At nearly 1,700 square feet, our restaurant is one of the largest Pita Pit franchises. They’re usually closer to 1,500 square feet.
We wanted to open last September, but it had to be built first, which is why we instead opened on January 18, in the middle of winter. That timing was a big challenge. We had storms that knocked out the electricity, so we had to close on some of our earliest days.
Staffing can also be one of the biggest headaches in the restaurant business, but we hired a 24-year-old manager who previously worked for McDonald’s for 10 years and wants to oversee multiple restaurants. Then, when I hired an assistant manager for the kitchen, I recruited the best cook who had worked for our previous restaurant.
Next, I hired my full-time crew and supervisors. Again, I recruited some of the best people from other fast-food restaurants. I offered to pay them well and provide benefits. I took them to Saint John to see a Pita Pit in action. I also brought our manager and assistant manager along for the franchisor’s corporate training in Kingston.
We still have the same core team we hired on day one. The staff turnover has been among the part-timers instead. There’s been a learning curve there and some mistakes, so we’ve had to hire more people along the way.
It’s a demanding job, involving a lot of evenings and weekends. I handle billing, accounting, human resources (HR) and daily management duties, while Nathan has more of an overview of how the business is doing. He comes in for some evenings during the week, whereas it’s a full-time job for me. I hadn’t been in the workplace in a long while!
We always talk about the restaurant. We make sure we’re in agreement about everything.
We’ve been very lucky, as we have an excellent team of employees. As an owner, you have to be able to trust them. And we’ll need to rely on them a lot more in the future, as we look to open more locations and give them more responsibility.
That said, opening our first Pita Pit has been much simpler than the first time we opened a restaurant, since we kind of knew the basics, plus the franchise system offered support. The head office has been great. If we don’t know something, we ask and they answer right away.
We’re so happy with the business, as it has worked really well. We’ve gone past our expectations.
Our franchisor also has a school lunch program. I want to visit schools throughout Greater Moncton and get them to order from us. Pitas instead of pizza would be healthier for their students! We have a few schools on-board already and I will continue to build this part of our business.
We do a lot of catering, too, but my favourite part of the job is being there in the restaurant and hearing directly from customers. That’s how you ultimately see how everything is going.
It’s also been important to give back to the community. We’re involved with a local baseball team, for example, and our restaurant was designed with accessibility in mind, based on our experience with our kids. There’s tonnes of space for customers with all needs.