing to get their hands dirty. They also have to understand business and the numbers.”
Starting his own business hasn’t been without its challenges. “One of our huge bottlenecks was training. At the beginning, we only trained our managers for one day before they were thrown onto the floor. Now training is four to six weeks long. Our CFO thought the change was too expensive and was concerned if we spent all this money to train them and they didn’t stay with us a long time. I was more concerned with training them wrong and having them stay. Our business model is about having legendary service and making sure everyone is having a great time. We know our customers have a lot of options so we think the better you treat people, the more they keep coming back. Training the right way, from the top down, keeps customers coming back.”
Once he perfected his training system, Brackett knew he was on the right track to continued growth. He is consistently keeping an eye on all aspects of the restaurant to make sure it’s running smoothly, and that includes marketing. Since the beginning, he says he has been focused on the details, from to-go bags to napkins. He often gets questions about changing the name to highlight him as the owner in order to leverage his persona, but Brackett doesn’t see that as something that will help the brand grow. “The goal is not to make it about me, the goal is to make it about the Stacked Pickle. I don’t want a franchisee in Illinois or Ohio to think they won’t be able to succeed in an Indianapolis location because I’m not a consistent face in the restaurant. Gary Brackett doesn’t scale -- our systems and business model, food and service scale.”
With a goal of opening six to eight stores in 2018 and fifty stores within the next five years, Brackett knows that there’s more work ahead and is excited by the opportunity. “Anything that is worthwhile is working for. Some people have the vision that being a franchisee is simply signing a paper and boom it’s perfect. A successful franchisee should expect to put in work and not be surprised when it’s Friday night and you’re on the grill. If you humble yourself and work really hard, you will be successful. If you’re the hardest working person inside of your restaurant then everyone else will follow along. It’s the mentality that makes you successful.”