For the past 23 years, Bob Ritter has worked his way up into the role he has today: Vice President of Franchise and Market Development of Lennys Grill & Subs. Early in his career, Ritter worked on the operations side for Ritter’s Frozen Custard, where he was responsible for training, purchasing, site selection and all aspects of the brand’s standards. But prior to becoming the man behind the business’s franchise development strategies, Ritter spent some time as a franchisee at Ritter’s Frozen Custard. The experience there prepared him for his roles as the vice president of franchise development and eventually as the president and CEO until Ritter’s Frozen Custard was sold in 2008.
After a brief stint working on the operations side at BrightStar Care, one of the leaders in the home healthcare industry, Ritter joined the Lennys team. He was intrigued at the idea of collaborating with President and CEO Kevin Martin and Chairman and Chief Concept Officer Rick Johnson. Their ambitious visions for the future of the Lennys brand made Ritter a believer. Ritter took it upon himself over the past 15 months to implement a system for franchise candidates to follow. Today, Lennys Grill & Subs is building the momentum necessary to become a huge franchise player, and that is thanks, in part, to Ritter’s relentless work.
What makes your brand’s franchise development process tick?
I think it’s the ability to follow our system. We are in the business of awarding franchises, not selling them. We are looking for candidates who have a guest-centric mentality and are dedicated to the brand’s success, as well as their own. We spend a significant amount of time setting the expectations for the process and the brand. We really feel that by the time those candidates get to our ‘Join the Team Day,’ there should be no surprises.
What have been some of your brand’s major milestones?
As a brand, we really feel like we are now in a position to grow. Rick Johnson and Kevin Martin purchased Lenny’s Franchise Systems at the end of 2012. Since then, they have established a great team and everyone is heading in the same direction. A clear focus on operational excellence and reducing operational costs, has really allowed us on the development team to have confidence in our offer. We are implementing a new Point of Sale system that will truly allow a franchisee to manage their business.
What are you most proud of?
I am really excited about how, in just 15 months, we have established a clear process for all new candidates that come through our pipeline. Ken Kanzaki, our franchise development manager, has done a fantastic job in vetting each and every candidate that comes through. Having the confidence that we can let certain candidates know that this may not be a business for them is very reassuring.
What specific steps do your most successful franchisees take in order to build and grow their respective businesses? And what do you do to set them up for success?
Our franchisees who establish themselves in their community, as well as in their business, generally drive their own success. Their ability to build and lead a team, all while maintaining the brand’s standards, is key. Finding the best real estate is also a huge driver for a franchisee to succeed. I know it is cliché, but when it comes to successful franchisees: location, location, location. That’s really a part of the equation. Our relationships with local real estate brokers has really helped us develop in the markets we are expanding in.
What are your goals for your brand in the next few years and how do you plan to grow the brand?Our goal in 2016 was to open six new restaurants and we will achieve that. In 2017, we want to get 12 restaurants open. And beginning in 2018, we’re looking for an annual growth of 20 percent.