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VOL. 43 | NO. 33 | Friday, August 16, 2019

Franchising is the future

Start here, stay here

By Joe Morris

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Ever eat at a Captain D’s or a Shoney’s restaurant? Grab a cupcake from Gigi’s or a latte at Just Love Coffee?

People who do so every day are fueling the success of many new and longtime franchise brands which started in and around Nashville, and who still call Tennessee home.

“I don’t think anybody planned it this way, but Nashville is an amazing town for franchising,” says Alan Thompson, chief executive officer of Franchise Opportunity Consultants, a company that helps young businesses grow their brand through franchising.

“The market here has grown organically over time as a lot of great restaurants in town became franchise brands. Shoney’s was one of the strongest restaurant concepts in the world for years, for instance.

“And then over time, some of the executives in these proven concepts went out and joined other brands, such as Cracker Barrel, J. Alexander’s, Houston’s, Captain D’s and others who built a presence in Middle Tennessee.

Just Love Coffee in Brentwood is a Tennessee-based franchise. Owners profit from the venture and aid an adoption charity.    

-- Photograph Provided

“There’s a lot of amazing food experience alone in this town.”

That expertise has been beneficial to operators of Just Love Coffee, which founder Rob Webb launched as a roasting enterprise with a social component — helping people who are looking to adopt meet the financial and other challenges they face.

About a decade ago Webb and his wife Emily were in the midst of adopting children from Ethiopia, and since then Just Love has grown from a small-batch coffee roaster and online retailer with a small, physical café component to a full-scale franchise operation with café locations popping up across Middle Tennessee and in several other states.

Thompson

“We have nine that are open, and 27 franchise agreements in place,” says D.J. Smith, marketing director (or Keeper of the Bean Talk). “Middle Tennessee has been a good place for us to grow not just because we all live here, but because Nashville and the surrounding areas are growing so quickly.

“It’s providing markets for us to expand into where we can be close to those new owners to support them. It’s also easy to travel to and from here; we’ve never had a franchise owner saying it’s too difficult to get to us for meetings and training.

“And because Tennessee is a very business friendly place, it’s good for us from a business and operational standpoint,’’ he adds. “And ultimately it’s all about the people for us, and we are so proud to be citizens of Middle Tennessee. The communities here have been so good to us, and we love being a business that is based here and is able to give back.”

Tennessee also is attractive to globally known brands who started elsewhere but see the state as a good base of operations.

Zinke

One such player is HRI Holdings Inc., the corporate parent of Chem-Dry, a carpet and upholstery cleaning brand with a global presence in more than 50 countries, as well as the rapidly growing N-Hance Wood Refinishing and Delta Restoration Services franchise brands.

In 2011, HRI began to look for another operations site besides its corporate home in Logan, Utah, where it had built a substantial training operation. That was largely due to the fact that Logan is a smaller community and travel was often a problem, especially for far-flung franchise owners, says Bill Zinke, senior vice president of marketing.

“Our goal was to grow the business, and to do what we needed to find ways to better support all of our brands, which meant not only training but also attracting top talent to our corporate team,” Zinke adds.

“Dan Tarantin, our president and CEO, was based in Nashville and as he stepped into the CEO role he thought it would be worth exploring having an office in the city to give us more of a bicoastal presence. We opened in April 2012 and began to build our team, which was a combination of some folks who moved from Logan, as well as some talent that Dan was able to attract from Nashville’s strong franchise-operations community.”

HRI has now based many of its C-suite personnel, as well as its financial group, marketing team and many of its sales force in Nashville. Logan continues to be home for brand training and other operations.

The move has been a positive for the company, and not only because it secured a Gulch address just before Nashville’s building boom hit.

“It was pretty great that we signed our lease before the whole market exploded,” Zinke explains. “But we also were very happy to be in a central and very busy market. We are accessible to our franchise owners from all over the world, and that has helped us grow our brand awareness and market presence.

“We have been able to recruit top talent to our team because a lot of people are here, and a lot more want to come here. When we do have turnover, we are able to dig into a talent pool that is deeper and richer than it was the last time we were recruiting. This is a very good area to be in if you are starting, or growing, a franchise brand.”

“I wanted to be based here,” adds Thomas Scott, chief executive officer of Brand Journalists, a Nashville-based franchise lead-generation firm he launched in 2008, as well as the owner of three Just Love Coffee franchise locations in Nashville, Brentwood and Spring Hill.

“There are a lot of interesting brands based here, or that started here, which tells me it’s a good franchise community. I knew that would be good for my business. And as a business owner, I wanted to be somewhere with a low cost of living, close to a lot of drivable markets and that also had a good airport.

“Nashville does all that while staying small enough to avoid the traffic and other headaches of Atlanta.

“I’ve begun companies, and I’ve bought franchises,” Scott continues. “Franchising appeals to me because as an entrepreneur I see the sense in doing something that’s been proven and is performing at a high level.

“I own coffee shops now, and my learning curve was short even though I was new to the business because the systems were in place. I didn’t have to figure out sourcing, marketing and training; I was able to open a shop and we’ve got a successful business.

“Franchising, for me, is an attractive and less risky version of entrepreneurship.”

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