The CEO emphasizes that he’s not a fan of just blaming a franchisee, and recognizes much responsibility comes from the top. To better address the situation from the company side, Famous Toastery recently hired Michael Mabry as president to take the reins on development and training. The industry veteran has previously worked as director of franchise operations for Brinker International, director of franchise development for Boston Pizza, president and COO of MOOYAH Burgers, and chief development officer of Fuzzy’s Taco Shop.
As for support on the ground, the brand is hiring franchise business consultants, or as the chain calls them, “Famous business consultants.” These workers will be tasked with spending time with franchisees and helping them own and understand their P&L statement.
“You want to be obsessively supportive,” Maynard says. “And of course, some people will want more, some people will want less, but it's just that when we first started all this it was good, but it wasn't great. And the enemy of great is good.”
Maynard says the improved infrastructure is part of a continued effort to place franchisees in the forefront, a mindset the company has maintained throughout COVID. Like most franchise-led restaurants, Famous Toastery forgave royalties for several months, and when it was time to pay again, dues restarted in small increments.
In addition, the company, which foresaw oncoming labor shortages and inflation thanks to its involvement in real estate development and finance, advised operators to delay store openings. Maynard says he’d “rather people be successful tomorrow than get that royalty today.”
Signing franchise development agreements comes with a fiduciary responsibility to help operators reach profitability, the CEO says. That’s why he’s never seen the value in buying poor-performing franchises and reselling them.
“We can't just go and buy our way out of bad stores. All this stuff could have been kept quiet if we just said we’ll just go and we'll buy it, sell it, buy it, sell it,” Maynard explains. “But you know what, what am I going to do? I'm going to buy a store that somebody beat up already, has horrible morale, and then what? Give that to somebody else? It's just not the right thing to do.”
Maynard says Famous Toastery has been ready to “hit the button” for almost two years now. After cleaning the system, the first quarter of 2020 was the best in company history, but COVID occurred shortly afterward and the chain focused on pivoting to QR codes, online ordering, and limited menu items.
The chain is now in a place where it can step forward, but the CEO is adamant about not going “through the bad to get to the good.” He will seek like-minded individuals, and on the simplest level, it’s those that recognize restaurants are a human-to-human business.
“You've got to connect with your local people,” Maynard says. “You’ve got to see them in the local supermarket. You're going to be seeing them at the soccer games with your kids. You've got to be community-driven. It's not [quick-service restaurant]. It's not fast casual. It’s casual dining. Breakfast is habitual, and a lot of these folks come in three or four times a week. So you've got to be in, and that's one of our things is that if you want to be out, that's not going to work. And we tell people straight up—this isn't for you. You'd be better off at another brand.”