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Achieving work-life balance with Fatburger

Our breakfast service, which the franchisor added right when I signed on, does very well. I get a lot of customers picking up a meal on their way in to work.

The lunch rush
By 11 a.m., our breakfast service finishes and it’s time to get ready for lunch. I try to do all of my training and ordering before the rush. We usually receive deliveries just before lunchtime, twice a week. I try to cram everything into my mornings and I sneak in quick meals for myself in between the busier times.

The food court is always busiest at lunchtime and we have to be ready for it. All sorts of customers walk in from nearby office buildings and the downtown Simon Fraser University (SFU) campus, which is in the Spencer Building. It always seems like everyone arrives at the same time! They flood the food court starting at 11:30 a.m. and I would say we’re busiest from noon to 1:30 p.m.

Both the size and quality of our meals really impress our customers. All of our specialty burgers sell at pretty even numbers. Our hand-breaded chicken tenders are also a big hit.

I do appreciate how the Fatburger menu is positioned. Mine was the second location to open in a food court, following the first in Calgary, and the franchisor understands the differences from running a stand-alone restaurant. You have to be very quick in a food court, which makes it difficult to offer as full a menu as you could elsewhere.

The more items there are on a menu, the longer it takes for the ordering and preparation of meals, especially in a food court where so many customers arrive at the same time. Fortunately, our head office had already thought all of this through and was able to simplify the menu for me. They listen to their franchisees.

My family has been very supportive of this venture.

Busy but balanced
Around 1:30 p.m., the lunch rush wraps up and we focus on cleaning up. By 2 or 3 p.m., I have less staff on-hand, as it’s quieter. Throughout the afternoon, we sell more snacks than meals.

We used to try staying open until 7 p.m., but we still didn’t find we were able to get a dinner crowd here, so it wasn’t worth it. After closing up the shop, I’m usually done by 6:30 p.m. and I get home around 7:30 p.m.

I knew running my own franchise would be a lot of hard work, but since I’m not such a young man anymore, I find it can take a bigger toll on me than it would have in the past.

The atmosphere is quite fun, though. A lot of my regular customers know my name and I know theirs. We decorate the store from time to time, like at Halloween, when I also dress up as a giant burger!

When I bought and started running this franchise, I knew I was doing it for my family—and I’m glad I did! I really look up to my dad, who passed away in 2001 and taught me three key principles: (a) keep life simple, (b) try to be happy and (c) always do your best.

Restaurants are all I know. I would certainly consider going multi-unit with Fatburger, which has been growing in Canada for more than 10 years now, but the opportunity would have to come along to buy the right store at the right price. And it would have to be in a food court. I like being busy, but with a balanced life.

Tony Lu is a Vancouver-based Fatburger franchisee. For more information, contact him via e-mail at harbourcentre@fatburgercanada.com.


Date of first franchise: 2010
Franchised/corporate units: 48
Investment range: $425,000 – $525,000 (lower for food court models)
Initial franchise fee: $50,000
Website: www.fatburgercanada.com
E-mail: franchise@fatburgercanada.com

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