After graduating from Guelph–Humber University, where she majored in marketing, Stephanie Tieu partnered with her uncle to open a Thai restaurant in Aurora, Ontario. “This created an interest in catering,” she says. As a catering coordinator and co-owner of the restaurant, her interest in the food service industry continued to grow. Tieu knew she wanted to take her investment in the restaurant business further, and like many millennials, the idea of making her own way and setting the pace for her own success was extremely appealing.
Tieu ultimately chose the Pumpernickel’s franchise because of the company’s commitment to good food, and now operates her location in Toronto, Ontario.
“We at Pumpernickel’s pride ourselves on our fresh, simple, and delicious food. From the salad dressing to the roast beef, it is all done on premises. It is nice to work in a company that still takes pride in the quality of food,” Tieu says. Pumpernickel’s offers a proudly Canadian fast-casual dine-in and catering experience. “We make food with equal parts love and obsession,” the franchise’s website states, and Tieu could not agree more. She adds how Pumpernickel’s is a dynamic franchise with an energy and philosophy that speaks to the millennial mindset and values.
“Pumpernickel’s takes pride in the food we serve. As people become more health conscious, they are coming to us for fresh and clean eating,” explains Tieu. “No matter which Pumpernickel’s location diners visit, the food and service they receive is identical,” she adds, making the franchise a reliable and consistent choice for people who want to feel good about what they’re putting in their bodies to fuel their day.
Fast-casual for a fast-paced world
With Pumpernickel’s also offering catering service, customers who want to bring fresh, healthy food to their meetings and events can look to a company they are already familiar with and trust. People know they’re getting the same high quality food and customer satisfaction through the company’s catering service as they are when they dine in at a Pumpernickel’s location. Tieu’s experience with catering is a definite asset in managing this combination of services offered. Most millennials, like Tieu, have only known a fast-paced world— something that helps her and other young franchisees adapt to whatever comes their way.
As well, being a savvy social media user is perhaps an undervalued asset that is second nature to many millennials. Social media helps Tieu make sure her location stays on the cutting-edge of the competitive and ever-growing fast-casual restaurant industry.
“Being able to understand the web and to be able to utilize the internet to our advantage is key. We can see what trends are going on and decide what steps we want to take to ensure we stay current,” Tieu notes. An active social media presence also helps a franchise stay up to date on customer concerns and react quickly to address them.
A hands-on franchisor–franchisee relationship is extremely important in ensuring locations stay current in the competitive food-service industry. “Our business is a turnkey operation,” Tieu says, which means that each Pumpernickel’s franchise is a fully formed business before the franchisee takes over. “The franchisor is very hands-on,” she continues. “There is ongoing support from our head office and our head chef. When there’s a question, they are always there to assist.”
“There is also the benefit of having exclusive rights with suppliers. You don’t need prior experience in catering to run Pumpernickel’s,” Tieu explains, though her formative experience with catering has certainly served her well. “The franchise will equip you with the staff and tools to make sure you succeed,” she adds.
Being a franchise owner often requires an individual to be a “jack of all trades” and to do plenty of on-the-spot problem solving—part of what makes the job of a franchisee challenging but also extremely rewarding. “When I was starting out, sometimes a customer would have questions about the food we offered and I would have to take some time looking through the recipe book,” Tieu says. “To overcome this as a new franchisee, I spent the majority of my time in the kitchen, learning by watching and assisting with the food process. There is no better way to learn than by being hands-on. Even though I may know the ins and outs of this business, I am still newer to the field. I am constantly learning,” she adds.
As with any new endeavour, there will of course be growing pains, but the support of the dedicated Pumpernickel’s franchise team has consistently seen Tieu’s operation through them all. “As a younger owner, I found it very difficult to earn the respect of the older employees,” Tieu admits. “After proving myself to them through hard work, they turned around and I started to receive the respect I deserved,” she shares. Knowing that she had the backing of a successful franchisor who believed in her was also invaluable as a new franchisee.
The future looks and tastes fresh
“My business is fairly new, and I will be able to watch it grow in the coming years,” Tieu shares excitedly. “As a millennial, it is easier for me to adapt to a changing world. As our brand is growing bigger and faster, changes are happening more frequently and more dramatically. I am able to adapt to them and implement changes with no issue or hassle,” she continues.
Tieu’s experience as a young business owner has been overwhelmingly positive. A definite benefit of running a business that is part of a franchise system is that there is a corporate structure in place to ensure each location has what it needs to succeed. “The tools are given to you and you should use them,” she advises. Pumpernickel’s has a solid support system in place for its franchisees, and owners knowing they can count on that is key to the business success of each location and of the franchise as a whole.
“There will be changes that the franchisor will enforce that you may not think are beneficial,” she notes, “but do not doubt your franchisor—they are there to help you succeed.” And Tieu’s future with Pumpernickel’s certainly looks bright. “As you succeed, they succeed too. Before you start your investment. Be sure you know what you are getting into. If you don’t believe in the business, you won’t succeed,” she shares.
“I am absolutely in love with my job. Never in a million years would I have guessed that I would be part of a business like this,” Tieu beams. “When I tell people I wake up at 5 a.m. for this job, they feel bad for me, but I honestly cannot wait to get to work to see my staff and start our day. I enjoy making and serving food that I am proud of, from scratch.”
By Jessica Burgess