Franchisees in every segment have found success through multi-unit growth
In franchising, there are single-unit owners, content to run their one business with the support of a larger brand at their back, and there are multi-unit owners who have taken a step back from day-to-day operations to oversee a system of businesses, each providing its own revenue stream. Then there are those few franchisees who have taken multi-unit ownership a step further, growing beyond an area of three-to-five units to run a small empire of fifteen or twenty businesses, often far more, across districts, sometimes even across states.
The following 25 franchisees are in the latter category. They represent a diverse range of brands from multiple segments. Each has found success through expansion and earned industry-wide acclaim for their growth.
Craig and Dianne Lemieux, Tropical Smoothie Café
In 2016, Craig and Dianne Lemieux purchased the sole development rights for Tropical Smoothie Café in Colorado. The Lemieux’s now have 39 units in development throughout Denver, Colorado Springs, and Centennial, adding to their current roster of 58 Tropical Smoothie locations in Colorado, Michigan, and Ohio.
As chairman of the JAE Restaurant Group, Eddie Rodriguez has overseen the build or acquisition of nearly 179 restaurants since 1993, when he opened his first Wendy’s. Rodriguez, whose restaurant brings in $280 in revenue per year, is eager to continue growing, planning for an additional 10 new restaurants per year.
Guillermo Perales, Multiple Brands
As the founder and CEO of Sun Holdings, Guillermo Perales oversees the operations of more than 700 restaurants and retail stores across eight states, making him the largest Latino franchise operator in the United States. Sun Holdings brands include Arby’s, Burger King, Popeyes, Cicis, T-Mobile, GNC, Krispy Kreme, and Golden Corral.
Football fans will remember Ayanbadejo as the three-time Pro-Bowler former linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens, but since his retirement from the NFL in 2013, Ayanbadejo has made a name for himself in the franchise world by partnering with HIIT-workout brand, OrangeTheory Fitness. Ayanbadejo currently owns twenty OrangeTheory locations, but the athlete entrepreneur is only halfway to his ultimate goal of 40 units.
As president and CEO of Diversified Restaurant Holdings, David Burke helms Buffalo Wild Wings’ largest franchisee group. Diversified Restaurant Holdings owns 65 Buffalo Wild Wings locations throughout Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, and Florida.
Rob Branca, Jr., Dunkin’ Donuts
With the opening of two Dunkin’ Donuts units later this year, Rob Branca Jr. will bring his total unit count to an even 90. As Branca has grown his business, he’s become increasingly adamant about fending off government overreach in the industry. To that end, Branca has served as the chair of the Dunkin’ Donuts Franchise Owners PAC, vice chair of the Coalition of Franchisee Associations, franchisee chairman of Dunkin’ Donuts Government Affairs Committee, and an elected leader on the Dunkin’ Donuts Brand Advisory Council.
Rob Chinsky, Penn Station
Rob Chinsky was 23 when he opened his first Penn Station restaurant. 27 years later, Chinsky now operates 17 locations throughout the Indianapolis area. An early owner with the Cincinnati-based sub concept, Chinsky maintains a close personal relationship with Penn Station’s founder, Jeff Osterfield, who asked Chinsky to become the area representative for the brand’s development team in Indiana when Penn Station was just beginning to expand in the Midwest.
Johnny Weber, Sport Clips
With 278 multi-unit franchisees, Sport Clips is among the most multi-unit-friendly brands in franchising. The largest of their multi-unit franchisees is Johnny Weber, who currently owns 56 Sport Clips locations. Weber’s growth was recently celebrated by Sport Clips’ corporate team, who awarded him the 2017 MVP Single Brand Leadership Award.
Glenn Beattie, Denny’s
Glenn Beattie named his franchise group Top Line Restaurants Inc. after a cornerstone principle of his business philosophy, that owners should focus on growing their top line, and the bottom line will follow. That strategy has proven successful for Beattie, who owns 14 Denny’s and was elected secretary of the Denny’s Franchisee Association.
John Davis is the CEO of US Beef, Arby’s largest franchisee. The Tulsa, Oklahoma-based franchisee group owns 360 Arby’s locations throughout Washington, Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho, Oklahoma, Kansas, Illinois, Missouri, and Arkansas. This year, US Beef acquired 10 additional Arby’s, keeping them on track to fulfilling their agreement with Arby’s to open 70 locations by 2022.
Andy Patel, Multiple Brands
Andy Patel maintains a diverse catalog of investments. The 25-plus-year franchising veteran currently owns 73 Burger Kings, 51 Applebee’s, 18 Pizza Huts, and 5 IHOPs. Patel has worked simultaneously with multiple brands for his entire career. When the Indian-born entrepreneur moved to the U.S. in the 1980’s, he found work with a Wendy’s, a McDonald’s, a Domino’s, and a Burger King. All at the same time. In 1992, Patel purchased his first IHOP, kicking off a long career as a franchise owner.
