How Two Franchisees Did Well in 2020 – Despite Covid
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How Two Franchisees Did Well in 2020 – Despite Covid

How Two Franchisees Did Well in 2020 – Despite Covid

We asked a wide range of multi-unit franchisees about the biggest impacts Covid-19 has had on their business, how they’ve responded, and which changes they think will be permanent. This week we hear from a 35-year franchising veteran with more than 60 automotive service locations, and a 36-year-old, up-and-coming force in multi-brand franchising with almost 300 Pizza Huts, Moe’s, and Arby’s.

Steve Sanner is President of JTM Automotive, which operates 50 Jiffy Lube, 6 Tuffy Tire & Auto Service, and 5 Mighty Auto Parts locations. At 60, he’s been in franchising for 35 years and was on track for his 10th consecutive year of record sales and profitability – despite Covid!

What are the biggest impacts of Covid-19 on your business?

While Covid was devastating to the business from March to May, there was a surprisingly positive side to it. We had never really thought of ourselves as being “essential,” but we found out that we are. This realization was a big morale boost for us as we fought through the many changes and realities of operating in a Covid world. The pride that our teams earned by being part of the solution — helping essential workers keep their cars running well so they could save lives — will live on forever. We did our part in the face of a global pandemic. We mattered.

How have you responded?

We had to adjust to keeping our guests in their cars at Jiffy Lube. That sounds simple, but it created a whole host of changes to how we traditionally performed our services. All of the entities had to get used to 100% compliance with mask wearing and the other mandates. Wearing masks while working and sweating in the summer heat was extremely uncomfortable. But we had no choice.

What changes do you think will be permanent?

Many of our guests have enjoyed staying in their cars during service. I think we will continue to provide that option forever. 

 

Matt Slaine is CEO of Quality Restaurant Group (QRG) and Operating Partner of GenRock Capital Management. QRG operates 200 Pizza Huts, 67 Moe’s Southwest Grills, and 27 Arby’s. At just 36, and with $350 million in sales, he and his partner Matt Ailey, 33, have their eyes on further expansion.

What are the biggest impacts of Covid-19 on your business?

While we always put our people first (“Quality People First” is our first core value), that takes on a whole new meaning in a pandemic where we are an essential business providing meals to so many families who must stay home. We’ve had to completely reorient our business to ensure the health and safety of our team members, and guests come first in a whole new way. We have done this by reinforcing food safety and hygiene brand standards on top of additional pre-shift health screenings, contactless operations, regular sanitation and hygiene protocols, and many other operational changes — all with a smile (behind a mask).

The way consumers engage with restaurant brands completely changed almost immediately when the impact of Covid-19 hit in mid-March 2020. Guests were no longer dining in-restaurant or ordering catering but still wanted their favorite meals to be accessible and convenient. Covid-19 has affected our menu and offerings as well, which affects supply chain, in-house and third-party delivery, as well as the creation of contactless carryout and delivery.

How have you responded?

Our brands were quick to respond to the immediate change in consumer behavior. Moe’s launched delivery in all locations through our owned channels (web and mobile app) and curbside pickup almost immediately. Moe’s also launched new menu options including meal kits: taco, nacho, and fajita for families and groups of 4 to 6 people to enjoy at home. Our other brands have also responded in their own ways. For example, Pizza Hut was the first national pizza brand to launch contactless carryout and delivery. And Arby’s redirected 100% of the business to drive-thru until a safe reopening plan could be put together and rolled out.

What changes do you think will be permanent?

The heightened concern for health and safety is here to stay. And the off-premise business will continue to grow, including delivery, carryout, and curbside.

Published: March 8th, 2021

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