How has technology played a role in managing and scaling your franchises? Any specific tools or software you swear by?


How has technology played a role in managing and scaling your franchises? Any specific tools or software you swear by?

With rising restaurant wages and a shortage of employees willing to work at many of the jobs restaurants require, franchisees are increasingly turning to technology in an attempt to reduce labor costs and provide quality customer service. Examples include self-ordering kiosks, online ordering, digital menu boards, centralized data management and analytics via advanced POS systems and back-office business management tools, brand consistency and compliance systems, efficient training and communication using online learning management systems, marketing automation and personalization, inventory management, and operational support. The list goes on. And now AI seems to be infusing and integrating with all of the above and more. Technology: Can’t kill it, can’t live without it.

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Company: Flynn Restaurant Group

Brands: 1,200 Pizza Hut, 460 Applebee’s, 360 Arby’s, 280 Taco Bell, 210 Wendy’s, 125 Panera Bread, 35 Planet Fitness

Years in franchising: 25

We have very, very good information systems. We use Microsoft’s Power BI, which allows us to understand our business with great depth and very clear reporting, so we know in real time what the levers are that are really driving our business, and we know where to focus our efforts. And we can share that information with our operators and help them understand what really matters and what we ought to be focusing on. So that’s the information technology. Then there are all sorts of restaurant technologies that are making us more and more efficient all the time and making the guest experience more frictionless.

I think the main takeaway here is that you need very good information and reporting systems to keep track of everything that’s going on at an enterprise of our scale and as diversified as we are. And we have that. I know what’s going on in our business very well. I probably know more about our business than many small operators know about their businesses, because it hasn’t been a priority for them and they don’t have the systems.


Company: PJD Investments

Brand: Toppers Pizza (La Crosse and Onalaska WI, & Winona, MN)

Years in franchising: 22

In my 28 years at Topper’s [Editor: She was a delivery driver before becoming one of the brand’s first franchisees.], technology has changed and changed again so much, making business today more efficient and easier than 28 years ago. When we first rolled out online ordering, I never believed we would ever see the day that more than 50% of our orders would come in via the Internet; today more than 80% of our orders come through this avenue. Online ordering has changed the way we take care of our customers in good and bad ways. Our stores are more efficient when we do not need to answer the phones. However, I feel like customer service skills decline because of this technology. Before, customer service came naturally to our team members; today we need to train them on how to talk to customers and take care of them.


What is your next big goal?

This is a special all-MVP edition, with all answers coming from 2024’s Most Valuable Performers.

Spend less time working and more time doing hobbies I enjoy.

—Jim Balis is the 2024 Multi-Brand Leadership MVP for achieving brand leadership with multiple brands. He is CEO of Sizzling Platter, which operates 345 Little Caesars, 139 Wingstop, 105 Little Caesars Mexico, 92 Jamba, 30 Dunkin’, 22 Jersey Mike’s, 7 Sizzler, 5 Red Robin, and 2 Cinnabon locations.

$100 million in EBITDA.

—Al Bhakta is the Mega-Growth Leadership MVP for achieving excellence in growth and expansion. He is Founding Principal of CMG Companies, which operates 143 KFC, 101 Sonic Drive-In, 90 Rent-A-Center, 38 Ace Hardware, 35 KFC/Taco Bell, 22 Little Caesars, and 2 Taco Bell locations.

Clean up our restaurant portfolio by eliminating the bottom 10% of assets we own.

—Kadirali “Ali” Chunara is the Noble Cause MVP for his organization’s passionate, unwavering support for those in need. He is President of Chunara Group of Companies, which operates 62 Checkers & Rally’s, 50 Dunkin’, 10 Take 5 Oil Change, 10 TGI Fridays, 9 My Eyelab, 7 Blaze Pizza, 7 Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, 5 Kale Me Crazy, 4 BurgerFi, 3 Nothing Bundt Cakes, 2 Church’s Texas Chicken, and 1 Jimmy John’s.

To continue our growth crusade and expand our portfolio by selecting prime territories for expansion, with immediate plans to grow our unit count by 20 in 2024.

—McLain Hoogland is the Single-Brand Leadership MVP for achieving leadership with a single brand. He is President of Hoogland Restaurant Group, which operates 117 Marco’s Pizza restaurants.

Explore Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia in Chile.

—Mark Ireland is the Innovation Award MVP for bringing a new and unique contribution to his brand. He is Owner/CEO of Building Better Bodies, which operates 5 Anytime Fitness locations.

By the time I turn 60, I would like to own 60 locations for various brands.

—Joseph Omobogie, 57, is the American Dream MVP for achieving remarkable success in his new country. He is President/Owner of Golden Management LLC, which operates 14 Golden Chick, 11 Tropical Smoothie Cafe, 4 Marco’s Pizza, 2 Thai Express, and 1 Captain D’s.

Wherever God may lead us. We consider him a partner in all of our decisions. We are considering lots of opportunities right now.

—Todd Recknagel and Kristi Mailloux are the Influencer for Husband & Wife Team MVPs for demonstrating excellence in franchising as husband and wife. They are Managing Partners of Three20 Capital Group, which operates 155 Office Pride, 95 Massage Envy, and 60 Sola Salon Studios.

There are so many big goals. Open 12 SweatHouz units in Austin in the next six years, open nine Big Blue Swim Schools in Houston over the next six years, and acquire the rest of Sport Clips Haircuts locations in Houston. But to eat an elephant, you just take one bite at a time, so I do not think about big goals. I just want to have a happy team and live by my values, and success seems to follow that.

—Cheston Syma is the Veteran Entrepreneurship MVP for outstanding performance, leadership, and innovation by a military veteran. He is Founder/CEO of Wheelhouse Partners, which operates 52 Sport Clips, 3 Tommy’s Express Car Wash, 1 Semper Laser Hair Removal, and 1 SweatHouz Contrast Therapy.

Becoming the largest PuroClean operator in the franchise network.

—Keegan Trudgen, along with business partner Tim Lohse, is the Spirit of Franchising MVP for extraordinary and enduring performance, growth, and community giving. He is President of PuroClean Disaster Services, which operates 10 PuroClean units.


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