by Scott Slaymaker – Chairman Wingers Restaurant & Alehouse
My father opened the first Sizzler franchise in Anchorage, Alaska in the ’70s, and ended up successfully operating nearly 10 Sizzlers throughout Alaska and Wyoming. I entered the restaurant business nearly 45 years ago as part of that family endeavor. During this time, I worked as an assistant manager and multi-unit manager for Sizzlers, and my brother Eric handled the marketing.
This was when I got my first taste of being a franchisee and began to understand how the franchisor and franchisee relationships works. From there, my company went on to franchise other restaurant brands and Eric founded Wingers in 1993. Now, I work with my brother as Chairman for Wingers USA, working with existing and prospective franchisees.
Wingers is one of very few franchisors that brings the decades of experience that we do from both sides of the aisle as a franchisee and franchisor. We’re able to tap into our past experiences to best support our franchisees and ultimately it helps make them more successful.
Here are three reasons why franchisees benefit from our previous operating experience:
We understand what operators are going through.
When you’ve been in someone else’s shoes before, it makes you more understanding about their challenges. We know what it’s like to build a business and still work within the franchisor’s brand guardrails. We remember how we felt as franchisees when certain problems arose in the past, so we do everything we can as a franchisor to avoid repeating any perceived mistakes. We are also sensitive and empathetic to franchisees when they do face challenges. In the end, franchising is all about playing well with the team. We all have the same end game – the brand’s success, which drives value for all of us. So, we work as a team to find solutions that will improve our business.
The franchisee and franchisor relationship is a two-way street.
We’ve seen that the most positive franchisee and franchisor relationships are collaborative. Everyone has different perspectives. Take the Beach Ball Theory for example: if you hold up a beach ball and ask someone else to describe it, they’ll see different attributes. Everybody looks at a situation through a different lens, so we try to capitalize on that contrasting perspective. We listen and value our franchisees’ opinions. We get all of our operators involved and make sure their views are heard. As a franchisor, we’re charged with the responsibility of stewardship of the brand. We believe the best way to do that is by having open communication. All Wingers franchisees have access to us, and we encourage them to share their insights. We also ask that they hold us accountable, just as we strive to hold our team members accountable.
Franchisees can have game changing ideas.
We know franchisees have great ideas – we’ve had them before too! At Wingers, we leverage our talent in the system because franchisees bring home-run ideas to the plate that we may have not considered. Because we have an inviting culture that fosters open communication, franchisees have approached us with some exciting ideas that we’ve implemented over the years. When franchisees ask to launch initiatives in their markets, we’ll support them as long as it makes sense for our brand.
A great example was in 2016 when we worked closely with our Boise-area franchisee as we launched the first Wingers Restaurant & Alehouse prototype test at the Nampa, Idaho Wingers location. Our franchisee’s input and collaboration on this project has resulted in our most successful reimaging in our brand’s history. When the Nampa store reopened, it saw an almost 60% sales increase. We do not want to shut off the flow of great ideas that can make us even better as a brand.
Being franchise veterans has given us valuable knowledge that makes us a stronger franchise brand. Our job is to create opportunities for our franchise partners to be successful. We have gathered many tricks along our journey. Everything we’ve learned in the past now plays an important role in optimizing our winning franchise formula!
To learn more about Wingers’ franchising, visit wingersfranchising.com.