From the beginning, I knew not to expect as mature a business as Tim Hortons or a McDonald’s, but by getting in early with Wing’n It, I got a great deal and could have an influence on the franchised concept. I felt blessed and fortunate to give my input and help sculpt the process of building a restaurant chain.
The franchisor was quick and aggressive not only in making changes to the business documentation for franchising, but also in updating its menu, by adding new items and taking off others that didn’t work. For example, we had a lot of customers asking for a child-size dessert for their kids. While we’re a family business, originally we only had big desserts on the menu, so that was changed accordingly. The franchisor’s responsiveness boosted my own confidence. It was evidence the corporation was listening to its customers.
My second wing
At breakneck speed, less than five months after opening my first franchise in Gander, I opened my second in St. John’s. It’s not downtown, but it’s on a busy road and has parking, unlike the original Wing’n It.
It has been hugely successful. There was pent-up demand for it. It’s doing four times as much business as my Gander franchise. I moved to St. John’s soon after opening there. I try to get back to the Gander restaurant once a month and I speak to my general manager (GM) there every day.
When I opened in St. John’s, the restaurant was about 3,500 square feet. We’ve since expanded, taking over the next suite and adding a dedicated cooler in the kitchen, and it’s now closer to 4,000 square feet.
Balancing the businesses
As much as I appreciate the periodic updates to the Wing’n It menu, I’m glad it doesn’t include breakfast, as I’m not a morning person! My typical workday begins around 10 or 11 a.m. I’m in the office until 5 or 6 p.m. and then we’re busy with dinner service until 8 or 9 p.m.
As the GM for my St. John’s location, I handle a lot of administration work, from purchasing supplies and paying bills to meeting with managers to plastering holes in the walls. I really try to keep regular office hours so it’s easy for the staff to talk to me whenever they need to.
I enjoy having more than one restaurant. The challenges are different between the two locations. Gander is a small community, where it is harder to find and hire good employees from a smaller ‘pool.’ My GM and staff are great now, but it took a while to build that team. I have 14 employees there now.
Also, while the Gander restaurant continues to be successful overall, it experiences stronger swings up and down in business, which is a nightmare when you’re trying to purchase inventory. My St. John’s restaurant is more ‘static.’ It gets so much business all of the time, it would be hard to squeeze more out of it, but since sales are consistent, there’s no danger of running out of stock. Also, in St. John’s, I have more managers to work with, overseeing a staff of 35.
One problem with the booming St. John’s economy is it’s hard to get a tradesman like a carpenter in when I need one, whereas in Gander I can get someone in an hour! They’re very different markets.