How 3 multi-unit food franchisees are reacting to Covid


We interviewed a wide range of multi-unit franchisees about the most significant impacts Covid-19 has had on their business, how they have responded, and what changes they believe are permanent. This week we hear from three multi-unit food franchisees whose brands include Smoothie King, Dunkin ‘, Arby’s, Chicken Salad Chick, Wayback Burgers, Dairy Queen, Captain D’s, Golden Chicks, Papa John’s and Schlotzsky’s.

Yonas Hagos is a multi-brand franchisee with 25 Smoothie Kings, 7 Dunkin ‘(4 combined with Baskin-Robbins), 1 Arby’s (with plans for a few more) and 1 Chicken Salad Chick. At 38, he has worked in franchising for 12 years.

What are the main impacts of Covid-19 on your business?

Mandating masks and ensuring that your employees wear them constantly is very difficult, especially when you are a multi-unit operator. You can’t be in all the stores at the same time, so you need to rely on your management team. These are the constant reminders, and reminding them to be safe. It isn’t knowing where things will end up that can be very difficult to digest.

How did you respond?

We have moved to limited hours in order to have more time to clean and less exposure for our employees. Operating during these emergency hours worked well. The other just pushes more curbside pickups, third party delivery. We want our customers to know that we have these capabilities to provide even more convenience.

What changes do you think will be permanent?

I think the masks will last a while. I am very optimistic: they say vaccines are 90% effective. I think next summer we’ll start to see some kind of normalcy. I don’t see those sneezing guards going away for quite a while. We have also hired third party cleaners throughout 2020.

Wasif Saddique operates 2 Wayback Burgers locations in California, one in Roseville and one in Folsom. The 30-year-old has been in franchising for 10 years and in his current role for 3½ years.

What are the main impacts of Covid-19 on your business?

The closure of the dining rooms has forced us to switch entirely to take-out, which has increased the costs associated with it. The supply chain also experienced widespread disruption at times, which was not easy to manage.

How did you respond?

We have adjusted our schedule and positioning within the restaurant and learned a lot about the supply chain system itself in order to quickly resolve issues as they arise.

What changes do you think will be permanent?

The increased focus on cleanliness and sanitation from a customer perspective will remain, and I think that’s a very good thing. Customers are much more educated with these items now than ever before, which is very important. It is not good for restaurant patrons if a restaurant slackens in these areas.

Sajib Singha is a multi-brand franchisee whose Singha group of companies operates 8 Dairy Queens, 2 Captain D’s (plus 2 in development), 2 Golden Chicks, 2 Papa John’s and 1 Schlotzsky’s. At 39, he has worked in franchising for 10 years.

What are the main impacts of Covid-19 on your business?

Surprisingly and fortunately, this year has been a very positive one for us. We have seen revenue growth of 20% to 30% since the arrival of Covid-19. We are very fortunate to have drive-thru in most of our units and to be in business in the quick casual segment. This success has allowed us to open a restaurant approximately every month last year.

How did you respond?

We improved our health and hygiene practices with professional cleanings, closed our food halls and focused on the speed of our drive-thru. By focusing on the offsite part of our business, we looked for ways to serve our food faster and more efficiently. We have also kept an eye on our employees and maintained a transparent atmosphere so that they know how to take precautions and time off, especially if they are potentially exposed to Covid-19.

What changes do you think will be permanent?

Social distancing is here to last a little longer. People realized they could work from home, got used to drive-thru and off-duty service, and now expect delivery options.


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