From Lithuania, with Wings

Lithuanian friendship blossoms as partners seek franchise growth

Edvin Rajauskas and Val Kirielius have come a long way to open their first Buffalo Wings & Rings franchise location - all the way from Lithuania to be exact. The two Lithuania natives formed a partnership that has them destined for the American dream. Just last month, the two opened their first Buffalo Wings & Rings in Springdale, Ohio. They are excited about their new franchise and say growth is on their minds.

As Lithuanian immigrants, the pair's similar backgrounds helped form a fast friendship on American soil. Both have spent time in the restaurant and service business where they've gathered experience and knowledge, which they plan to bond with a strong work ethic, to pursue their hopes and dreams together. They say they plan to operate as partners who run the franchise as a team.

"To open a Buffalo Wings & Rings is a fantastic opportunity, and we could not pass it up," says Rajauskas. "We just thought, 'If not now, when?'"

The Buffalo Wings & Rings concept has been recognized in the top spot on Restaurant Business magazine's annual The Future 50 list, a ranking of the top 50 fastest-growing restaurant chains in the country. The franchisor also made the list of top 500 franchises as ranked by Entrepreneur magazine.

Though Rajauskas and Kirielius have been busy getting their new location up to speed, they took some time out of their schedules to answer a few questions.

What other restaurant experience have you had?

We previously owned a European-style restaurant in Cincinnati called St. Petersburg and have been looking forward to getting back into the restaurant business.

Have either of you operated a franchise before?

No, but we are both excited for the opportunity to be a part of Buffalo Wings & Rings, one of the fastest growing privately-owned chains of franchise restaurants in the nation.

Why choose the franchise model?

We came to the United States seeking "the American Dream" and ultimately decided that we wanted to own our own business and be our own boss. Once we researched our options, we realized that franchising offers many benefits, including providing a solid balance between corporate support and individual freedom.

Why choose Buffalo Wings & Rings? Why now?

We researched business opportunities for three years and ultimately settled on Buffalo Wings & Rings for a variety of reasons. It was the smartest choice from an economic standpoint. The franchise program at Buffalo Wings & Rings is designed to help keep up-front costs to a minimum. Also, Buffalo Wings & Rings charges less in royalty and franchising fees than many other franchises. The company offers product consistency and corporate support. Moreover, CEO, Roger David, has a clear vision for the company and we firmly believe that he will provide strategic leadership so that our restaurant can become a success.

How will you handle day-to-day operations? Who will be responsible for what?

We plan on it being a 50/50 undertaking. We're tackling the whole project together. We're in the kitchen, we're in the front-of-the-house, we're handling the bills, and we're doing it all together as a team so we both know every aspect of the business.

What is your management style and how will you work together as partners?

We will be very hands-on to allow for maximum growth for our employees and ourselves. We hope to slowly back out of the big picture as we hire the right people and get them trained the right way. For the time being, we will be here every day to make sure our staff is properly trained to provide the best service for our customers.

What challenges have you faced getting to this point?

Our biggest challenge in the past few months prior to the restaurant opening was ensuring that all employees were properly trained in a short amount of time. As with most new businesses, we had a lot of work to do and an aggressive timeframe in which to get everything accomplished. Now that the restaurant is open, we will continue to learn by helping one another, coaching our staff, and gleaning as much support as possible from corporate.

What opportunities do you expect with this new location?

We plan to make Buffalo Wings & Rings a popular restaurant destination in the area as well as a good corporate citizen in the community. This includes hard and soft dollar support for our local school district. We will host fundraisers, sponsor local events, and show the people of the local community that we firmly believe in giving back to the community in which their restaurant resides.

How did you finance the deal with Buffalo Wings & Rings?

The deal was facilitated by a combination of cash payment and seller financing.

What are your plans for growth/expansion?

We are currently focused on making sure that our new restaurant succeeds. We hope that in about six months, we can allow a solid management staff to manage daily operations at the restaurant level. Eventually, we would like to invest in at least one more Buffalo Wings & Rings in the Cincinnati area.

Would you look outside of food franchising for growth?

We are open to what the future may hold, but we are focused on making this franchising effort in the restaurant industry work, with the intention of expanding it further in the future.

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