Greg, Paul, and I were completely new to the restaurant industry, but this ended up working to our advantage. We came into the arrangement with no preconceived notions of how the business should operate, so we felt comfortable stepping back and letting those who were knowledgeable about the industry help us. We listened carefully to everything the team from head office said and followed their direction to a T. Don’s experience was, of course, invaluable, as he was very in touch with the brand and was able to guide us through a number of executive decisions.
We started by hiring a general manager, who, in turn, assembled a team of managers to run the restaurant’s day-to-day operations. He attended a eight-week training course in British Columbia. It felt great to see such a strong group come together. Every member of the team was committed to the concept and shared the same vision of success for the restaurant.
Several weeks before opening, a team from head office came to Welland to do in-store training with our staff. This served as extra assurance that everyone working in the restaurant—from line cooks, to hosts, to wait staff—felt comfortable and confident when we opened our doors in November 2017.
As we were entering a market with no brand familiarity, it took some time for our customers to adjust to the concept. For many, the word ‘steakhouse’ equates to ‘expensive,’ and that can scare people off.
However, curiosity did the trick; people were drawn to the restaurant and, as they came in and saw that Mr. Mikes was a casual, family-friendly place to grab a bite, they told their friends, who told their friends, and so on.
As predicted, the restaurant’s dual-section concept resonated beautifully with our versatile clientele. At our opening, Mike Cordoba, RAMMP’s CEO, said he was thrilled to see the brand resonate in a completely new market.
Because it’s a smaller city, Welland has never been known to draw in out-of-towners the same way as the neighbouring cities of Niagara Falls and St. Catharines. Since opening the franchise, however, the area has seen an influx of visitors who want to check out the brand.
While we were initially met with some pushback from smaller restaurants in the area that weren’t pleased with the new competition, it didn’t take long for these establishments to see the positive effect Mr. Mikes had on their businesses. The restaurant helped turn Welland into a place people want to visit, which means an increase in patronage across the board.
Mike and I, along with our families, have always been very involved with the local community in Welland, and this is something we are happy to continue through Mr. Mikes. The franchise system encourages its franchisees to look within their respective communities to see how they can best give back.
Since opening, we’ve hosted many fundraisers and charity events, supporting causes such as Toys for Tots and breast cancer awareness. Mike has been involved with the Niagara chapter of Autism Society Canada (ASC) for more than 20 years, so that’s an organization we’re always happy to support however we can, as well as Community Living Welland Pelham. These types of community partnerships are something we are passionate about, and our franchise serves as an ideal channel to raise awareness for specific causes and give back in a meaningful way.
In turn, we’ve been fortunate in that the community has embraced us. In May 2018, we were named business of the month by the Downtown Welland Business Improvement Association (BIA) and later that year we were nominated for business of the year.
Purchasing a Mr. Mikes franchise has also been great for my family. My sons, Drew and Garrett, studied hospitality management at the University of Guelph and Niagara College, respectively. At the time we opened the franchise, Drew was working at a hotel, but decided he’d like to join us. He went out west for training and now he’s co-managing the restaurant. Garrett decided to continue doing his own thing, but he knows there’s a job waiting for him if he wants it.
Compared to our ‘day jobs,’ franchise ownership is a breath of fresh air. Greg and I both love our careers, but we typically meet with clients when they’re undergoing stressful, life-changing events. When we’re at Mr. Mikes, however, the people we talk to are typically in a great mood and looking to have fun with their friends and family. I still encounter the occasional unhappy customer, but the problems I’m faced with are much easier to fix than those I see at my brokerage.
These days I usually stop by the restaurant about three evenings a week, and Mike and his wife Darla are in just as frequently. Having a trusted team that is as dedicated as we are has been integral to our success.
Head office continues to offer us ongoing support. Our market is a bit different than that of Western Canada, and the management team has done a fantastic job adapting marketing strategies to suit our clientele. The franchise system recently hired an Ontario-based senior operations manager, which has been of great assistance.
What’s more, our location is helping the brand expand in a new market. Potential franchisees from throughout Ontario have visited our restaurant to see all of the amazing things Mr. Mikes has to offer and the incredible things the brand can do for a community.
Mike Gowan and Greg Smith are Mr. Mikes SteakhouseCasual co-franchises based in Welland, Ont. They can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.
MR. MIKES STEAKHOUSECASUAL
Established in: 1960
Date of first franchise: 1960
Franchised/corporate units in Canada: 42
Investment: $1.9 million
Initial franchise fee: $50,000