For Nicole Roble, a franchisee with Wayback Burgers in Winnipeg, the road to owning her own business was one often travelled by most successful franchisees—a journey full of challenges where the rewards outweigh the obstacles.
Despite having a nursing degree from her native country of the Philippines, when Roble and her family immigrated to Canada, she found it difficult to find a job in her profession, and took jobs in fast-food restaurants to help make ends meet. However, like so many entrepreneurs, she found opportunity in her new line of work, and a passion for good quality food.
It would be this new-found love that would drive Roble to discover Wayback Burgers, a fast-casual brand combining the latest food trends with popular fare from “back in the day.”
Roble recently spoke with Canadian Business Franchise about the challenges of buying a franchise right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and how she turned lemons into lemonade.
Canadian Business Franchise (CBF): Did you always envision yourself as franchisee?
Nicole Roble (NR): Growing up in a family with a small business background made me think maybe one day I would become an entrepreneur. However, my parents had other plans for me, and I earned a bachelor of science in nursing. I really enjoyed studying nursing, and it became a passion—until we immigrated to Canada, and I had to accept jobs in the fast-food industry. I soon discovered working in a fast-paced environment and establishing a good rapport with customers was something I really enjoyed. Eventually, I decided the time was right to take the entrepreneurial plunge and seek out a franchise of my own.
CBF: Why did you choose a franchise?
NR: I chose franchising because I knew it would give me an opportunity to run a business with the help and support of a larger company, with a proven formula for success.
CBF: How did you discover this franchising opportunity?
NR: One day, I was searching for a franchise opportunity and came across an ad online. Wayback Burgers was looking for franchisees. I did some research and found out they were very new in Canada, and only had one location at the time. I visited the store on St. James Street in Winnipeg multiple times, in an attempt to convince myself it was right for me. After meeting with the master franchisee, I had a feeling I was on the right path and making the right decision. I loved the food, the concept, and everything about it.
CBF: When did you buy your franchise?
NR: My brother and I bought the franchise in December 2019. Unfortunately, a few months later, COVID hit, and we had to delay the opening until April 2022. I used the time to better understand how to manage a restaurant. I am very pleased with the support I received—from securing financing, searching for a location, and dealing with all legalities. Wayback’s team helped me create a good business plan and set realistic projections. We were guided throughout the process and directed to the right people who were knowledgeable and experienced with the business.
CBF: What was involved in opening your franchise?
NR: The opening phase was definitely a lot of work, time, and commitment. However, everything went well. We may have experienced some delays and issues along the way, but we were able to find solutions with the help of the master franchisee, regional director of operations, and the contractor. During the training period, I really liked how everything was in sequence and felt really organized. Every team member was acknowledged and given an opportunity to learn. I am personally grateful to our trainers, who dedicated their time and effort during that period. They also started promoting our impending store opening, and I loved the exhilaration generated on Facebook, where everyone was excited and was looking forward to it.
CBF: Describe your opening day.
NR: Our opening fell on a day that saw the area hit by a blizzard, but I was glad the community still welcomed us warmly, despite the weather. Looking back, I would say it was a crazy, beautiful experience. You could really feel the excitement and anticipation of the people waiting to grab their first bite of our burgers. We may not have been perfect, but I was impressed with how the team handled the rush, and how they tried their best to make sure the food got to the customers. Our trainers were awesome, and they guided us all the way.
CBF: Describe a typical day of running your franchise.
NR: Our day starts by delegating team members to prep and make sure we are ready to open at 11 a.m. As a manager/operator, I will start some of my administrative duties and ensure we have the necessary stock. By lunchtime, things are starting to pick up and it stays steady until 2 p.m. From 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., we usually prep again for the dinner rush. At 4 p.m., we start getting busy for dinner, and that lasts until 7 p.m. Afterwards, we begin our closing duties. It is a very long day, but it is fulfilling and fun. We learn, improve, and experience something new every day.
CBF: Do you feel your educational background helps in your day-to-day tasks and overall business decisions?
NR: Nursing may be different from what I am doing right now, but I am definitely able to use what I have learned in my present day-to-day tasks. I can apply professionalism, leadership, and resilience, which I learned and experienced back when I was a student.
CBF: What have been the highlights and challenges of running your franchise?
NR: The highlight so far since we opened is the warm welcome from the community. It just makes our day to see how excited they are coming in, then leaving happy, and telling us they will be back. Our weekends are still very challenging due to a high volume of orders, but we are improving.
CBF: Is there anything unique about your market?
NR: Wayback Burgers can cater to all ages. I have noticed a wide range of age groups coming in and I am glad our menu has an extensive variety, from kids to adults. We even have gluten-free options. Our food stands out compared to our competitors, which is what makes us unique in the market.
CBF: How do you make your franchise stand out amongst others in the market?
NR: We stand out amongst others because of the quality of the food our customers get. We serve never-frozen patties, and everything is made from scratch and to order. We also offer something our competition does not, as our menu can cater to different diets and preferences. We offer gluten-free and vegan options, and we are the only one offering gluten-free buns.
Our Impossible patties are plant-based and free of animal products and byproducts, but they do not compromise on quality, flavour, or texture. It is a great option for vegetarians, vegans, and people who just want to cut their meat consumption.
Our service is top-notch because we make sure our customers are treated like royalty. We bring the food to their table, address them by name, and even clean up for them. This is the kind of dining experience customers will not get from our competitors.
The interior of our store is also very unique. We have a modern-sleek style, but at the same time, there is still a retro vibe. There is a nostalgic feeling when dining because of the food and the ambience of the store.
CBF: How has the business evolved since you started?
NR: We are still very new, and in the phase where people are still discovering us. However, when it comes to our service and order accuracy, we have improved so much. Our team members have developed confidence, and it has started to feel fun at work rather than stressful. More customers can feel it, too, and they leave happy.
CBF: What are your future plans?
NR: If given the opportunity, I would like to own one or two more Wayback Burgers franchises. I would also like my family to be more involved in the business, so we can grow together.