2024 Multi-Unit Franchising Conference Industry pros find common cause at MUFC
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2024 Multi-Unit Franchising Conference Industry pros find common cause at MUFC

2024 Multi-Unit Franchising Conference Industry pros find common cause at MUFC

The Multi-Unit Franchising Conference (MUFC) has become the conference for franchisees, franchisors, and suppliers to gather, talk shop, do business, and have some fun.

“This conference is a place to meet people, be interactive, and exchange phone numbers,” said MUFC Chair Jesse Keyser as he officially welcomed attendees to Caesars Forum in Las Vegas. “This conference gives you a gear that no other conference can.”

This year, a record 2,300 attendees met in Las Vegas for franchising’s signature event from March 19-22. There were more than 800 franchisees representing 250 brands, operating more than 17,000 units, and generating more than $15 billion in systemwide revenue. More than 380 exhibitors and sponsors were on hand to support the conference and meet with franchisees during exhibit hall hours.

Numerous education sessions covered important industry topics, such as growth, planning, leadership, and logistics, and peer-to-peer networking opportunities were around every corner. This year’s Sponsor Networking Area filled two large meeting areas and set a new record for the number of exhibitors.

Keynotes

On the first full day of the conference, Jim Collins, author of , one of the best-selling business books of all time, commanded everyone’s attention during his keynote address about having “disciplined people, a disciplined process, and disciplined action” as a formula for success.  

“Discipline is in essence consistency of action,” Collins said. He shared insights into how to build an enduring organization, including how important it is to get the right team “on the bus.” He also advised leaders to stay humble and operate from the “Stockdale Paradox,” which means moving forward with unwavering faith while always acknowledging the facts on the ground

“It’s not about making a company that is built to last,” he said. “It’s about making a company that is truly worthy of lasting.”

Jeff Henderson, aka “Chef Jeff,” was on hand for day two to tell his remarkable story of redemption that found him going from the streets to the kitchen. As a child, he lacked the advantages that others had, but he also learned to adapt. “I was born partially blind in my right eye,” he said. “But I was able to see things that people around me never saw.” 

While serving jail time on drug charges, he fell in love with food service and also learned about business from white-collar inmates. He left prison with a new perspective and a drive to succeed as a chef. Henderson became the star of television’s “Flip My Food with Chef Jeff” and author of If You Can See It, You Can Be It.

“It’s a country of second chances,” he said and asked his audience to consider offering opportunities to people from disadvantaged backgrounds. “Do managers and leaders reflect the demographics of the community?” he said. “Do they reflect the customer base of that store?”

Warm-up

Every MUFC kicks off with a charity scramble-style golf tournament at the Arroyo Golf Club at Red Rock. That evening was set aside for a franchisee-only get-together at Carmine’s Italian Restaurant in The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace. This casual event is always a great opportunity for franchisees to see old friends and make new ones.

Day 1

A continental breakfast greeted attendees as they prepared for their first full day at the event. 

Franchise Update Media’s co-founder and CEO Therese Thilgen welcomed attendees and revealed the record number of attendees and exhibitors at the year’s event.

Next up was Jesse Keyser, MUFC chair, who encouraged everyone to take advantage of the opportunities and build relationships throughout the conference. Platinum Sponsors Jersey Mike’s Subs and Inspire Brands were recognized.

The rest of the morning belonged to keynote speaker Jim Collins.

Box lunches gave attendees a chance to chat with those around them before FRANdata CEO Darrell Johnson took the stage with his annual economic report. The good news: “Record stock market and falling inflation, net worth of U.S. households has increased 37% between 2019 and 2023.” Bad news: “Inflation has outpaced wage growth, consumer spending and buying habits are trending down, and real disposable income has lagged real consumption for two years.”

Johnson said mature brands are accelerating the launching of new brands, and personal services and QSRs are expected to exceed other sectors. He also sees continuing growth of platform companies acquiring brands within the same sector or industry. He noted that lenders were becoming very data driven at sector, brand, and borrower levels.

Next up was a general session panel called “Enterprise Growth: Identify the Next Big Brand or Category.” Super Cuts multi-unit operator Gary Robins moderated a panel that included Jim Balis, CEO of Sizzling Platter, a multi-brand franchisee with nearly 800 units in the U.S. and Mexico; Ray Harrigill, an operator whose holdings include Hampton Inns, Home2 Suites, Holiday Inn Express, Palm Beach Tan Tanning Salons, Massage Envy Spas, and My Salon Suites; Tony Lutfi, a multi-unit franchisee of Arby’s, Church’s Texas Chicken, and Batteries Plus; and Charles Keyser, who operates Oxi Fresh Carpet Cleaning and Sport Clips, along with his brother Jesse.

