Franchising offers fast growth for local restaurants

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  • | 12:00 p.m. April 20, 2007
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by Natasha Khairullah

Staff Writer

Coming up with an idea for a business of your own is easy. Taking a stab at starting up that business and making it a reality isn’t. Unless you’re contemplating purchasing a franchise.

“That’s a part of the reason that the practice of franchising is rapidly growing throughout Jacksonville,” said local franchiser Joe Adeeb.

Adeeb is the president of Bono’s Pit Bar-B-Q and the CEO of parent company Bono’s of America Inc. He will soon open the company’s first franchised store outside of Southeast Florida in Michigan later this year.

“I think there is such a large number of pros rather than cons when it comes to franchising that, it’s no wonder why it’s become so increasingly common,” he said. “One of the chief reasons being the safety it provides business owners.”

According to Florida Financial Fitter, a Miami-based franchising consulting firm, nearly 50 percent of small businesses fail within their first four years.

Adeeb waited decades before franchising the Jacksonville-based restaurant, and said timing played the biggest role in the decision to expand. Recently, a group of Michigan investors sought Bono’s out in hopes of having one in their own city.

Adeeb attests that often times, businesses that may not successfully self-sustain can benefit the most from franchising.

“There are many opportunities for the franchisee,” he said. “A lot of the time, people take a step out there and purchase a store, expecting to generate extra income, only to end up with nearly a dozen or so under their belt.”

Such is the case for brothers Chris and Robin Sorenson, perhaps the model for how to franchise. The two opened a Firehouse Subs shop in Mandarin in 1994 on a whim with little hope for multi-million dollar success.

Today, they have more than 260 stores in 11 states and plan on expanding the chain to nearly 360 stores in 17 states by the end of the year.

Primarily through franchising to individuals, including former Jaguars defensive tackle Don Davey, Firehouse Subs has built a successful business – one that earned $156 million in sales in the last year.

Just as important as when you do business is who you do business with.

Kelly Harris, the CEO of Times Grill Restaurant Group, agrees.

Harris has been in the restaurant business for as long as he can remember, the first half of his career on the corporate end and now on the franchising side.

“I never really had any money, so I never really looked into franchising. But over the recent years, I’ve become more involved in the franchising system – one which I’ve learned is all about the people you’re working with,” he said.

“In any business that’s important, but even more so with franchising. It’s all about quality control and you have to be selective about who you want to represent your business.”

Aside from opportunities that franchising provides to a novice business owner, many say the practice cushions franchisers by providing less expensive expansion.

“It’s great for both the franchisee and the franchiser,” said Harris, who previously worked as chief operating officer for Firehouse Restaurant Group, Inc., which owns the Sorensen’s Firehouse Subs chain.

“The purchasing party is buying into a system that works pretty well while franchising can be an excellent vehicle for growth for the franchiser,” he said.

Times Grill Restaurant is a chain of four restaurants in southeast Louisiana that is relocating its headquarters to Jacksonville, with the first location opening in May off Baymeadows and State Road 9-A.

With what Harris refers to as a “very aggressive growing grid,” Times is scheduled to open four more locations in Jacksonville and two in Pensacola over the next six years.

“As far as the cons go, there are a ton of cons – more cons than pros – but that’s how it’s going to be with any business you get in,” he said.

“It’s like going out and playing a golf game – there are a thousand more cons and pros, but those pros keep the golfer wanting to go out and play again.”

So you want to become a Firehouse Subs franchisee?

Here is a step-by-step look at the process for doing so.  


Franchise Process (average of 6-12 months):

1) Due Diligence
• Learn about the franchise opportunity
• Receive a UFOC (Uniform Franchise Offering Circular)
• Submit an application and meet with the founders of the company for approval
• Talk to other franchisees in the system
• Secure financing

2) Execute Franchise Agreement
• Pay franchise fees (Firehouse Subs’ franchise fee is $20,000)  

3) Identify Location for the Restaurant

4) Training (Firehouse Subs R\requires 8 weeks)

5) Construct Restaurant

6) Open Restaurant