In the first of this two-part series, we talked with Matthew Ward - franchise owner of (soon-to-be) three Firehouse Subs locations in Colorado - about how he came to choose Firehouse Subs and what it takes to run a restaurant. In this part, we dive deeper into the nitty-gritty of running one or more franchise locations in pursuit of the American Dream.
Employees are the keys to success
“Employees do everything,” Ward emphatically responds.
He goes on to liken his job as owner to steering the ship, but acknowledges he would get nowhere without hard working, smart employees who are willing and able to do what it takes to get things done and make the customer happy.
While he served as general manager in his first location, “with a second restaurant, you can't do that by yourself. There’s no way. So from management on down to the newest employee we have, they're crucial.”
Top character traits to look for in employees
In line with the Firehouse Subs mission statement emphasizing service, Ward explains, “when I'm doing orientations, recruiting, I try to make it clear to every applicant: sure it's a food service position, but even more so, it's a customer service position. So I’m looking for people who make good eye contact, put themselves together well, and have a good ability to converse with people.”
In addition, due to the seemingly never ending amount of work to do at a fast casual restaurant, Ward states he’s looking for employees, “with a motor that never stops.”
Self-motivated workers who love what they do make the best and most reliable employees.
Advertising, marketing, social media and online reviews
As is the case in every industry these days, online marketing avenues - including a website, social media, and online reviews - have become absolutely vital to the success of individual fast casual franchise locations. These must be combined with more traditional forms of advertising and marketing as well to make a well-rounded mix.
Regarding working with headquarters on marketing efforts, Ward notes, “we do local restaurant marketing ourselves, whether that’s handing out coupons, visiting businesses to explain catering options, going to Chamber of Commerce events, or anything else. Then one of the great parts about being part of this franchise is the national brand with national advertising. They're the driving force behind our own advertising and we supplement what they do on a local level.”
Ward also states his location is “everywhere” online, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Yelp.
“I've talked to a lot of people who have mixed feelings about Yelp. To me, I'm constantly looking for feedback on what we're doing well and, more importantly, what we can improve on. So I appreciate Yelp, it's an unsolicited response. It’s directly from your consumer with the ability to reply.”
When asked if he takes advantage of Yelp’s reply option, Ward was emphatic, “Absolutely. That’s valuable, valuable stuff.”
Doing it all over again
With over two years experience under his belt and a third restaurant opening soon, Matthew Ward would do it all over again if given the opportunity, and he’s creating just that.
“I have done it again and I will continue to do so. At least a few more times. I’ll wait and see what the future brings. I have a business plan and we're trying to develop 5 total restaurants in the area within the next couple of years. That's the goal we're shooting for and who knows what the future will hold after that.”
In respect to running five stores at once, Ward noted the importance of setting up duplicable systems, which he called “one of the key strengths of the franchise model,” and of hiring the right people and trusting them to do the right thing.
Small business ownership and the American dream
To close our discussion with Matthew Ward, we wanted to get his views on “living the dream” in modern America as an entrepreneur.
“My American dream is a life for my family and kids that is better than what my parents provided for me. The American dream is about creating your own destiny. To me there's nothing else I would rather do than to have the freedom to go for it. That's the beautiful part of being here. I think if the American dream is what you're pursuing, franchise ownership is an attractive way to accomplish that.”
If you can imagine yourself living the American Dream through fast casual franchise ownership, check out which restaurant franchises are available for sale right now.