High Stakes: Annual Multi-Unit Conference Hits It Big In Las Vegas With Record Attendance

Las Vegas was the backdrop for the 2009 Multi-Unit Franchising Conference, held in mid-April at the fabulous Bellagio where high rollers were searching for sure bets at the "Playing 2 Win" themed-event, sponsored by Franchise Update Media Group.

Gary Grace, a Supercuts multi-unit operator with 36 units who served as this year's conference chair, said, "It's the only conference focused exclusively on multi-unit franchising. We built the event around today's most immediate issues--and what we should be thinking about for tomorrow."

The beautiful surroundings for this premier multi-unit franchising event were home to more than 500 franchisees, franchisors, and vendors, who packed the 2½ days of sessions, seminars, and speakers. Unit growth, expansion, and financing dominated both the formal sessions and the "side sessions" that continued into the late hours in the marble-lined hallways, the elevators, casino, bars, restaurants, and even the pool area. Networking is a key part of every Multi-Unit Franchising Conference.

Of the 500 attendees, nearly 4 in 10 (187) were franchisees, representing 134 different franchisee organizations. Of those 187 operators who responded to a pre-conference survey, their economic heft and influence was truly impressive:

  • Units (77 responses): 3,050
  • Employees (118 responses): 51,310
  • Total revenues (110 responses): $1.6 billion in the last 12 months (50 of these 110 generated $1.4 billion)
  • Individual revenues (110 responses): 34 percent generated more than $20 million each in the last 12 months
  • More than 2 of 3 of all franchisees (68 percent) are now seeking additional brands.

These high rollers were treated to three keynote speakers on Thursday. The first was Herman Cain, who turned around Godfather's Pizza. He urged attendees to "simplify, stabilize, and energize" their brands. Next came Russ Umphenour, president and CEO of Focus Brands (he once owned nearly 900 Arby's). "Every time I hear Herman Cain preach, I'm ready to run through walls!" he said. Under the theme of "Great franchisees equal great brands," he offered a dozen guidelines to make that happen. The third keynoter, author James Bradley, closed the day by recounting his more than two-year struggle to find a publisher for his best-selling book, Flags of Our Fathers, continually underscoring the power of persistence and faith in one's belief and vision.

Franchisees came to Vegas from a wide cross-section of the U.S.: 41 percent from the West, 30 percent from the East, 20 percent from the country's heartland; plus 8 percent from Canada. They also represented a wide range of industry sectors, with dominant, of course. Other sectors included hotel/lodging, gas stations, convenience stores, fitness/weight loss, hair care, and A wide variety of vendors filled the Exhibition Hall, which buzzed with goodwill and deals in the making--helped along by and donuts from Dunkin' Donuts, the event's Platinum Sponsor, and from its sister brand, Baskin-Robbins.

Next year's event is now in the planning stages. Details will be available soon at www.multiunitfranchisingconference.com.

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