Franchise Chatter (FC): Tell us a bit more about the franchises you are a part of.
Raj Patel (RP): McAlister’s Deli is a franchise based in Atlanta, GA. It has a wide variety on its menu that includes sandwiches, spuds, salads, soups and its signature McAlister’s Famous Sweet Tea! There are about 350 locations nationwide and we hope to develop more stores throughout the Chicago area.
Michele Jaroszewski-Webb (MJW): Schlotzsky’s was started back in 1971 in Austin, TX. They started with just one sandwich, The Original, and quickly expanded their menu and locations, which are at more than 350 today. Schlotzsky’s is best known for its oven-baked sandwiches served on its famous Fresh-from-Scratch sourdough buns.
FC: Tell us about your professional background and how you decided to pursue franchise ownership and operation as a career path?
RP: My father bought his first Dunkin’ in 1988 when I was one years old, giving our family our entry into the franchise world. Over the next 20 years he grew from one to 10 stores despite the tough economic conditions.
When I graduated from the University of Illinois in 2010, I knew I needed a career that would have me excited when I woke up every morning. Franchising does this for me, as I am fired up every morning to get my day going!
I currently have two locations open of a 10 restaurant deal for McAlister’s, and I look forward to continue growing and expanding my portfolio.
MJW: I was raised with very supportive parents who taught me nothing is impossible with a good work ethic. After high school, I went to college and got my first job at Schlotzsky’s, and quickly worked my way up.
At the time, we had some personnel changes and the owner needed extra help, so I stepped up to the plate. When the owner knew I could do the job and things turned around, they offered to sell me the location. They saw potential in me and I am forever grateful to have been given the chance.
FC: Let’s discuss millennials in general — what makes franchises such a good business opportunity for young entrepreneurs?
RP: Franchising provides you with a proven business model, yet still allows you to add your personal touch to the business. There are a lot of upfront costs such as branding, recipes (restaurants), legal, operations systems, and software that franchisors take care of.
If a model works and is profitable there is no need to recreate it. You follow the system and it really does provide positive results!
MJW: Being a franchise owner is a great career path for millennials. It gives you that chance to have your own business, yet provides stability with a proven business model. The franchisor will be there to support you as you grow your business and will always be there to show you a new way of looking at a problem.
FC: Why would someone choose a McAlister’s or Schlotzsky’s franchise over a competing franchise?
RP: McAlister’s offers a huge menu with variety for everyone. This combined with a strong leadership team really has McAlister’s set up to succeed!
MJW: Schlotzsky’s is a great company to look into franchising with. They are doing things that are appealing to my age group and they are open to new ideas, but not losing what made them famous, our baked-from-scratch buns.
Tradition is very important to me, but I know to be successful you need to adapt to new ways of life, technology, and taste, and they are doing it.
FC: Lastly, what advice would you give to aspiring millennial business owners to help them thrive?
RP: If you don’t wake up excited every morning ready to go to work you need to change careers. When you own your own business all the hours and hard work lead to direct results. As I said above, I don’t ever think about it as going to “work”!
MJW: My advice to other millennials is to truly love what you do. Also, be humble and supportive of others and their dreams, as I know most of my employees are here to learn and grow in their careers and I’m honored to be an influence on them.