Amy Reed of Woofie’s Pet Ventures shares early-stage franchise advice alongside Sam Rothschild (left) of Slim Chickens and Rocco Fiorentino of Primo Hoagies.

When Rocco Fiorentino took over as president and CEO of Primo Hoagies in 2017 the franchise’s mission statement was guided by “command and control,” he says. “Today it’s franchisee profitability, that’s my one and only priority.” In addition to a constant focus on finding ways to increase sales and decrease expenses, Fiorentino instituted a system to collect and analyze franchisees’ P&Ls every month, something he encourages every franchisor to do.

Fiorentino, along with Slim Chickens COO Sam Rothschild and Woofie’s Pet Ventures founder Amy Reed, offered advice to early-stage franchisors and those considering franchising during a panel discussion today at the International Franchise Expo in New York City. Rothschild, who has spent decades in franchising with brands such as Applebees, Bennigan’s and Tony Roma’s, joined Slim Chickens about six years ago when the restaurant chain began ramping up franchise sales, bringing with him a focus on franchisee profitability that he says starts with strong infrastructure.

“We have the same point of sales system, everyone runs the same back-of-the-house software, the same chart of accounts,” says Rothschild of the brand’s nearly 100 restaurants. He’s able to access every franchisee’s sales and labor data, and by reviewing monthly P&Ls “we’re able to show them where they’re leaving money on the table.” And franchisees appreciate the insight.

“Happy franchisees are profitable franchisees, and profitable franchisees open more restaurants,” says Rothschild, adding it’s important to lay that financial foundation “right out of the gate.”

Woofie’s had been in business for 15 years before Reed decided in 2018 to franchise her pet sitting, dog walking and mobile pet spa concept. She’s since signed two franchisees and says, “We’re treating them like they’re our babies.”

“Be so incredibly careful of the first franchisees you bring on board because they’re going to be the ones validating the opportunity” for future system growth, she advises. Franchisees need to be the business owners, not the dog walkers or groomers, and so Woofie’s had to adjust its training program, in addition to adding operational and marketing support at the corporate level. Franchisors have to provide their franchisees with the tools to succeed, she continues, noting in her case that’s meant accelerating plans for a dog grooming school to help owners bridge that labor gap.

“It’s a big pain point and our franchisees are already stressed out about it,” she says of the struggle to find quality groomers.

The International Franchise Expo continues through Saturday at the Javits Center in New York City.

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