With more than 20 years of experience in the franchise industry, Charles Internicola, managing partner of The Internicola Law Firm, believes that providing the right resources for emerging brands will be top of mind for today's suppliers.
In 2011, Lobster Joint opened its doors in Brooklyn, New York. In a town filled with overly complicated cuisines, molecular gastronomy and trendy food mashups, this restaurant prided itself on sticking to the basics—New England-style seafood.
The moment owners Bob Levitt and Tom Chabrowski made their debut in the highly competitive New York City restaurant scene, they experienced nothing short of a feeding frenzy. Whether it’s an avocado and grapefruit salad, a tasty corn bisque, or cheddar macaroni and cheese, these restaurateurs found a surefire way to improve any dish—just add generous amounts of fresh lobster.
Levitt and Chabrowski always knew their New England comfort food concept would create a crowd, but they never imagined the kind of impact their little lobster joint would have on the neighborhood. So a year later, when a broker approached them about franchising, they knew it was an attractive option. But with very little knowledge of how to turn their young brand into an emerging franchise, they turned to a local expert to assist them along the way—Charles Internicola, the managing partner of The Internicola Law Firm, which specializes in representing emerging entrepreneurs and franchisors intent on scaling-up and growing their franchise systems. Today, with Internicola’s help, The Lobster Joint has an additional location in Rockaway Beach and recently introduced a food truck component to their growing business.
There are many more success stories like Lobster Joint’s—that’s because Internicola knows firsthand what it takes for a young business to get off the ground. After all, he’s a franchisor himself—in addition to having 20 years as a franchise lawyer under his belt, Internicola is also the owner of Staten Island-based ECOMAIDS. After discovering the brand, he decided to actually own the franchise instead of just representing them through his law firm. He made the decision to acquire ECOMAIDS a few years ago, with a vision to preserve and strengthen the pioneer in the green cleaning services segment. To achieve this, he suspended all franchise sales at ECOMAIDS for two years in order to evaluate and improve every moving part of the brand—from operations systems and marketing programs to inventory requirements and capital.
“When we say we know what it means to be a franchisor and emerging franchisor, we mean it—literally,” Internicola said. “That has put us in a unique position to truly connect with clients and the experiences they are going through. Ultimately that has helped us to better guide and empower emerging franchisors for long-term success.”
Today, Internicola Law Firm works with around 30 brands across the country. With a deep understanding of the growing pains that franchisors generally go through, Internicola Law Firm has emerged as one of the industry’s top suppliers helping to take entrepreneurs and their businesses to the next level. Their Franchise Counsel Program has helped accelerate countless franchise systems with the kind of guidance only available from someone who has experienced the franchise industry personally.
1851 Franchise recently spoke with Internicola to get his insight on what’s next in the world of franchise suppliers and how the industry is evolving to make way for new and emerging franchises.
In taking a big picture look at the entire franchise industry, what do you believe is the next great thing for franchise suppliers?
The next great thing in suppliers will be providing emerging franchisors with the resources, guidance and relationships they need to help them bridge the gap from startup to a growing franchise system. The important part will be figuring out that intangible factor between those startup systems that grow and those that never take off. At Internicola, we believe that sweet spot lies in a network of advisors and industry professionals that exist to focus specifically on that booming emerging franchisor market.
This is the best time for new brands to enter the franchise market and compete head-on with large franchise systems. The reason for that is simple: young brands are nimble. They have the ability to explore and evolve with new media, new marketing and new recruitment tactics. They just need someone to guide them through that process.
What are some of the issues that these emerging brands have to overcome?
Emerging brands certainly have structural and capital issues to overcome. First, these brands need to understand how important it is to invest capital in an infrastructure and sales system right from the beginning—it’ll pay off in the long term, even when the rewards from that investment seem far off.
Newer brands also have the disadvantage of not having strength in numbers, so they often struggle with overcoming that validation issue. Right out of the gate, these young companies are competing with much larger systems.
So what can a brand do to not let those obstacles get in the way?
Those disadvantages can end up working in a brand’s favor. We like to target smaller-sized brands, and we help show them their unique proposition. If they can introduce a distinctive spin on something a larger brand is already doing, they having a strong fighting chance at making a name for themselves. So we help them identify that niche, and we help them broadcast that message across any and every platform.
What advice do you have for emerging brands?
Internicola: Emerging brands need to take a step back and realize that there will always be a new concept that rivals their own—and one will grow while the other will languish. They need to find that wow factor that will help them grow.
From there, it’s all about building your system out in the right way. Balance your limited capital by finding the right team—that can help a little go a long way. Don’t be afraid to engage in guerrilla marketing tactics when it comes to social media—that’ll help create a splash in a world where big brands get the spotlight and maximize results. It’s also important to adopt a system where, once you attract a prospective franchisee, you know how to maintain that attraction and nurture them so that they become an important and reliable asset to the system. So many brands don’t understand that nurturing process, and they often let prospects fizzle out—they lose their best leads.