Bill Chemero is Executive Vice President of Wayback Burgers, the family restaurant chain which is expanding fast domestically and overseas
Tell me something of your background
I started working in franchising 35 years ago. Over the course of my career, I’ve done it all — acting as a franchisee, working as part of the team for a franchisor, and now ultimately, I’m a franchisor in my own right. It’s a wonderful industry, and I’m glad to be a part of it.
What was your thinking behind Wayback Burgers?
My partner, John Eucalitto, and I knew we wanted to build out a franchise. The first step was to find and purchase a business with a solid foundation. We ultimately settled on Jake’s Hamburgers out of Newark, Delaware. We were impressed by the quality of food they served and knew it would be a sound, long-term investment. The beef is fresh, never frozen, and the food is made to order — just what we were looking for. We re-branded the restaurant as Wayback Burgers and went from there. The timing for our franchising endeavor was perfect. In 2008, the fast-casual market was in the early stages of what would be tremendous growth.
How did you finance your first restaurant?
Buying Jake’s Hamburgers was a partnership agreement, so there was no initial out-of-pocket cost; it was more a merging of talent. My partner and I brought the franchise knowledge into the arrangement, but we needed someone with experience in the restaurant industry. Through this agreement, we combined our business background with their food expertise, and Wayback Burgers was born.
Why did you decide to franchise your outlets?
The objective was always to become a franchisor. I knew the franchise industry very well, and it played to my skill set. I have a comprehensive knowledge of franchise development, while my partner John has a strong background in franchise operations and marketing. Together we have been able to build out franchises around the world while still maintaining a high level of service and satisfaction for both our customers and franchisees.
When did you start franchising and how successful has it been?
I initially bought into the brand in 2008 when we purchased Jake’s Hamburgers. We rolled out our first Wayback Burgers franchise model in 2009. We always knew we wanted to franchise, so we jumped right into it. 2009 was a great time to be in franchising, despite the state of the economy. Our business saw the strongest growth in its history between 2009 – 2012 because many people had been laid off from their corporate jobs and were ready to take control of their future through franchising.
Currently, there are more than 150 Wayback Burgers locations open across the country, with 500 more stores in development around the world. We have sold master franchise agreements in 37 countries, and there are six international outlets open now. We are thrilled to see how our brand has continued to grow over time.
Tell me about your involvement in franchising beyond Wayback Burgers?
I believe in being active in franchising beyond just Wayback Burgers. I earned my CFE credentials and will continue to stay educated about this ever-changing industry. I also jump at opportunities to speak at conferences, conventions and events regarding franchise development; I stay involved in any way that I can. Conventions and events are a great opportunity to meet like-minded professionals who share my passion for franchising.
How do you help or advise others in the business?
I love to connect with aspiring franchisees and franchisors. At conventions and trade shows, I am always ready to offer some insight or advice to aspiring businessmen and women. I always advise new entrepreneurs to keep their end goal in mind. Before you begin your journey, decide on where you want to end up. From there, you can devise a road map of smaller, attainable goals to help you on your way. But, most importantly, enjoy the journey!
Wayback Burgers has not been in a hurry to grow. Instead, we focus on building out little by little, while maintaining our core values. Through this mentality, we have seen tremendous success. We have very little franchisee turnover, and our customer satisfaction is consistently high. It is very important to me as a franchisor that both our franchisees and customers are happy.
What are the three most important things franchisors must get right if they are to franchise successfully?
First, you must select your franchisees very carefully! It is important to view each franchise location as a long-term investment, rather than just a quick sale. You will be working with this franchisee for a long time to come, and they will be representing your brand to the public. By only investing in top-notch franchisees, you will avoid a lot of headaches down the road. Second, I would say you must support your franchisees in every way possible.
Give them the tools they need to succeed, provide ample training and build relationships. Your franchisees should be able to rely on you for help as they develop their business. Third, keep your eye on your end goal, but enjoy the journey! Succeeding in business is obviously desirable, but if you have tunnel vision you will miss out on all the learning moments and personal connections to be had along the way.
If you had to start over, what would you change next time around?
If I had to start over, there’s really nothing I would change. We carefully laid out our plan and knew where we wanted to go. We didn’t have a strict timeline, and so far, everything has gone perfectly! Obviously, we want to be bigger, but we are very happy with our current growth. We’ve hit each goal along the way so far and feel great about our brand!
What does the coming year hold for you?
We are growing and expanding and expect to see more of that. We also are looking to expand our franchisee support systems and continue to grow our relationships with franchisees and customers alike. One of our biggest marketing initiatives this year is to launch a mobile ordering and loyalty app. We expect to roll that out in early summer. Also, we are very close to signing a partnership agreement with a national charitable organization through which we can have a real impact.
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