Sometimes all that’s needed for success is a location and a strong franchise concept – and the founder’s belief and drive to demonstrate just how successful the new system will be given time and investors’ willingness to consider the present and look to the future. The three Canadian systems profiled here are proof of that.
Achieve Wellness Spa
Fort McMurray, the oil town in northern Alberta, has had a tough time of it in the last several years – a devastating fire and heavy flooding in 2016, and continuing uncertainty about getting its resource to market. But tough time or not, that hasn’t stopped Fort McMurray-based Achieve Wellness Spa from establishing itself as a real opportunity and attracting prestigious investor Arlene Dickinson, well-known from her appearances on CBC TV’s Dragons’ Den.
Achieve Wellness Spa never appeared on Dragons’ Den, says Alethea Austin, its CEO and co-founder, but the system and business model were promising enough to attract Dickinson anyway. Achieve Wellness Spa’s first location opened in Fort McMurray in 2014 and a second location, also in that city, came on stream in 2018.
The first franchise is slated to open in late summer in Edmonton, and in five years, Austin hopes to have 20 Achieve Wellness Spa franchises in Alberta, British Columbia, and perhaps Saskatchewan. “I’m being very selective with the first few (franchisees). We really need the right people,” she notes.
The right people Austin is looking for don’t need a medical or health background, she says, but they must display character and leadership. She says her system has attracted interest from doctors, engineers, nurses, and others, with men making up the larger part of the pool of potential investors.
There are two Achieve Wellness Spa franchise models: one that is large and standalone at 5,000 square feet and situated in shopping centres; the other is 2,000 square feet and is typically found in hotels. The cost of the former is $830,000 and the latter costs $450,000. Training takes one week at head office, with a further two weeks of on-site instruction.
Austin, who has a background in physical therapy, says Achieve Wellness Spa’s client base is about 60 per cent women and 40 per cent men – all falling in the 25 to 65 age range, although the core client is aged 25 to 45. Achieve provides such services as massage therapy and physiotherapy, as well as appointments with physicians and naturopathic doctors. The spa side of Achieve Wellness Spa offers treatments including facials, manicures, and more. About 60 per cent of Achieve Wellness Spa’s business is for insured rehabilitation services.
As for the benefits of investing with Achieve Wellness Spa, Austin says, “We have a unique selling proposition that comes with multiple revenue streams, and the best marketing in Canada.”
A little more than four years ago, Osmow’s had five or six franchises that were operated by family, friends, and the initial franchisees, says Ben Osmow, director of franchising and operations and son of the system’s founder, Sam Osmow.
Osmow, a co-owner in the business, explains there are now 87 franchises in the system, most of them in the Greater Toronto Area and elsewhere in Ontario. Osmow’s is also expanding nationally and is already operational in Alberta, with one operating location and more on the way.
As Osmow’s expands nationally, it’s looking for some very strong multi-unit operators around the country who are able to best represent the brand in a new community.
The cost of a single franchise is between $375,000 and $425,000 Canada-wide, and the company builds new because, as Osmow says, “We want our design to be 100 per cent prevalent.” Osmow’s prefers storefronts – its ideal location is 1,500 square feet – and the brand is also moving into mall food courts as the system continues to expand.
Training at head office, at either a corporate store in Toronto or Mississauga, takes one day in-class, but Osmow says there’s a further 120 hours of in-store instruction with a corporate trainer. Osmow’s doesn’t require franchisees to have a hospitality or business background, although either one is an asset.
What the company looks for first and foremost are franchisees who have their clients in mind. “The main thing for me is customer service,” says Osmow. And he’s also looking for passion about the product and the brand. “We’re looking for go-getters. We’re looking for brand ambassadors,” he continues, because Osmow’s wants to know how much potential franchisees know about the brand and how much they know about their own market. Married couples and those in a younger age bracket make up the bulk of the system’s investors.
As for the benefits of investing in the company, Osmow explains that it’s a family business and franchisees are treated like family. It’s also the largest chain of its kind, a market leader, and a very savvy advertiser. Last year, when the Toronto Raptors won the NBA championship, Osmow’s partnered with TSN and two of the Raptors players to create a few commercials. Osmow’s first ever TV commercials were a huge success and led to one of the two spots winning top ad in the NBA finals for consumer engagement.
As expansion continues, Osmow says the exciting Osmow’s brand is looking forward to building an empire with the help of some incredible franchisees.
St. Louis Bar and Grill
2020 will be a signal year for St. Louis Bar and Grill, with plans to grow to 85 locations nationally and internationally. And, says Shweta Tiwari, franchise sales manager, the company has plans for the U.S. and Korean markets for its casual sports bar menu of wings, ribs, burgers, and more, and its lively ambiance.
St. Louis Bar and Grill began in 1992 with one restaurant in Toronto – still in business – and started franchising in 2002, an expansion driven by founder and now CEO Brent Poulton that has leveraged its owner-operator model to achieve success.
Tiwari says St. Louis Bar and Grill looks for hardworking franchisees who understand the effort needed to run a franchise. “St. Louis appreciates those with a hospitality and business background, and who display an entrepreneurial streak, a belief in the brand and the product, the ability to follow direction, and the all-important people skills.” With all those boxes checked, her franchisees are a “mixed demographic,” she says.
The turnkey cost of a franchise ranges from $750,000 to $950,000. Management training in Toronto takes three to four weeks, and a new location in St. Albert, Alberta will also become a training store. In addition, there is in-store instruction, and St. Louis Bar and Grill assists with finding staff. “We train our franchisees to hire as well,” says Tiwari. St. Louis’s “sweet spot” is a location about 2,000 to 3,000 square feet, she says, and the company retrofits as well as builds new.
Another part of what makes St. Louis Bar and Grill such a good investment are the benefits it provides. “We have a very, very strong team,” says Tiwari. “We’re a growing and a focused brand.”
Her customers would certainly drink to that. As she points out, in draft beer sales per square foot, St. Louis Bar and Grill is number one in Ontario and number two in Canada.
By David Chilton Saggers