Veteran franchisee Vik Patel was intrigued when he first learned about Rent-A-Center.
Patel, the president and CEO of Purple Square Management, has been in the franchising industry for 12 years now, having started his portfolio with Dunkin’. In the last year and a half, he started franchising with Popeye’s alongside his business partners and attorneys David Paris and Michael Ackerman of Paris Ackerman LLP. Patel currently owns 71 Dunkin’ locations and is in the process of acquiring 13 more. He also owns seven Popeye’s locations and six locations of The Brass Tap.
When it became clear they had the opportunity to acquire all the Rent-A-Center stores in the state of Arizona, Purple Cactus recognized they would need a strong operating partner to excel. The group brought on board veteran Rent-A-Center operations executive Fred Mattox as their Chief Operating Officer. “Having a seasoned operator was a key component to our plan” Patel explained. “We appreciate the introduction from the RAC franchise team and are excited to work with Fred.”
Patel learned about Rent-A-Center through a friend and Paris Ackerman client who is also a multi-unit owner with the rent-to-own brand, and he and Paris decided to look further into it. They ended up falling in love with the rent-to-own brand’s model and support system and ultimately signed a deal to take over the brand’s existing 38 corporate locations throughout the state of Arizona. Their deal also includes the rights to continue developing the brand, and they have plans to expand.
“We’ve been in franchising for a while now, and we’re enjoying the franchise model,” Patel said. “We were looking for a concept to diversify our portfolio. Everything we had before is in the QSR restaurant space, and we were looking for something outside of that. So, I started looking into different options. I became familiar with Rent-A-Center’s concept through my friend Shirin, and partner David and I decided it was something we were looking to do.”
After an introduction at the Multi-Unit Franchise Conference, Rent-A-Center representatives flew to Patel in Florida to spend time with him and his team. “It was great to meet with Vik and his team at their Tampa office” said Michael Landry, Rent-A-Center’s Vice President of Franchise Development. “Learning franchisees’ plans on people and processes are big deciding factors when choosing the right multi-unit franchisees at the scale we’re doing” Landry explained.
Patel also visited Rent-A-Center stores, which he’d never been to before, and he and Paris did their due diligence in an effort to gain even more of an understanding of the stores and how they performed “David and I really got a lot of information about the brand from their team directly, and we also attended a two-day Discovery Day in Dallas, where every Rent-A-Center department spoke to us for an hour or two,” Patel said. “That was really eye-opening for us, and one of the reasons we decided to move forward is because we enjoyed the Discovery Day process and how thorough and prepared they were. Having been exposed to multiple franchisors in my time, I was impressed with the way they went about their business.”
Paris echoes that same sentiment. He notes that Rent-A-Center engages a law firm specializing in rent-to-own that franchisees can call to review rental agreements among other service to make sure everything they do is compliant. This law firm is on retainer for the franchisees’ benefit, which Paris said he has never seen before.
“Going through the acquisition process, I got to recognize that we deal with many franchisors in many of the nation’s top brands in various industries and see how franchisors treat their franchisees,” Paris said. “Some of those relationships can get a bit difficult and everything I’ve seen from Rent-A-Center shows that they work extraordinarily hard to create strong partnerships with franchisees.”
That commitment to creating a positive relationship with franchisees is something that Rent-A-Center continues to prioritize, especially as its refranchising initiative builds momentum. Cathy Skula, Rent-A-Center’s Executive Vice President, said, “When we made the decision as a brand to focus our efforts on franchising, we did extensive research to ensure that we created a leading franchise system. From our support system to our commitment to retaining store employees, our team is dedicated to doing everything we can to ensure that our local owners are set up for success. We don’t take our responsibilities as a franchisor lightly — we’ve thought ahead to create a system that allows us to be the best possible partners to our franchise owners.”
On the business side, Patel also notes that there were several things that got him excited about franchising with Rent-A-Center, including the opportunity for growth and the ability to control an entire state, as well as the development obligations.
He and Paris also learned a great deal about the types of customers their business would serve.
“They are folks who just want the American Dream,” Patel said. “They just want to be able to have a couch and TV in their living room. A lot of folks have credit-constrained situations where they don’t have a credit card. The ability to serve those types of customers was appealing to me. While there are some who criticize the RTO industry, the fact is some folks wouldn’t have the opportunity to have a couch or get a laptop for their children for school were it not for this industry. These are all things that we take for granted. If it weren’t for places like Rent-A-Center, they wouldn’t be able to do and have these things. That’s been nice for me to know.”
Patel also pointed to the long-term relationships store employees often have with customers and noted that some of these relationships have spanned decades.
“That relationship aspect resonated with us,” Patel said. “As a franchisee, I like to think an organization is a relationship-based company. Rent-A-Center customers share some very intimate details about their lives with store employees. They’re often facing a cash crunch or a credit crunch. The tenure of that relationship between the customers and employees is a standout in the industry.”
Patel and Paris also want their Rent-A-Center locations to be involved in their local communities. They’ve done charitable work before, and typically have their franchises get involved with local organizations, such as local homeless and animal shelters, rather than larger, national charities.
“We have a big passion for that,” Patel said. “We’ve done some corporate charity sponsorships throughout the year in our organization. We do monthly fundraisers for local charities, and we’re absolutely excited to do that in the communities where our Rent-A-Center stores are located.”
Patel and Paris are excited about their new venture and eventually plan to expand their Rent-A-Center locations.
“The short answer is yes,” Patel said. “We absolutely want to continue growing in the state and then hopefully some additional markets. We definitely have an appetite for that.”