Rick Villalpando, Senior Vice President Business Development at RAMMP Hospitality Brands, sees himself not just as a seller of franchises, but as a small businessman, a tour guide and an illuminator. Over the course of his career, Rick has been integral to the success of some of the largest casual dining brands in Canada and has built a reputation in the restaurant industry as the ‘Franchise Whisperer’
Originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Rick soon learned upon arriving in Canada that he had an aptitude for sales, and when a friend suggested they start a franchise business together, he was hooked.
“We built a small optical franchise in Vancouver with 13 outlets, Image Optical,” says Rick. “We did everything; soup to nuts. I was even a licensed optician by the end. I’ve always been involved in retail and that was my first exposure to franchising. We built it from the ground up.”
Upon selling the rights to Image Optical, Rick again joined his business partner in his newest venture, bringing Quiznos Classic Subs to the Canadian market. “We had acquired the rights to bring Quiznos to Canada, and it was cool because they already had a system to build off of,” he says. ”I sold the first Quiznos in Canada at West Broadway and Heather in Vancouver, and that’s what really got me started in the restaurant industry.”
After gaining further experience holding senior positions with a number major Canadian restaurant brands, such as Boston Pizza, White Spot and East Side Mario’s, where he was Vice President of National Development, Rick found further success when he joined RAMMP Hospitality Brands Inc. in 2010.
“When I walked in the door at RAMMP, it was like I’d worked here all my life.” For Rick, a high level of trust and appreciation for the franchise business model is integral, and he wants to establish that same trust with his franchisees. He wants them to see what he sees – what is unique and different about the business and why is it a good investment.
“As a Franchise developer, I look at it from a business perspective; the better your product, the more appeal it has,” says Rick. “The product in franchising is the business and the business model. We have a great business here. It has a great track record, and all sorts of support. I don’t sell a product as much as I am saying, ‘I have this great business idea for you, let me show you the things that get me excited about the business.’”
Since he started with RAMMP in 2010, Rick has sold over 55 full service restaurant franchises, which is amazing for a start-up company. “I have a high level of trust and appreciation for this business model and I’m proud of the success of it,” says Rick. “MR MIKES is a great brand, so I don’t have to take it on faith that it works.”
So what’s his secret? “Always follow up. One of my first rules is to listen – listen a lot and respond accordingly. It’s vital that franchisees trust the holding company and know they can rely on it. This is something I’m a really firm believer in,” he says. It’s this attitude and approach to his job that has earned Rick the moniker of ‘Franchise Whisperer.’
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