By Jaclyn Irvine
After working in leadership positions in the food and restaurant industry for almost 30 years, Frank Hennessey knows that nothing compares to the passion of franchisees.
“It’s very hard to replicate the passion and engagement that a person who’s invested their own equity in a business has,” says Hennessey, President and Chief Executive Officer of Imvescor Restaurant Group. “I much prefer the franchise model because of that enthusiasm.”
Imvescor operates several franchise concepts, including Bâton Rouge, Commensal, Pizza Delight, Trattoria Di Mikes, and Scores. They appointed Hennessey as President and CEO in September 2014.
Before he joined Imvescor, Hennessey was the President and CEO of Bento Sushi. He previously spent 11 years in different roles at Cara Operations, including President of Harvey’s Restaurants. He also worked at Darden Restaurants for 11 years.
Imvescor presented an interesting challenge to the restaurant industry veteran. He liked that the brands are well established and have strong consumer bases, especially in Quebec and Eastern Canada, but he saw that in recent years there were still some opportunities for the company to become more disciplined when it came to their brand standards and the guest experience at restaurants.
There is no magic recipe for a successful restaurant, but Hennessey believes they all share four key ingredients: quality food, quality service, a value that fits the experience, and an ambiance that makes people want to return. All of his goals for Imvescor’s brands centre on those four pillars.
To help accomplish this, he’s introduced a massive renovation program that will help older branches refresh their facilities with Imvescor’s help. The franchisor will contribute 20 per cent of the capital for renovations, up to a $50,000 cap, to any franchise that participates in the program.
Imvescor is also introducing a financial literacy program this year and has committed to introducing better tools and programs to help franchisees gain a greater understand of restaurant economics.
Hennessey believes franchisees will be responsive to these programs, because he knows how committed they are to their restaurants.
For anyone who hopes to become a franchisee in the future, he says that good communication abilities are the most important skills to have. Especially if you hope to own a full service restaurant that will require you to manage a team of 50 to 100 people who will be of different ages and different backgrounds.
Hennessey also recommends doing thorough research before settling on the right brand. Speak to current franchise owners, but also look at the brand from a guest’s perspective and consider if they’re delivering a positive experience. And, most important, “before committing to anything, ask yourself, ‘how will I make money here?’”
Consider the brand’s market share in your region as well. “If you’re a new franchisee, but have an established name with great brand awareness behind you, your odds of success are infinitely greater,” he says. “That’s a huge competitive advantage.”
Hennessey knows there is a lot of work in front of Imvescor, but is happy with the progress the company has made since he joined. In the last 14 months, the company has seen a return to positive restaurant sales and positive system sales across all of their brands.
Adapted from the May/June issue of FranchiseCanada. Check out the May/June 2016 issue of FranchiseCanada, on newsstands now, or you can order your subscription by calling 1-800-665-4232 ext. 224.