Opening a franchise is a big step and challenge, but opening one only months before the biggest pandemic to hit the world in a century is a whole different story.
We recently spoke to Nick Knox, a franchisee with Twisted Indian Wraps, about his journey from operating a crane in Barrie, Ont., to opening a location in one of the province’s most popular summer hotspots.
Canadian Business Franchise: Tell us a little about yourself.
Nick Knox (NK): I was born and raised in Collingwood, Ont., and went to CCI (Collingwood Collegiate Institute) where I took the culinary program for two years. This program was all about the basics, and nothing to do with Indian food.
While I was still in school, I decided to open a hotdog cart in Collingwood. My first location opened in 2007. Then in 2008, I had a second location followed by a concession trailer at the end of that same season. I ran the hotdog and fresh cut fry business for seven years.
In between, I also graduated from Georgian College from the Police Foundations program. At that time, I was also very interested in construction, more so operating a crane. I ended up selling all three of my locations, didn’t use my police diploma and instead began training as a crane operator in Barrie, Ont. The experience and skills I learned in the five years of doing construction was awesome, but I always missed the joy and happiness of cooking and customer service. At that point, I wanted to see what my options were. I asked myself, “Do I get back into the fast-food business myself or do I investigate franchising?
CBF: What gravitated you towards franchising and Twisted Indian Wraps in particular?
NK: I never thought I would own a franchise to be honest. I was always a self-motivated person who enjoyed creating my own menu options, designs, and anything to do with the fast-food industry.
However, in 2018 and 2019, I ended up going to a franchise show in Toronto. The second year was when I was going to open something but did not know exactly what. I was leaning toward a different franchise at first, until I saw Twisted Indian Wraps at the show, and my mind was made up—this was a business for me.
I set up a meeting with Twisted Indian Wraps, and they showed me how the concept worked. It was 2019 when I first met with Andy and Priya (the company’s founders) at the Park Place location in Barrie. I saw the corporate restaurant and tried several samples of their food. I realized one can have delicious Indian food and have it served quickly, and I was sold.
CBF: Can you share a little about the process of opening your first location?
NK: When I opened the franchise in December 2019, it was a scary time. I invested all my hard-earned money into a new concept, which was not really established like several other franchise concepts in the market. Also, it was Indian food in Wasaga Beach, and as we all know, December is winter and winter time in Wasaga Beach is a slow season. So, there were quite a few factors making it a little scary at first. All I did was trust the brand, the quality of food, and realized it is a new franchise. My guests were trying the food for the first time, but it was love at first bite.
CBF: How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your franchise?
NK: COVID-19 arrived three to four months after opening and it was very unexpected. Never did I think this would happen, especially right after opening a new restaurant. I ended up closing for six weeks because of COVID-19. I then re-opened for one week just to close for one more week. So, my restaurant was closed for seven weeks in total during the pandemic.
Did it affect us? It is hard to say. We still have not had a solid year of sales to fall back on. I have a really good location in Wasaga Beach. We get a lot of cottage country traffic, beach goers, and locals.
Once we reopened the restaurant, it was for takeout only. In our case, we could still have our guests come into the store and order their meals for takeout. That was one of the big advantages of Twisted Indian Wraps, as for many other restaurants, you could only order online or by phone.
Once COVID-19 hit, there was no shortage of help from the franchisor. Andy and Priya have been great since day one and once the pandemic came, they were still able to help. Reduced/no royalties, help with PPE, and updates on different government programs were some of the areas they helped me navigate through these crazy and confusing times.
CBF: What thoughts would you share with anyone considering getting into franchising? Also, what does the future hold for you?
NK: I would tell anyone who would like to become a Twisted Indian Wraps franchise owner to stay positive and remember it is a new concept, so it’ll take time to prove itself. Even some of the most popular concepts take time as they enter a new market. Have trust in the brand and yourself. As for me, I plan to open a second location, in Collingwood, Ont., or Blue Mountain. A few things have come up this year and I might even be going into Orillia, as well. I love the Twisted Indian Wraps concept, the food, and branding. To anyone that wants to open one up, believe in yourself and the brand, and you’ll be successful.