Episode #33


Firehouse Subs & Chicken Salad Chick QSR Franchisee Hannah Lukowski

Are you interested in buying into a quick-service restaurant (QSR) franchise but unsure if it’s the right fit for you? My guest, Hannah Lukowski, is a multi-unit franchisee with Firehouse Subs as well as Chicken Salad Chick. She’s here to share why she chose the QSR industry and what the day-to-day looks like. This is an episode you don’t want to miss!

Hannah earned a bachelor's degree in Public Relations, but quickly realized it wasn’t the right field for her. She dove into sales and after 5 years in the private jet industry was ready for a change. She wanted to be a business owner and loved the structure a franchise offered her. Her first purchase was a Firehouse Subs location in St. Louis—and she hasn’t looked back.

Outline of This Episode

  • [0:35] Quick Service Restaurants
  • [3:05] Hannah’s transition into franchising
  • [4:25] Why did Hannah choose the food industry?
  • [6:50] Why Hannah prefers hiring from within
  • [10:20] Getting started with Chicken Salad Chick
  • [12:40] Letter of Intent and lease agreements
  • [15:30] Smaller vs. larger franchises
  • [18:20] How to get your voice heard
  • [20:10] Cultivate relationships inside the franchise
  • [23:40] Managing businesses in different states
  • [29:55] How to do things the right way

The upsides of the QSR industry

I don’t talk about the QSR industry often, so was happy to have Hannah on the show. When she decided to get into the world of franchising, she wanted to start with something that would be an easy transition from her current job. Most restaurants have good hours (closed by 9 pm) and would allow her to spend time with her family.

The food industry seemed pretty straightforward, was within the price range she was looking for, and had availability in her market. She was only 28 when she opened her first location, and she spent the first year working as the GM in the store. It allowed her to learn the ins and outs of the restaurant and the industry simultaneously.

Hiring from within motivates your team

Hannah has been very transparent with her team from day one—if they work hard, there will always be an opportunity for advancement. She believes hiring from within motivates employees because they know that it doesn’t just have to be an “hourly job”. It can also help eliminate constant turnover because they can make this job a career.

Hannah’s very first interview as a franchisee was done at a Panera because she didn’t have an open location yet. The hire was a 20-year-old girl—Shelby—who was looking for something better. Now, she is Hannah’s Director of Operations for both brands that she owns and Hannah’s biggest success story. She desires her team to succeed, and people like Shelby are critical to the growth of your business.

To find out how she got into Chicken Salad Chick and what that process looked like, be sure to listen!

How your voice is heard in small franchises vs. large franchises

Hannah gave an example of how change goes into effect in a smaller organization (Chicken Salad Chick). With every single meal, each customer gets a small cookie. If the meal is dine-in, team members had to unwrap this pre-packaged cookie to put on a tray. It was a complete waste of their time.

Most people didn’t even eat the cookie with their meal, but wrapped it in a napkin and took it with them for later.

When Hannah saw the labor being wasted unwrapping these cookies, she suggested the franchise change the practice and leave the cookies wrapped. Two short weeks later, the recommended change was instituted. If she had made the recommendation to Firehouse Subs, a change like that would take months. They would have to do case studies, and a change would likely never happen.

A smaller franchise system may give you more opportunities for your voice to be heard, but are their downsides? Listen to find out!

The pros and cons of managing your franchises remotely

Hannah recently moved from St. Louis to Phoenix and has now begun transitioning to working and managing her franchises remotely. Before the move, she was within half an hour of all of her businesses. She would often grab her laptop and find herself working in some part of the restaurant throughout a day. She built a rapport with her team, but they also learned to depend on her.

She’s realizing that she can be a more effective owner when she is not enmeshed in the everyday workings of the business. She can do weekly meetings with her GM where they go over goals and marketing. It can be intimidating, and comes with a learning curve but is completely doable. It’s a process that I’ve learned as well.

To hear more about Hannah’s journey as a franchisee in the QSR world, listen to the whole episode!

Resources & People Mentioned

Connect with Hannah Lukowski

Connect With Erik

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