Marble Slab Creamery
Executive Q&A with Global Franchise Group CEO Paul Damico
Just over a year into his tenure as CEO of Global Franchise Group, Damico is already making a huge impact on the organization’s iconic brands.
Global Franchise Group (GFG) is one of the leading multi-brand franchisors in the country, boasting an impressive portfolio of concepts including Round Table Pizza®, Great American Cookies®, Marble Slab Creamery®, PretzelMaker® and Hot Dog on a Stick®.
CEO Paul Damico joined GFG in 2020, a year that turned the operations of it’s concepts upside down. Nevertheless, GFG’s portfolio continues to thrive and started 2021 with impressive numbers across the board.
Damico spoke with 1851 Franchise about his experience with GFG thus far and his plans for leading franchisees through 2021 and beyond.
1851 Franchise: What drew you to your position at GFG?
Paul Damico: I’ve watched GFG for many years, and I was very familiar with all of its brands. It was the reputation of those brands and what I knew about the senior leadership team that drew me to the opportunity.
1851: How is GFG different from other brand-acquisition companies?
Damico: I’ve worked for a lot of different restaurant companies and, in my research for GFG, it was how the company truly cared about its franchisees that stood out to me. When we say that our mission is to champion brands and the people who build them, it tells you that we’re all about the franchisee.
1851: How does GFG support its franchisees? What measures have been implemented during COVID-19 to amp this support up?
Damico: We’ve built a robust shared services infrastructure at the GFG HQ level. Our chief development officer is intimately involved with franchisees on a day-to-day basis. Once the franchise agreement is signed, franchisees are turned over to our franchise administration department, which walks them through each phase step-by-step until execution. They talk to our real estate team to find a location, our design and construction team to get the restaurant designed and built, and then ultimately, our operating team led by Jenn Johnston, our president and chief brand officer, for ongoing success.
1851: How has GFG reached its current level of success?
Damico: What GFG does really well is acquire brands and improve them. The acquisition of Round Table Pizza in 2017 was, in many ways, what saved the company as we went through the COVID-19 pandemic because 90% of our other brands are based in malls, and those malls were closed. Round Table Pizza exceeded performance during the COVID-19 era.
The Fresh Twist concept that we introduced with Pretzelmaker was also a tremendous win. We enhanced the innovation around the traditional culinary offering and adapted it to become an all-day menu, making it more applicable to colleges and universities. Now, with schools re-opening, we’re eager to continue to grow that brand.
1851: What does success look like to you for the group as a whole?
Damico: We’re an acquisition engine, so for us, it’s all about growth. How do we take a brand or how do we take our existing portfolio and help get it to the point where we can really start to see growth? We opened 54 new locations during the pandemic. We plan to see those numbers double this year and then grow two and a half times that in 2022.
Success for GFG is really how we grow the brands, how we maintain franchisee satisfaction and happiness, and then how we add to our portfolio to further enhance GFG.
1851: What are some target milestones for the brand this year?
Damico: The big goal for this year is to get our brands back to 100%. That means that we’ve stabilized the environment where the corporate team works, we’ve worked closely with franchisees to provide them with a post-pandemic plan, and we are ready to start selling more franchises and opening more locations.
This, coupled with a successful acquisition of a new brand in 2021, would be a successful year for us.
1851: What new opportunities are you looking to pursue similar to your first ghost kitchen from a development, operational, technology or menu innovation standpoint?
Damico: We’ve had some really significant initial responses to our ghost kitchen concept. We just opened our first Round Table Pizza ghost kitchen in Southern California with a current franchisee, and I think they’re going to be hugely successful.
We’re also talking to ghost kitchen operators in Chicago about adding Great American Cookies as an added menu item to what could be 40 concepts under one roof.
1851: Why do you see now as an ideal time for someone to become a GFG franchisee?
Damico: If franchisees have the financial capability and the will to get into business for themselves, we have a portfolio of brands where a tremendous amount of restaurant experience is not necessary, except for Round Table Pizza. Getting into the cookie, ice cream, hot dog or pretzel business requires very little restaurant experience. Then, based on our support structure in the shared services environment, we can make franchisees successful with very little capital.
We’ll guide them to the right pieces of real estate. Rents today are dropping, interest rates are low and capital is available. Those are three things that every franchise prospect should be thinking about.
1851: What does your ideal franchisee look like, in terms of how they run their business: What personal traits they have, what prior business experience they can claim, what kind of investor model they align with, etc.?
Damico: We want them to be customer service-focused and hands-on. We also want them to love our brands and the food business. There are a lot of franchise businesses out there, but we’re in the franchise food business, so we're looking for foodies or food-centric potential franchisees.
1851: GFG was recently named a Top Employer by Forbes. What about the GFG culture sets it apart from other brands?
Damico: Our saying around GFG is, “I love this place.” That’s not just a tagline — that’s the way people feel about working here. We are a decentralized organization headquartered in Atlanta with dozens of other employees across the country, but the culture seems to permeate everywhere. People really do enjoy working here, and we have incredible tenure across the platform.
For more information about franchising with Global Franchise Group visit: https://www.globalfranchise.com/franchise-info/.
About Global Franchise Group, LLC
Global Franchise Group, LLC is a strategic brand management company with a mission of championing franchise brands and the people who build them. The company owns a portfolio of franchise brands that includes five primary quick service restaurant (QSR) franchise concepts: Great American Cookies®, Hot Dog on a Stick®, Marble Slab Creamery®, Pretzelmaker® and Round Table Pizza®. Global Franchise Group, LLC is an affiliate of Lion Capital LLP and Serruya Private Equity, Inc. www.globalfranchise.com