As thousands of veterans return from service overseas, many restaurant companies offer special incentives to help them become franchisees.
Veterans are majority owners of 33,864 restaurant businesses and half-owners of 31,805, according to National Restaurant Association analysis of Census Bureau data.
Furthermore 250,000 veterans work in the restaurant industry, National Restaurant Association data shows. Nineteen percent are in management positions, and 14 percent are supervisors. Six percent were active duty within the past year.
“Veterans have gained invaluable skills that make them ideal franchise owners,” says Robert Mazziotti, vice president of U.S. development for Little Caesar Enterprises. “They are dedicated, organized and disciplined team-builders and problem-solvers.”
About 50 veterans have opened nearly 100 Little Caesars businesses. Several have built second or third stores, and others plan to build more, Mazziotti says.
The Little Caesars Veterans Program offers credits and discounts for qualifying veterans to open their own franchises. Honorably discharged service-disabled veterans can receive up to $68,000 toward their first store. Honorably discharged non-service disabled veterans can receive a benefit of up to $20,000.
Little Caesars promotes the program mainly through its website. It also advertises in military magazines and appears in franchise web directories.
Other franchising programs for veterans include:
Cici’s Pizza Patriot Program. The company waives its franchise fee for honorably discharged Gulf War veterans who open their first Cici’s Pizza restaurant. It also reduces the royalty fee by half for the first full year of new operation. The benefits add up to about $58,000. Cici’s also helps create jobs for veterans by requiring program participants to hire honorably discharged veterans as managers.
Tim Hortons. The Ontario-based company would like to increase the number of franchises owned and operated by veterans for its U.S. operations. It actively recruits veterans seeking a second career.
Tim Hortons is among the restaurants that participate in the International Franchise Association’s VetFran program. The program helps veterans find the best franchise fit – one they truly love and value, says John Golaszewksi, director of franchise development for Tim Hortons U.S.
The restaurant’s other marketing efforts include advertising and public relations through veteran publications as well as mainstream publications that feature veterans and their events, such as trade shows.
“We believe that military skills and experiences are transferable to what we do,” Golaszewski says. “Many of our most successful franchisees operate with military precision.”
A military background takes work ethic to a new level, he says, noting that veterans generally are nimble and steadfast in intense environments. A morning rush calls for a cool head to prevail, and veterans often have that composure in their DNA, he says.
“Succeeding as a franchisee is a lot more work than people think it is,” Golaszewksi says. “It isn’t a part-time career. You have to be 100 percent committed to growing your business and being there always.”
Tim Hortons also reaches out through its networks of restaurant owners, whom Golaszewski says are the brand’s best spokespeople.
“The restaurant franchise model is attractive to any budding entrepreneur,” he says. “It’s a way to be your own boss under a well-established brand with the support to help you grow.”
The Melting Pot also works with VetFran to attract veterans for franchise ownership. Through the program, veterans can qualify for a 20 percent discount on the initial franchise fee. The discount is for veterans who will be majority owners in their first Melting Pot location.
Baskin-Robbins, Subway and Bennigan’s also offer franchise incentives for veterans.