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Q&A with Philip Schram

The product of a long line of French business leaders. A Veteran of the French military. Vintage car expert. Internet entrepreneur, locomotive enthusiast, and author. Chicken wing impresario? In the franchise world’s cast of colorful characters, Buffalo Wings & Rings Executive VP of Develo.....

By Brian Jaeger<p>1851 Contributor</p>
SPONSOREDUpdated 5:17PM 08/13/14
The product of a long line of French business leaders. A Veteran of the French military. Vintage car expert. Internet entrepreneur, locomotive enthusiast, and author. Chicken wing impresario? In the franchise world’s cast of colorful characters, Buffalo Wings & Rings Executive VP of Development Philip Schram is as unique as they come. A true Renaissance man, Schram’s latest venture is making the Cincinnati-based restaurant chain a household name. When he’s not working to expand the brand’s presence in the U.S., Philip can be found working on and riding the scale train that spans his property. We bought a ticket and hopped aboard to chat with Philip about why he departed his home country for the U.S., how the trip has gone so far, and the final destination for the Buffalo Wings & Rings express. Oh, and that scale train that all the kids in his neighborhood are talking about. Philip, you built a successful career in France and had accomplished many things. What prompted you to come to America and to settle in Cincinnati? I was going to buy a business.  I was kind of struggling – especially because France is not very business friendly. My employer told me to go to work in the United States, and my wife told me, “Let’s go there.  You will open your business there.” We sold everything and moved to the U.S. in 1999. It was love at first sight. It took me about three years to get the green card. At that time, it was very difficult to get the green card. When I got the green card, I started to look to buy a business. So, you basically packed it all up and headed to the U.S. to start a brand new life. Oh, yes.  We sold everything. I had a collection of antique cars, so we sold all the antique cars. We had condos and a couple of properties, and we sold all of that. When we got to America, we fell in love with the American culture. It’s much different than the French culture. We were so happy and impressed with everything. So, I always say that I am the realization of the America dream. I’m the immigrant that comes and has all of these possibilities, and realizes them, and leaves most of the past behind. Shortly after you arrived here, you came across Buffalo Wings & Rings.  How did you discover the concept and then decide to buy it? In 2004, I was looking to buy a business and I talked to a colleague about it. His dad bought one of the few Buffalo Wings & Rings that was around. So, one day, my colleague came to me and said, “Look, I’ve learned that the franchisor is looking to sell.” He said it was very interesting. It’s about food, organization, and training people. He said, “You are going to love it.”  So, we met with the founder, and she was retiring, and basically we bought the company in one meeting. We’re ten years later, and you’ve really been able to successfully grow the company.  What is the end goal with Buffalo Wings & Rings? In most businesses, it’s a two-horse race. You have a leader, you have the challenger, and then you have the rest of the pack. So, my goal is to continue moving forward to be the leader in our category. Now, you also have a very interesting hobby that has a lot to do with moving forward. Can you talk about the work that you have done to construct a scale railroad that people can ride on your property.  And how did you get into that hobby? I was a little boy and my dad brought me to an exhibition where they had them. I was fascinated by that and that has been my primary hobby ever since. So when I was with my dad we had the track at home.  When I got here and we bought our property, I started again to build this one. How big of a railroad track are we talking? It’s about a thousand feet long. What attracts you to that particular hobby? One of the most rewarding things is that when there are activities in the neighborhood, like Halloween, a block party, or Christmas, we offer train rides to the kids in the neighborhood, and just to see their smiles and enjoying that experience is worth the time. Is there any correlation between the work you do with Buffalo Wings & Rings and the train that you have constructed? It’s just like pleasing our guests. That is a very good parallel. The train rides are like our businesses in that we give the best service to our guests, and to see their smiles when they leave our premises it’s a huge thank you to our entire team, and the goal of our company. So, what’s the best thing to order on the Buffalo Wings & Rings menu? By far the customers’ favorite is the wings. We have quality wings at an affordable price. All of our food is made fresh and we are experts with the sauce. We actually use the chicken in other dishes.  One of my favorites, because I eat there so much, is the chicken quesadilla. I love the chicken quesadilla and we also have a great chicken salad, which is a very healthy combination of salad with the chicken. IFA is in New Orleans this year.  Have you been to the city before? I’ve been there perhaps four times. My wife and I love to travel, plus I’ve been to every single Buffalo Wings & Rings opening. I’m also in charge of real estate for the company so I travel a lot to evaluate sights.  So, I have been to most of the places in the United States. Do you have any recommendations for those attending the IFA in New Orleans this year? They have great local cuisine, so while there I would clearly discount the chain restaurants. (Pauses.)  Perhaps I should not say that as the head of a chain. (Chuckles.) But I would encourage people to find some of the local French cuisine in New Orleans. There are some very good cafes and restaurants with French influence in their cuisine. One of the most interesting French-influenced restaurants in New Orleans is Palace Café. It’s great.