Rahul Marwah’s California-based franchise group, Denco Family, currently operates 25 Denny’s location, but Marwah’s claim to fame in the franchise world is the opening of one unit in particular. That would be the Denny’s located in New York City’s Financial District, the city’s first. Marwah’s NYC Denny’s opened to much fanfare in 2014 and quickly became a fixture in Manhattan’s notoriously cutthroat restaurant scene.
In 2016, for the second year in a row, Harry Rose was named Applebee’s Franchisee of the Year. Rose’s 31 years in franchising are actually a second career for the 72-year-old grandfather of four. Rose spent more than 20 years in property management and real estate before entering the franchise industry. Now, Rose’s The Rose Group operates 56 Applebee’s restaurants.
Though Dan Ponder owns 36 Hardee’s—just more than one unit for each of the 34 years he’s been in franchising—his thriving business is not his first priority. That would be Ponder’s duties as the mayor of Donalsonville, the small Georgia town where Ponder opened his first Hardee’s location in 1983.
Jared Lee and Val Hill, Sport Clips
Jared Lee and Val Hill met in college before finding work together at Intel after school. In 2005, they decided to go into business together, and the newly established business partners purchased their first Sport Clips location. Twelve years later, Hill and Lee are still in business together, now with nearly 20 Sport Clips units throughout the Phoenix metro area under their ownership.
Adam Saxton’s franchisee group, The Saxton Group, owns 74 McAlister’s deli locations throughout Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, and Iowa. Adam Saxton is the owner and chief business officer of family-operated Saxton Group.
Al Bhakta is the managing director of Dallas-based franchise group Chalak Mitra Group. Along with his six close friends and business partners who run Chalak Mitra Group, Al Bhakta owns 147 dual-branded KFC/Taco Bell locations. Chalak Mitra Group also owns a number of units for other foodservice brands, including Genghis Grill, La Madeleine, and Ruby Tequila’s Mexican Grill.
After 30 years in the business, Joe Brumit has learned a thing or two about franchise development. The Tennessee native places an emphasis on the basics of proper restaurant management, hiring qualified, service-oriented staffs and tightening day-to-day operations where at every opportunity. That strategy has proven successful for Brumit, who opened his 50th restaurant this year.
Vik Patel, Dunkin’ Donuts
Vik Patel’s Purple Square Management Company already owns 46 Dunkin’ Donuts locations throughout Florida, Louisiana, and Alabama. This year, Patel has signed an agreement with two NFL celebrities to open a slate of new Dunkin’ Donuts units. New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and former New York Giants lineman David Diehl have teamed up with Patel to open 69 new Dunkin’ Donuts locations in Louisiana.
Tom Garrett has a lofty goal for his franchise group, GPS Hospitality. By 2022, Garrett is aiming for his company to reach one billion dollars in sales. GPS Hospitality will only be 10 years old in 2022, but they are already on track to reach the billion-dollar mark. GPS recently signed a deal to acquire 194 new Burger King restaurants, adding to the company’s more than 200 existing Burger King and Popeyes locations and placing GPS Hospitality among the top three largest Burger King Franchisees.
Robert Schermer, Jr., Wendy’s
Robert Schermer, Jr joined Meritage Hospitality Group in 1998, when the company owned 22 Wendy’s locations. Under Schermer, the number rocketed up to 177, and Meritage’s sales have increased by a factor of 10. By 2012, Schermer aims to have Meritage operating 300 Wendy’s locations, which would make them one of the largest franchisees in the Wendy’s franchise system.
Tahir Salim, Wienerschnitzel
Along with his sons Zohaib and Vakaf, Tahir Salim currently operates 13 Wienerschnitzel locations in California and Texas. That number will nearly double within the next five years, as Salim is signed on to open 10 more locations in that time. The development plan’s quick pace is made possible by the hot-dog concept’s Heritage design, which uses a smaller building than Wienerschnitzel’s traditional sites, allowing a faster and less expensive build.
Ed Wolak has worked for Dunkin’ Donuts in one capacity or another since he was 16 years old, when he baked donuts on the night shift. Decades later, Wolak now owns nearly 100 of his own Dunkin’ Donuts locations throughout New Hampshire, New York, and Maine. Wolak is now focused on building his Wolak Group Career Development Center, a mentorship and education center that Wolak hopes will help younger entrepreneurs find the same success in franchising that he has found.
Ali Shahid Butt, Popeyes
The Pakistani-born Ali Shahid Butt moved to the United States in 1992, where he quickly fell in love with Popeyes’ fried chicken. Seven years later, Butt and his wife Arian Rahmani had grown the capital to invest in the franchise, and they opened their first Popeyes location. Today, Butt’s AR Group of Restaurants operates 25 Popeyes locations across five states.
Sunny Ghai, Burger King
Sunny Ghai’s family-operated Ghai Management Services operates franchise units for seven different brands, but the vast majority of those units are Burger King restaurants. Before Ghai purchased his first franchise unit in 1999, he worked as a general manager at a Burger King, now the Indian-born entrepreneur owns 60 Burger King locations, as well as a handful of Taco Bells, Corner Bakery Cafes, Chevrons, and other franchise brands.