Vaughn Hayes, the Virginia area developer for Salad Creations, had an early exposure to franchising - and it was a missed opportunity.
"We're from Grenada," Hayes says, and the family was always about business. "My dad has some real estate, restaurants, liquor stores - he's sort of done it all and that's how we grew up. He had the rights to the lower Caribbean for McDonalds. He never used the rights."
That lost opportunity has haunted Hayes until now.
"This is like the second coming," he laughs. "I'm a junior, so this is to make up for the last time."
His background is sales - he's sold everything from real estate to cell phones to radio time, ending up managing two stores for a phone company that handled sales for the major companies.
"For the past five years, I was looking for a concept that would work for me, and it was all in finding the right product," he says. "I took my time to find something."
He found Salad Creations, which is a niche that he calls "the greatest thing since sliced bread. I'd been looking for my Subway and I wanted to get with a company that was young so I could have a say. I found them two years ago. It's all about timing - that new Subway."
He liked the idea when he saw it online: "When I saw the chef's jacket and hat, I said wow, that was really something. That drew me to it. I saw it was a new, young company. I Googled everybody's name and did my research, and decided this was the next Yahoo, and I needed to jump on this right now."
He had first to convince his brother, Ron, who is his partner.
"I had to fight with my brother to go to Florida the first time," he says (the headquarters of Salad Creations is in Fort Lauderdale). "When he saw the working model, he couldn't believe it, and said â€˜we gotta get on this now,' and he's a skeptical person."
To say that he's enthusiastic about the franchise is an understatement: "This company is a great thing because they grow with you. The concept, I can't say enough about it. It's fresh, it's new. I compared the others and they're nothing like this. They don't give the customer service. You need something that can sustain itself."
He and his brother are planning to open 52 stores over the next six years. "Working with family to me is a dream. This company treats you like family. It's all about who's behind it. This is not their first rodeo."
The two brothers divide their duties: Vaughn sells the franchises and gets them to the store, and Ron does the in-house training and supervision.
He's also clear on what the stores and staff are supposed to do: customer service.
"It's all about the service," he says. "It always comes back ten fold."
Because the concept is new, he says, the salad chef and rest of the staff give the impression of not rushing the customer (Salad Creations calls the customer a guest).
"When we have a guest who comes in for the first time, we have a little spiel - welcome to Salad Creations, let me tell you what we do here, you can create your own salad, etc., to make them feel comfortable. We let them take their time - if they're still overwhelmed, we give them suggestions. We try to make them feel like they're going some place they've never been before and they feel good when they eat it."
It's the kind of experience that you usually don't association with QSRs, Hayes says.
"Even though this is not a sit-down restaurant, we still go around and ask them how their meal is - so you get the feeling of the hospitality. If they tip the salad chef - everybody on line says thank you. People are amazed - they go out of their way to tip because you have eight people thanking them at once."
Despite all the attention, the object is to get someone through the introductions and through the line in about three minutes.
"That's why you're talking all the time," he says, and why the testing process that Salad Creations uses factors this in when sizing up its chef candidates. "The testing process sees if they can do this - chew gum and walk at the same time," Hayes says with a laugh. "It's the greatest thing - the whole psychological profile, for a franchisee and area developer. There's no guarantee in life, but you're looking for a good percentage to have a hit on your hands."
Hayes is planning in the next year to have enough franchisees signed up to open at least four stores. Eventually, he says, "we are hoping to have 15-20 units ourselves and the rest franchisees."
"Potential franchisees like to see that you're running a store and not just selling a product," he says. "You can have people that just sell a concept, who couldn't tell you what happens behind the scenes."
For himself, he says, he's found his new Subway and made up for the lost McDonald's: "I couldn't be happier."
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