The Taste of Greatness
“Some must be great… and great offices will have great talents,” William Cowper once noted in a poem that went on to suggest all are endowed with certain gifts that collectively help them to be lifted-up before falling into the respective niche they’re ordained to fill. He said those gifts include virtue, understanding and taste. Those very qualities are at the heart of a company who has certainly risen above competition to achieve greatness in their niche. But for Global Franchise Group, business virtues and understanding are augmented by tremendous talent in fulfilling demand for taste.
Global Franchise Group, LLC (GFG) is a strategic brand management company specializing in the retail franchising of some of the most revered, if not instantly recognizable, concepts in the quick service, restaurant franchising industry. For all whose tongues have been tantalized by treats from Great American Cookies®, Marble Slab Creamery®, MaggieMoo’s Ice Cream and Treatery®, or that of Pretzelmaker®, just know that GFG is the parent director and diligent deliverer of that which consumers simply consider as delicious. The company’s approach to product offerings, much like their approach to business, involves a time-tested recipe that involves inspiring people, thrilling customers, and enriching investors.
Of course, as GFG President & CEO Chris Dull explains, where there is inspired staff and thrilled customers, so too are there happy investors.
Global Franchise Group is an affiliate of Levine Leichtman Capital Partners, an independent investment firm with $5-billion of capital under management and substantial franchise management experience.
Chris Dull started his career in franchise management with Marble Slab Creamery nearly 17 years ago. He was introduced to the group at large when they were purchased by brand management company NexCen Brands, Inc.
“When NexCen Brands were acquiring all of the QSR concepts, they liked the acceleration around Marble Slab Creamery® and the way we had grown the business,” Dull recalls. “That was the model they wanted to employ for all of the other brands they acquired.” In 2010, NexCen sold its franchise businesses to Global Franchise Group and Dull took on his new position.
During his tenure with NexCen, Dull gained an acute perspective on franchise operations and management by working both at the corporate level as well as in-store, quickly rising to the position of Executive Vice-President.
“When I started with Marble Slab Creamery, the focus was on one brand and growing that one brand. I was also involved in making sure that the brands we were buying and the franchise models we were buying were those that could grow,” he says. “I definitely got to do a lot in the last 17 years, particularly over the last seven.”
Like their name would suggest, Global Franchise Group, LLC is an international company, a fact that sets them apart in the marketplace. They have a “global footprint,” and represent what people love about American snack brands, Dull says.
The group is also unique because of the many facets of their operation, which is not limited to just franchising. They own a manufacturing facility, for example, that produces and supplies the raw cookie dough product and pretzel flour used by their Great American Cookies® and Pretzelmaker® franchises respectively. They also operate several company-owned stores, which “are definitely a part of our future development,” Dull says. “It gives our business some street credibility, and it gives us an opportunity to research and develop new products and try new methods of operating without putting our franchisees in harm’s way.”
“I don’t think there’s anyone out there that does what we do as well as what we do in as many places as we do,” he adds.
What also makes Global Franchise Group stand out among their competitors is the wide-array of options they present franchisees, customers and investors, including “different formats, different models and different investment levels,” Dull says. “We can work with a first-time potential franchisee getting into the franchising business that is looking for a relatively simple operation, and we also have opportunities for a very well-established multi-unit franchisee to take one of our brands, or many of our brands, and develop them under their established company.”
Another thing that sets Global Franchise Group apart is the quality of their brands, which is “second to none.” One of those products is considered a “bit unique” in the mall environment – their signature Cookie Cakes offered by Great American Cookies, which is the largest cookie retailer in the United States, according to Dull. “The Cookie Cake and Great American Cookies accounts for roughly 30 percent of GFG’s sales,” he says. “That cake is a product that customers come to the store to buy.”
Global Franchise Group, LLC operates in 31 countries and has close to 1,100 franchises. They’ve been very successful working with master franchisees in expanding their brands worldwide. “Although we have a good presence in the United States, we do grow at a pretty aggressive clip outside the United States. We really are a global business.”
An ideal franchisee for the GFG is someone “who has mastery of their local business environment,” and has knowledge of food and the experience of what it takes to operate a food-concept brand, Dull says. “If we can find those two things, you like them to be well-capitalized and you like to see they have the ability to grow the business with some velocity, not just open a store.”
“If they have some actual store operations history, that’s also very important,” he adds. “When we go out and search for prospects, we’re looking for someone who is well-healed, who has experience and has previously proven they can operate a business successfully.”
Another attribute heavily valued in GFG franchisees is community involvement. “The simple reason for that is word-of-mouth,” Dull says. “We like to see folks who have shown they have a real connection to their community, and that’s what I would categorize as our “mom and pop” operators – someone who is looking to create a career through franchising.”
When a franchisee buys into GFG, “they get their money’s worth, and then some,” says Dull. He credits that to their focus on unit-level economics. Everything they undertake is about driving a greater unit-level economic for each individual franchise. “You go out top line and you reduce costs of goods. When you can do those two things, you end up with a better economic story and more profitable stores,” he explains. “We’re constantly working with our R&D staff to identify the right products for our stores.”
GFG’s commitment to providing franchisees with the best possible value for their investment is an excellent indicator of the corporate culture at GFC – where their mission is to champion franchise brands and the people who build them. “The people who build them are our franchisees and our customers,” Dull says. “Everything we do is about unit-level economics, creating a profitable environment for our franchisees and delivering the very-best products to our customers. It’s what we at GFG do best.”
“At the end of the day, we’re just real people. We’re a pretty friendly group to work with and I think that our franchisees would tell you that we work really hard to make sure their businesses are successful,” he adds.
At Global Franchise Group, LLC, technology plays an important role in how they deliver their products. The online functionality of their business is something that has really “shown some movement” for their franchisees. For example, many of their products have been made available to order online, including their cookie cakes, ice cream cakes and ice cream cupcakes. “Playing a bigger role in the online world is great,” Dull says. “We’ve really focused on developing our online capabilities. We’ve actually gotten to a point where we can offer delivery, so you can go online and order it and we will bring it to you.”
They’re also working on giving their customers the ability to order product online using their smartphones and other mobile devices. Sometime in 2013, the Pretzelmaker® brand will release a new app for customers to order on the go. “When the customer gets to the mall, they can actually order a custom pretzel with their app and go to the store and pick it up,” he says. “When you’re popping up on someone’s handheld device, then that really gets their attention.”
Looking ahead to the longer term, GFG is well-positioned for the acquisition of additional brands to add to their extensive portfolio, and will continue to expand their established brands globally in the food market. “If we see alike-concepts that we think synergistically works well with our company, we’re definitely out there and available to explore those opportunities,” he says. “While we continue to grow outside the U.S., we feel that there is still a lot of opportunity here. The sky is the limit.”