In The Counter’s history as a franchise, the custom-burger brand has become one of the most popular concepts in its segment, establishing 39 locations in markets across the country. Like the restaurant’s consumer offerings, its operational model has been refined to work in any market. Still, there are certain traits that the franchise brand looks for when vetting candidates for franchise ownership.
April Fogle is the VP of restaurant operations for The Counter®. She points to five traits that make for strong franchisees. If you’re considering becoming a franchisee with The Counter, here are the traits you’ll need to have.
A Strong Work Ethic
Fogle says all prospective franchise owners need to have realistic expectations of what owning and managing a restaurant entails.
“Restaurants are open seven days a week,” she said. “Our restaurants are open nights and holidays, so it is a different world than a 9-5 job. Our busiest times are when most people are not working. In the front of the house you are on stage always smiling and serving guests. In the back of the house the pressure is on to execute the highest quality food in a timely fashion. This industry is known for long hours, but when you see your guests leave praising the food and the experience it makes it all worth it. You strive each day to create memorable moments for each and every guest. This is a lifestyle many embrace, but it is not a fit for everyone.”
A Customer-Service Mindset
Fogle says The Counter treats the restaurant industry as a people business. Franchise owners and their staff are not just facilitating transactions with their customers, they are building relationships. Guests come to The Counter to have an experience with their friends and family or business associates. They expect excellent service and hospitality. The staff needs to see that the managers and franchise owners emulate that so they know what is expected. They need to be managed by people who love people.
“When you establish and maintain relationships with your guests, that builds trust, loyalty and sales,” Fogle said. “If people feel at home at your location, if you treat them like royalty, and you continue to deliver excellent food and service consistently, they are going to keep coming back. It’s as simple as that.”
An Eye for Opportunity
The Counter has developed a rock-solid operational model, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities for franchise owners to go above and beyond, and that's exactly what makes the franchise’s best owners stand out. The key, Fogle says, is being someone who is never satisfied with good enough.
“We always encourage our franchisees to dream big and aim higher,” she said. “We want to work with people who are ambitious and are not easily satisfied. Our best franchise owners are constantly looking at their restaurants and thinking about where new opportunities might be, whether that’s out in the community or inside their own four walls. It’s about focus and engagement; you can’t just be monitoring the bottom line.”
A Hands-On Attitude
“The Counter® is not built for absentee franchise ownership,” said Fogle. The franchise’s operational model is easy to pick up, but it’s not a set-and-forget operation. Prospective franchisees should be prepared to learn the ins and outs of both the back- and front-of-house operations.
“Our franchise owners and managers should understand it is like throwing a party every day when they open the restaurant,” Fogle said. “There are many details to tend to, but you want to make sure your guests do not see any of the work and can just enjoy their experience. Owners and managers are responsible for setting the standard of hard work for their staff. They need to be on top of everything from service to recipe adherence to table touching to ticket times to food safety.”
A Passion for Community
Local marketing is one of the most important aspects of any The Counter operation, and the most effective local marketers are franchisees who are passionate about building relationships in their communities, Fogle says.
“In this industry, you need to be aggressive with your marketing. Never wait for someone to do it for you,” she said. “It’s important to never stop marketing in your community. People need to know your name, and you need to remain top-of-mind. The best way to do that is to stay involved in your community. Also your regulars are a huge help as well. Getting to know the names and occupations of your regular guests that come in will only help your business. Your regulars have catering events, office parties, and buy gift cards for friends and neighbors. If they know you and you exceed their expectations, they will call or visit you first. The regulars will market for you when they love your restaurant.”
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