Slim Chickens franchise owner, Mark Smith was exposed to the restaurant industry from a very young age. Mark’s father started working for McDonald’s when they launched and watched as his father spent his college tuition savings on a new Burger King location. At the age of 15, Mark got a job as the “fry guy” at one of his dad’s franchise locations. He moved through the system and has only gained a stronger passion and respect for the industry. Mark tells us about his key to success and the excitement of starting a new venture.
1851 Franchise: You transitioned from the “fry guy,” to a busser, a bartender and now a franchise owner. What has holding all of these different positions taught you about the industry?
Mark Smith: Everything is interconnected. I learned the process from the inside-out and because of this am capable of understanding any situation. I understand the hourly worker’s needs, the employer’s needs and how the requirements from the corporate office intertwine at a franchise level. I know how the decisions are made and how everything works through the chain of command. It’s really helped me see the whole picture.
1851: What were your initial perceptions of the franchising process?
MS: My perception has always been positive because I’ve always worked with franchises. I started working with Burger King when I was a kid, transitioned to Subway and then worked at a few fine dining restaurants throughout Cincinnati. I feel like a lot of people who don’t work in the industry think there’s a negative stigma attached to franchising. Supporting local businesses has become such a statement. I’ve always looked at franchising as a positive influence in any community because franchises are proven business models. Local owners can draw off of that experience and work together with other communities to build something stand-alone businesses might not have the opportunity to support. Having all of those voices and the corporate input along with a positive influence from other franchisees helps build a brand perception that can resonate on a local level.
1851: Why did you choose to become a franchisee with Slim Chickens over other fast-casual restaurants?
MS: Cincinnati has a lot of established restaurants but they’re unoriginal concepts. Restaurants with a sole purpose of serving chicken tenders are new developments in southern Ohio, but the concepts that have broken into the market are doing really well. There are quite a few of our competitors in Lexington and a handful in Columbus but there really isn’t a lot of competition in Cincinnati. Slim Chickens was a perfect fit because it’s a marketable strategy in a growing segment. All of the pieces really fell together.
1851: What was it about franchising that kept you interested in the industry?
MS: It wasn’t franchising in particular, it was restaurants. When I was born, my dad always told me he was going to put money into a savings account for me. Instead, he took that money and opened a Burger King. My entire life I’ve watched what he’s done to build a successful business and have been a part of the process first hand. I knew I wanted to be a restaurant owner because I’ve been exposed to the upsides and the downsides of ownership. Knowing I can handle the challenge makes jumping in less intimidating. As far as franchising, it gives me the opportunity to bring something new and different to Cincinnati without reinventing the wheel. I knew I wanted to find a company with a solid foundation and then build a business around that image. I’m excited to get started.