Bob Sirkis was sold on the Fazoli's quick-service Italian restaurant before he even bought his first franchise 15 years ago. That's because he was vice president of new concept development at the parent company that created the brand back in the late 1980s. After working for a number of different restaurant and retail companies over the years, Bob found himself in Dolthan, Alabama, in 2001, and with his wife, Kendall, opened his own Fazoli's restaurant.
Even though the chain is billed as quick service, this fast, fresh Italian food restaurant with 217 locations in 26 states is always "focused on providing great food and 'wow' service to our guests," said Bob. "This has been, and will always be, fundamental to everything we do in our business." The parent company has helped Bob grow by leveraging its enormous purchasing power to give franchisees the best food costs. That helps him keep his prices down and still turn a profit. As a result, he has seen his sales grow steadily over the past several years to over $1.5 million a year serving about 4,000 customers a week.
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As a small-business owner, Bob said he "wears most of the hats" in running the restaurant — from handling IT and purchasing to human resources and marketing — and finds complying with a myriad of federal regulations concerning healthcare and unemployment to be among his biggest challenges. "Every month there seems to be another survey I need to fill out from the Commerce Dept. or the Labor Dept. or some other form from the state of Georgia," he said. "When you add it up, that's hours of extra time that I'm not able to spend working on the business."
For anyone looking to buy a franchise, he advised to look closely at how financially successful the parent company is. "You will be paying a significant amount of money to the franchisor, and they will control what you can and cannot do," he said. "Ask yourself: Are they worth it, and do they have a track record of success? Are their egos in check? You want a company where they are close to the business and listen to the customer and to franchisees."
Note: Sirkis is a resident of Alabama and his company's primary business address is in Alabama. Currently, his franchise locations are outside of his home state, but Sirkis told CNBC his next move may be to open a Fazoli's location in Alabama.
"You will be paying a significant amount of money to the franchisor, and they will control what you can and cannot do. Ask yourself: Are they worth it, and do they have a track record of success?"