Robert Branca, Jr., and his family of Dunkin' Donuts multi-unit franchisees offer the kind of advertisement for franchise success that money can't buy.
Case in point: Branca and his close family own 60 Dunkin' Donuts in New England. His extended family, including in-laws, their siblings, spouses, children, and cousins, own more than 700 Dunkin' Donuts in all and dominate the brand in New York and New England.
"We're all multi-unit franchisees," says Branca, who is married to the former Lisa Batista and was the family lawyer for years before he joined the family business. He learned about franchising and Dunkin' Donuts from the best: his father-in-law John Batista, a Dunkin' pioneer who came to the U.S. from the Azores and today owns the first-ever franchised Dunkin' Donuts store.
"He came from Portugal with nothing and worked for his brother in Rhode Island before he went to Worcester in Central Massachusetts to open his own store. He's been in the business for about 40 years," says Branca, who holds a biology degree from Boston College and a law degree from the University of Michigan Law School.
As a young attorney, Branca specialized in commercial transactions and represented a lot of banks. "As bank counsel, I got involved in learning about the borrower's business. I was fascinated and spent a lot of my own time learning about how they got where they are," he recalls. "I learned a lot from clients about a lot of different businesses."
One of those businesses was franchising, and Branca soon represented many of the successful franchisees in the Batista family. "They're strong business people who helped build a strong Dunkin' franchisee base," he says.
When Branca, whose father taught him the value of both entrepreneurship and being an employee, decided to join the Batista family operation, they began to grow more aggressively and also became a real estate development company. "I knew going in that I had my father-in-law, my wife, and her sisters as resources, and I've learned so much from the Dunkin' franchisees who were my former clients," he says.
Branca attributes the success of the family to the way in which they've leaned on each other. "There are huge resources among these franchisees. We have our own independent franchisee association with strong educational components and other assistance. Profitability for us with this concept has been good. If you do it properly, it works," he says.
Branca, who jokes he is Italian by birth and "intensity," went into business with the largely Portuguese family with his eyes wide open. "When people ask me about working with family, I say, 'Know what to expect before you do it.' I'd also remind that regardless of the business, you're going to be with these people forever. Keeping that in perspective is most important so you don't let business disagreements overwhelm the bigger picture."
Since Dunkin' Donuts is largely built out in New England, except for airports and college kiosks, Branca is looking at opportunities to expand west of the Mississippi. He's also developing an original concept "based on European tradition" that he'll grow through franchising. "With our family resources in-house, we pretty much have everybody we need to do that now except a CPA," he says, as he departs for the annual family vacation in the Azores. "There'll probably be 200 DD shops represented on the flight over."
Name: Robert Branca, Jr.
Title: President, General Counsel, Director of Development
Company: JLC Donuts, Inc.; Branded Realty Co., LLC; Batista Management Co
No. of units: 60 Dunkin' Donuts and 5 Baskin-Robbins with direct family partners; with extended family, 700 units.
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