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The Right Time to Franchise: How to know when and why to make the leap
By Ozzie Garcia

Building a restaurant brand that is both successful in revenue and progressively expanding in size is something that can be done in two years or twenty. A growing business is exciting, but what about the next step? At what point are you ready to introduce franchise opportunities and how do you know it will be well received?

First and foremost, you must have a sturdy foundation built; in addition to finely tuned policies, procedures and operations in place. Different for each individual business, these are key points to focus on before looking to the next level.

Next, think about the perspective of a potential franchisee. In their eyes, the marketing that a franchise company brings to the table is invaluable. If you jump into a franchise brand, what you are saying is: I want the efficiencies in distribution, marketing, purchasing and many others. This can be a cost savings in the long run compared to independent operators.

While the economy is recovering from the recent downturn, there are many people who are looking for new sources of income to provide the "American Dream" for their families. In times like these, many people choose to buy their opportunities and many times its is with a concept that has a proven track record of success.

Successful franchisees embrace the systems already in place by the parent company and trust the experienced team to lead them to operational excellence. Exceptional franchisees are those that work within the system and add value to the brand. Many great ideas have come from the franchise community to make chain restaurants become stronger.

To introduce a franchise program after over 20 years of business leaves not only customers, but also restaurant owners and others in the industry to ask, "Why now?"

Take Sombrero Mexican Food based in San Diego. The original Sombrero opened in the College Area of San Diego back in the 1960's. This is where many of Sombrero's recipes were created, as well as where Founder, Javier Sr., taught the family Mexican food business. In 1984 Javier reintroduced Sombrero to San Diego, this time as the quick service operation that it is today.

Since its flagship location opened over two decades ago, Sombrero Mexican Food has been fine-tuning its operations, menu and management to perfect every aspect of its structure. In doing so, Sombrero has prepared itself to share this proven concept of a successful business structure with qualified partners. The success of 19 locations throughout San Diego County, Corona, El Centro and Yuma, AZ, all opened by the Correa family, is promising evidence that fast-casual Mexican Food is in high demand in specific areas. With that, the Sombrero Franchise Program was created.

After, answering the question of, "Why now?" - we look to the potential candidates to take the Sombrero brand to the next level.

In the discussion of franchisees, the most important quality is a commitment to quality of service and quality of product. In the food industry it is always the operator with "the best" and most consistent execution of the brand they represent, that prospers.

As the owner of your restaurant, you may want to ask yourself the following questions before you decide to build a franchise program: Are you passionate about your current brand? Is this the most exciting thing you do?

You must have passion, if the answer to that is "no" then I would suggest you change lanes to a brand that can deliver that. Generally this is a question of income and bottom line. Great people every day start their own little restaurants and fail because they realize all the minor details that go into its execution. Think about it this way: Would you rather open your own burger place or franchise a McDonald's?

Ozzie Garcia is a distinguished restaurant professional with over 32 years of experience. His first job was at Taco Bell, working his way through college, where he worked for 12 years. From there, La Salsa Fresh Mexican Grill recruited him, where he served for 16 years in numerous positions from company operations to servicing the franchise community. He has opened over 50 restaurant across the United stated and has been involved in all aspects of marketing, purchasing and operations. His last title at La Salsa was Director of Franchise Operations for the brand. Ozzie is now handling all aspects of Sombrero Mexican Food's Franchise Program.

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