To read part 1 of my exclusive interview with Craig Colby, please click here.
FC: What factors do you consider when selecting a suitable location for your franchise units?
CC: When selecting a suitable location for my franchise units, I have learned a lot from one of my good friends and a mentor at Red Robin, Todd Brighton. He is extremely knowledgeable when it comes to location and has taught me that being off by one block, or being on the wrong side of a shopping center, can kill a restaurant.
That being said, it all starts with the numbers game again — demographics. I look for about 150,000 people living in a 5-mile radius. My minimum is about 100,000.
The location also needs to have a good daytime population; otherwise lunch will be a dismal failure. For this, I look at the daytime retail draw as well as the local office population. A good combination of the two is the secret to lunch success.
I like the space to have great visibility from a major road that has a traffic count of at least 35,000 cars a day. Additionally, the access in and out of the site needs to be easy. Overall, I need to get a good feeling when I am at the site.
It gets easier once you have a successful restaurant. Then you can compare the demographics against something that does well and hopefully repeat the experience.
FC: Do you have any advice for prospective franchisees on how to build a winning team?
CC: Surround yourself with people you like and are of like mind. This is very important because hopefully you’ll be working with them for a long time. Make sure they share the same passion for the business as you do and don’t be afraid to share your success with them.
I also like to look for people with strong ethics who are raising a family. I have found that these people are not as likely to jump ship when one thing goes wrong and are very focused on establishing a strong working environment.
The restaurant business can be hard on family life, but I don’t like to push the hours with my managers. Anything more than a 5-day, 50-hour work week will burn them out and build resentment.
FC: What are your thoughts on the current lending environment for small businesses and franchises?
CC: That remains to be seen by me. I haven’t tried to get any lending in the last couple of years. I can tell you that there is a lot of interest out there on the lenders part. But from what I can gather, they want to limit their exposure and are requiring more in owner’s equity than they have in past years.
FC: How important is it for you to have a solid working relationship with your franchisor? And what steps do you take to solidify this relationship?
CC: Having a solid working relationship with my franchisor is extremely important to me. Since I will be working with my franchisors for many years, I think it’s important to have a good working relationship as well as a friendship. I have found that relationship with Red Robin and have met some of my best friends there.
Before signing on with Margaritas, I had quite a few visits with them (and more than a few tequila shots), and we meshed very well together. The owners John and Dave Pelletier are fantastic guys, as well as the entire company. I remember thinking, even if I don’t do business with these guys, I would love to maintain the friendship.
FC: What advice can you give someone who dreams of becoming a successful multi-unit franchisee?
CC: The best advice I can give is to find something you love to do, and make it your business. In my case, I love restaurants, so it is a pleasure to work in the industry everyday.
Work with people you love to be around and make it a fun place to be.
Also, don’t try to grow too fast. Make sure that what you have works well before you try to duplicate it. Once you have something that works, stick to the formula and go for it.
Lastly, think about the time you’re going to invest into this. Since it is probably going to be more than a 50-hour work week, is it something your family can help out with? That gives you some extra time to spend with them (and also provides some cheap labor).
FC: What are your long term plans for your business and what are your goals for the future?
CC: One can never tell. Twenty years ago the idea of owning restaurants would have been very foreign to me. But I love it, so this is probably what I will do for the rest of my life. I don’t see myself as ever retiring, and if all goes well I think there may be another franchise under my belt somewhere in the future.
Quite possibly, I may end up developing my own concept now that I have surrounded myself with great people who have the capability of helping me. My eldest son, Tyler, has found his passion in the business and works with me. My wife Krista also works with me, which works well for us because we enjoy the extra time together. I have three other children, Shane, Dylan, and Emma. They might want to be involved as well someday, so I almost have to keep growing.
The best part about the future is it is constantly unveiling itself to me, and always surprising me.