A challenging start
In my first year, the biggest challenge was staffing. At the time, the federal government had suspended the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) for the food-service industry, which meant I could only hire local staff, but not enough people were applying for jobs at my restaurant. So, I just had to hire anyone I could. There was a lot of turnover in those days.
As for me, I started work each morning, closed the restaurant at night and then sat down to do paperwork until 1 or 2 a.m. I did not take a day off until after my first nine months—and even then, it was just to go to a franchisees’ area meeting in Edmonton.
It was a very stressful first year, but afterwards, by about one-and-a-half years in, I had the proper staff—with the proper attitudes—in place and I was able to use the Saskatchewan Immigration Nomination Program (SINP) to bring in foreign workers.
I had not originally pictured myself working on the crew as much as I did, putting in shifts, but being a hands-on franchisee was the best way to know everything that was going on. I felt I should work in the kitchen to keep an eye on food and service quality.
As a result, I know how to do everything in my restaurant. I can hop on the crew and help out whenever needed, if the opportunity arises.
My second Fatburger opened in July 2017 at Preston Crossing, which is Saskatoon’s busiest open-air shopping centre, anchored by Walmart, Canadian Tire, Best Buy and Sobeys.
This restaurant has a unique shape, which made it a lot more challenging to develop our floor plan. In the end, though, it works very well. It is the same size as my first restaurant, but everyone says it looks bigger. I think that’s because it has lots of windows, so it is nice and bright. We have 47 seats indoors and another 20 out on our 500-square-foot patio.
Launching my second franchise was quite a smooth experience. It was a lot easier than the first one. This time, I could select and train my staff in advance. And as I had learned I needed to be choosier about hiring, I did not encounter the same issues with staff turnover.
Operating two units is much easier than running just one, as I have dedicated managers at each restaurant. That’s been a welcome change. I can float between both locations, making sure they continue to run smoothly.
I’m at one or both stores every day of the week. This includes weekends, when I continue to help in the kitchen, because that’s when we’re busiest. I make sure we’re providing a clean environment, friendly staff and a great product.
I’m typically spending more of my time at the newer location, just to make sure it continues to ramp up. There are a lot of moving parts to this business and there can be ‘hiccups,’ especially when we get busy. If a customer has an issue, I want to make sure to invite them back, whether that means providing a refund or a coupon.
We get all sorts of customers here, from very young to very old. We offer 50 per cent off to police officers, so they’ve become regulars. We get construction workers. And we get families of all ethnicities.
There is a lot more desk work for me with the two locations. I do all of my paperwork in my offices at the restaurants, as then I can just step through the door to check how things are going. The main work I take home with me is scheduling, as I share staff between the two locations.