A good fit
I felt Fatburger would go over really well in Saskatoon, as there are a lot of farmers shopping there. That kind of crowd is always up for going out for a burger. I also felt everyone would want to try out the first location.
So, I called up Fatburger’s Canadian franchisor, FDF Restaurant Brandz, which also owns
Ricky’s All Day Grill, RG’s Lounge, Ricky’s Café and ABC Country Restaurant. As it turned out, Frank Di Benedetto, their CEO, had already secured a location for a new Fatburger restaurant in a Saskatoon power centre and was looking for someone to take it on as the city’s first franchisee.
My parents and I made a second trip to Edmonton to meet with him. We also visited more Fatburger locations there.
I was still quite young, but Frank did not seem to mind, as he recognized I was enthusiastic and would put in a lot of hours as a new franchisee. My hospitality industry experience would also help me succeed.
After our meeting with Frank, I did my due diligence. I looked thoroughly at the competition in my market. I also phoned up and spoke to some of the existing Fatburger Canada franchisees in both Calgary and Edmonton. From those conversations, I came away with the knowledge it would be hard work to run the business, especially in the first year, but I also gained further confidence in my eventual success. This was important to me, as it would be my first business to run by myself.
Preparing to open
The location FDF had secured was on the outskirts of the city, in the west end, so we were a little worried about its ability to attract customers. There was a Walmart there, however, and as construction continued in the area over the next one-and-a-half years, the traffic increased quite a bit. And even today, there are still houses being built right across the street.
The franchisor put me through an extensive three-month training program, which included three weeks at a corporate-owned Fatburger in Edmonton’s city centre, more time at the South Edmonton Common location and a few days at FDF’s head office in Vancouver.
I had to wait for my landlord to build the ‘shell’ of my franchise before we could go in and complete the fixtures. There were some delays that prolonged the construction process. I signed my franchise agreement in June 2013 and quit my job at the Sheraton Cavalier that fall, but then went to work for six months at a Holiday Inn because the delayed construction of my restaurant meant it was not ready yet. I finished my training that November, then went back to Edmonton for a ‘refresh’ before my restaurant opened in March 2015.
The 2,200-square-foot space was laid out very well, in a large rectangle. It was an end-cap unit within the power centre, which was well worth the extra dollars per square foot for the heightened visibility. And there were lots of convenient parking spaces for our customers.