How did you get into the industry?
The Dog House Franchising is owned by four partners (Mike Martin, Amish Desai, Shetal Desai, and Wesley Shepherd). Mike Martin worked in the pharmaceutical industry in Durham, NC for 28 years and frequently ate at and admired The Dog House restaurants in Durham. After leaving the pharmaceutical industry Mike purchased the five Dog House restaurants in 2015 with the goal of franchising the business. In 2017 Mike brought on Amish and Shetal Desai as business partners. Amish has 15 years ownership experience as a Firehouse Subs franchisee. Shetal Desai had worked for The Dog House restaurants in various capacities for 15 years. In 2018, Wes shepherd joined the team as a franchisee and then as part of the franchise team in 2019. Wes grew up in Durham, NC and has over 25 years of experience as a multi-unit Jersey Mikes franchisee as well as several other food concepts throughout the years.
What’s New in the Business or in the Franchise Model?
The Dog House restaurants have maintained their traditional “dog-themed” restaurant design and menu items for nearly half a century. Our niche is a simple menu, small building footprint and ease of operation. In 2016 we incorporated POS computers into the stores to track usage of all items and allow easy menu item and pricing modifications. Additionally we partnered with Star foods in Burlington, NC to custom make our signature recipes for chili, slaw, stew and BBQ. In 2018 we contracted with Gordon Foods to deliver all food and paper directly to the stores utilizing their simple online order guide and inventory management systems thus further streamlining our operating model.
Where do you See Opportunities or Challenges for the Franchise/Business Moving Forward?
One of our strengths is the fact that we can operate out of a small footprint. Our buildings range in size from 350 to 700 square feet making them easy to place in locations that would be challenging for larger concepts. Our business can be easily run with two to three employees. In addition we are expanding our partnership with third party delivery services which should drive sales without the need for additional crew members. Our main challenge is to “get the word” out to potential business owners who are looking for an opportunity that comes with a relatively low investment and is easy to learn.
What is your Goal for the Business Moving Forward?
Our goal is managed growth. Rather than launching a national ad campaign that may stretch our ability to properly support our franchisees we are focusing on primarily NC, SC and VA in order to ensure we can assist our new franchisees at every level. As we grow the system we will bring on incremental staff to help grow the system. Additionally, we will target conversion of several of the company owned locations here in Durham to franchises. This will allow us to spend more time on the franchise system as a whole.
Talk to us About Training and Support, How Do You Deliver?
Our training program consists of both class room and on-site training in one of our company stores and covers every aspect of establishing, managing and operating the business. The instructional material includes operating manuals, standardized forms and on-the-job demonstration and practice. This process lasts approximately two weeks and may be attended by up to three people. Upon opening we provide five days of onsite opening and training support and then ongoing advice and consulting assistance. As a small but growing organization we are here to provide the support necessary to give every franchisee the best opportunity to thrive.
Your most difficult moment at the Franchise Business?
Finding the right people in the right location is a significant challenge we face. There are a lot of potential franchisees who “love our product” or think the concept is “cute” however we recognize that admiration is only the first step towards becoming a successful franchisee. We have talked to people from states as far away as New Youk, Texas, Michigan and Florida who know our brand and think the concept will be a hit in their home town. However, we want to stick to our regional growth plan in order to ensure we can provide the highest level of support for our franchisees.
How is your Franchise Model Structured?
A. Training and Support Model? We have a simple operating model which makes training and support a fairly straight-forward process. Our standard in-house classroom and store level training program is designed to provide franchisees with a solid foundation to start the ownership process with confidence. The continuing support we provide (whether in person, by phone or by remote access to their point of sale system) is hands on and detail oriented.
B. What is the Fee Structure?
Our fee structure consists of an initial $15,000 franchise fee and 6% royalty paid weekly on sales. An additional 1% marketing fee is collected for use on local marketing support to help drive sales for the franchises.
C. Territory Definition?
Our current growth plans include most of North Carolina as well as parts of South Carolina and Virginia. The franchisee territory will have a population of approximately 50,000 to 100,000 people with a minimum 3-mile radius from the address of the franchised business.
D. Day in the life of a Franchisee?
This would depend on how the franchisee wants to structure their business. We do not require our franchisees to be working owners however the franchisee takes responsibility for the overall operational efficiency of their store. If a franchisee works in the store as the manager, they would typically start the day taking inventory on key items, set up the cash register and then with the help of their crew members serve customers while ensuring high level quality and customer service. They would be responsible for ordering food and paper once a week and scheduling employees. In addition to these managerduties the franchisee is responsible for receiving invoices from vendors, paying payroll and all vendor, rent and utility bills and monitoring cost of goods and overall store performance.
What does Your Franchisee Do in the Business Every Day?
See the answer above.
Who is the Ideal Franchise Candidate?
Our Ideal Candidate is someone who has restaurant or business experience, is detail oriented and has a strong sense of pride in taking ownership of The Dog House restaurant. We are looking for franchisees who are excited to grow with the company.
Success Stories and Failures with Franchisees?
At this time we have only one franchise location in Greenville NC. This store was opened in late 2018 by WesShepherd, who from the onset expressed interest in taking on a larger role with Dog House franchising. He became part owner of Dog House Franchising in 2019. His leadership and vision in designing and equipping the store resulted in our first dine-in Dog House restaurant. One important learning from this venture has been the importance of providing customers with quick and easy access to ordering our products. His store is currently negotiating plans to move to a potentially exciting new location just down the road in Kinston NC that will be walk-up and drive through service only.
What Goals Do you Have for the Franchise Model in the Future?
Ideally we would like to establish three new franchise locations within our targeted development area in the next twelve months. This represents a manageable number of units to oversee in this time frame and would give us a foot hold in several different cities to help increase the visibility of the brand. Long term our goal is to become an established brand in most of the Carolinas and Virginia.
For more information on the Dog House Franchise, visit the franchise site: http://thedoghousefranchise.com/