In this exclusive Q&A, we learn more about California Tortilla and its commitment to serving farm-fresh ingredients, unique recipes and customizable options from all-star franchisee Vibhu Sethi, owner of California Tortilla of Manassas, Virginia.
Franchise Chatter (FC): Tell us about your professional background? What led you to the franchise industry?
Vibhu Sethi (VS): I have worked in the restaurant industry my entire life. After receiving my Master’s Degree in Restaurant Management, I worked for various restaurants, hotels and airlines.
Before venturing off to become a franchisee for California Tortilla, I worked at Applebee’s as a General Manager. After a while, the long hours began to catch up to me and I realized that I needed to work for myself. From there, I began to research restaurant franchises and stumbled upon a nearby California Tortilla that was up for sale by corporate. I decided to visit the location with my family and we were blown away. Between the amazing food, unique atmosphere and fun customer promotions, I instantly fell in love with the brand.
FC: How did your previous restaurant experience prepare you for becoming a California Tortilla franchisee?
VS: My previous restaurant experience taught me how the industry operated as well as how to be successful in running a business. Through my acquired leadership experience and management skills, running California Tortilla of Manassas has been one of the most fulling things I have ever done. With less stress and continued persistence, I was able to turn the location around in less than a year.
FC: How did you hear about the California Tortilla franchise opportunity? How did you know it was the right concept for you?
VS: I learned about California Tortilla’s franchise opportunity after dining at a nearby location. The food and service were awesome, but those aren’t the only factors that sealed the deal. As the process went along, I was able to meet the corporate team and that’s what truly sold me. They took the time to really get to know me on a personal level.
The brand continues to grow its footprint across the United States, with several more restaurants currently under development, but that has never stopped the corporate team from showing unconditional support to each and every franchisee. There has never been a time where I felt like I couldn’t pick up the phone and call the corporate office for guidance. Before joining California Tortilla, I didn’t know anything about owning a business, but the amazing systems they have in place helped me navigate through the process.
FC: What kind of support does California Tortilla provide franchisees?
VS: California Tortilla has wonderful franchise business consultants who are always there to help. Their attention to detail and easy-to-follow operations system make training uniform and simple. They also provide step-by-step videos on the training portal which helps streamline processes across the franchise system.
FC: How many locations do you currently operate?
VS: I currently own one California Tortilla location located in Manassas, Virginia.
FC: You took a big financial risk to join the California Tortilla team. What are a few tips you have for entrepreneurs looking to invest in a franchise?
VS: My first piece of advice would be to make sure you do your research – always check the investment numbers and status of the industry before you decide to move forward. I’d also advise entrepreneurs to hire an accountant and lawyer to help guide them through the process.
Finally, always have savings to fall back on. No matter how strong a company is, there will always be ups and downs. Therefore, make sure you have enough capital to sustain you for a few months. A couple of months’ rent is always good to have on hand just in case the road gets a little bumpy.
FC: Some of your staff has been with you for eight years now. What are the key factors to retaining staff and boosting employee morale?
VS: My greatest success is my employees. My key piece of advice would be to simply treat everyone like you would want to be treated. Be consistent, truthful and honest in all of your communication. Never promise them anything you can’t fulfill.
I also make sure to celebrate my employees. I bring them breakfast occasionally and we always make sure to celebrate every staff members’ birthday. We are one big family and that’s the way a business should operate.
FC: Your location has been so successful that you now serve as a Franchise Business Consultant for California Tortilla, working with new owners across the country and offering advice. What are some of your best practices for running a successful restaurant?
VS: I have three key best practices to running a successful restaurant:
- Make sure your customer service is top-tier. A positive interaction with customers means everything when retaining and appealing to new business.
- Customers are ultimately there to enjoy the food, so you have to make sure you are serving the best product. Never compromise on quality or skimp on portions.
- Treat your employees with respect and make sure they are always happy. Your staff sets the tone for each customer that walks into the door. In the restaurant industry, the saying “Your first impression is your last impression,” is undoubtedly true.
FC: How can someone learn more about franchise opportunities with California Tortilla?
VS: To learn more about franchise opportunities with California Tortilla, feel free to visit https://franchise.californiatortilla.com/