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Young Ones To Watch: Nimesh & Neal Dahya Fosters Freeze

The Dahyas spoke with 1851 Franchise to discuss how he entered the franchise industry, what advice he has for up-and-coming business owners and more.

Brothers Neal and Nimesh Dahya built a franchisee empire with some of the biggest names in foodservice. The Dahyas have owned, consulted for or invested in more than 180 restaurant franchise locations for brands including Applebee’s, IHOP, Burger King, Pizza Hut and TGI Fridays. It’s safe to say that the career franchisees, now 36 and 34, respectively, have learned a thing or two about what makes for a successful restaurant franchise. Now, the Dahyas are applying their expertise and passion for franchising to the franchisor side, focusing on reigniting growth for the beloved but previously neglected Fosters Freeze franchise.

1851 Franchise spoke with Neal and Nimesh Dahya as part of our Young Ones to Watch issue in order to learn more about their story.

1851 Franchise: How did you get into franchising?

Nimesh Dahya: I’m head of the global business development, the treasury brand strategist and the acting CFO of a branding group that owns a number of Applebee’s, IHOP and Pizza Hut units. We started back in 2009 when Applebees started to sell off their locations; we initially purchased five and eventually had a total of 44 locations. We continued our expansion and throughout our career have owned, or consulted for over 140 locations with Applebees, Pizza Hut and IHOP with our partners.

When we learned Fosters Freeze was for sale, we felt like that was something we could take on given our experience with the structure of how a successful franchise operates and our experience managing them. During our first few years with Fosters Freeze, we laid the groundwork on basic tasks like modernizing the look of the whole brand.

We were ultimately franchisees to our core, and franchisor opportunities don’t come around all the time. We felt like it was our turn to showcase what we’d learned. 

1851: What do you love about the industry? 

Neal Dahya: I love the concept of growth within the industry, and I’m fascinated by how technology has been incorporated into it. Fosters Freeze is unique in that it operates in both the QSR and frozen desserts spaces, which gives us an edge over our competitors. 

Nimesh: And who doesn’t love the idea of owning an old-fashioned ice cream and hamburger joint?

1851: What makes someone a good fit for the franchise industry? Are there traits that are shared by the most successful franchise professionals you know?

Neal: You have to be passionate about the industry and provide an excellent experience for customers. That applies both at the franchisee and franchisor level. This industry is great for people who are changing and learning to adapt to a new market space instead of being stuck in one mindset.

Nimesh: To thrive in this industry you need to be hardworking and willing to follow a system — motivated, driven, organized and accountable.

1851: How do you feel about the industry's response to the coronavirus crisis so far? Are there challenges or opportunities that the industry still needs to address?

Nimesh: It’s been great to see PPP funds given to many restaurants, but sadly a lot of them have had to temporarily or permanently close. For Fosters Freeze specifically, we’ve felt it was just a bump in the road. Since the outbreak, restaurants have generated $8 billion across the industry. We feel like people have begun to enjoy a safer dining experience, and we’ve been lucky and fortunate enough to have been set up for that prior to the pandemic.

Neal: Yeah, we’ve always been set up with a walk-up window and a drive-thru. We’ve remained fully operational over lockdown.

The transition for some restaurants was challenging because they weren’t fully prepared for online ordering or a quick pivot to third-party delivery. But that challenge quickly became an opportunity as well, a head-first dive into something new that changes your business.

Other than that, sit-down restaurants are still hurting. QSR is in much better shape and brands are looking into virtual kitchens and ghost kitchens.

1851: What advice do you have for other young up-and-comers in the space?

Neal: Franchise businesses are unique in that they have a model and systems and procedures in place. They’ve already taken the risk of building a business for you.

Getting into the right franchise brand, it can be very rewarding. Be prepared to keep up with the changing time and Stay positive in life. The economy will always have cycles, we’ve always gotten through anything that comes our way.