Robins and the panelists discussed how to vet emerging brands and industries. They agreed the brand’s leadership is a major factor when deciding to work with a new brand.  “We want to be involved with brands that have great leaders,” Lufti said.

The panel wrapped up the day’s formal schedule, and everyone headed to the Sponsor Networking Area for the first time to enjoy cocktails and conversation.

Day 2

Breakout sessions kicked off the second day. 

Attendees could choose from four tracks: Business Logistics, Future Planning, Grow Leaders, and Growth. The four morning sessions included “Grow Leaders Track: Programs to Develop Area Managers into Stronger Leaders,” which zeroed in on how operators can identify, hire, and promote their area managers and build stronger leaders. Panelists shared how they had used tools and strategies to raise up next-level leaders in their organizations. The session was moderated by Scott Taylor, a former top executive at Walk-On’s Enterprises and Family Sports Concepts. His panelists included Aicha Bascaro, founder and CEO of the American Franchise Academy; Laura Storrjohann, an area manager with Keyser Enterprises; and Clement Troutman, a Tropical Smoothie Cafe multi-unit operator.

“As the saying goes,” said Troutman, a 24-year Navy veteran, “true success is how many people are better off because of you.”

Down the hall was “Growth Track: Build Your Infrastructure to Expand Your Multi-Unit Enterprise,” where moderator Andrew Feghali, a multi-unit operator of Little Caesars, Jersey Mike’s Subs, and Dave’s Hot Chicken, led panelists through a discussion of how to attract quality employees and build a strong bench. Panelists discussed everything from building culture to finding the right contractors. Several panelists mentioned that they offer general managers and other employees pathways to ownership by allowing them to invest in the unit, providing extra incentives to succeed. Panelists were Alex Carney, a Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers franchisee; Jason Dalton, a Camp Bow Wow franchisee, Wade Oney, a Papa Johns franchisee; and Chris Smith, a McDonald’s operator. 

Two other sessions rounded out the morning: “Business Logistics Track: Funding Options to Grow More Franchise Locations in Challenging Times” and “Future Planning Track: What New Technologies Are Positively Impacting Your Business Growth with Multiple Locations and Brands.”

The morning’s next event was a general session featuring Jeff Henderson.

Next up was a general session panel called “Advocacy and the Value to the Bottom Line.” Rob Branca (Dunkin, RimTyme, and Interstate Battery) moderated a panel that included Ashley Coneff, VP, government affairs & impact for Inspire Brands; IFA President and CEO Matt Haller; labor attorney Michael Lotito; and multi-brand franchisee Nathan Garn.

The panelists emphasized the importance of advocacy at every level and how all franchisees should get involved and build relationships with political figures now. “If you need a relationship today, it’s too late,” Garn said.

Box lunches followed next and led right into the announcement of the 2024 MVP Award winners.

One more round of breakout sessions filled the afternoon schedule. “Business Logistics Track: IFA Franchisee Advocacy—Importance of Protecting Your Business,” “Future Planning Track: How to Build Your Business Plan to Prepare for a Potential Sale–Whether You’re Ready or Not,” “Grow Leaders Track: Best Practices for Recruiting—Roles/Structure of the Recruiter,” and “Growth Track: Enterprise-Size Franchisee Forum—Successful Franchisees Discuss Their Biggest Learnings, Successes and Challenges.” The rooms were packed, and each session allowed for audience interaction and discussion.

One more trip to the Sponsor Networking Area rounded out the day.

Wrap-up

The final morning of this year’s MUFC offered two closing sessions for attendees to choose from: “Build Your Growth Leaders Plan—Attract, Recruit, Retain Unit-Level Talent to Grow Within the Organization” and “Closing Workshop 2: Expansion Program for International Investors, Franchisors, and Franchisees.”

The conference was a hit with attendees. 

“This was my first experience at the Multi-Unit Franchising Conference, and I truly enjoyed it. I will certainly return in the future,” said Nadeem Bajwa, a Papa Johns franchisee with more than 200 locations. 

“We thought the conference was excellent. The speakers, panelists, and exhibit hall area are top shelf. We attend every year and wouldn’t miss it,” said Ray Harrigill, a multi-unit franchisee with Palm Beach Tan, Massage Envy, Hampton Inn & Suites, Holiday Inn Express & Suites, Home2 Suites, and My Salon Suite.

“MUFC 2024 was an incredible event. The speakers were amazing, sharing great content and best practices for multi-unit franchisees. A really great list of franchisor brands as well. Left with a great list of new franchise connections. Really enjoyed the opportunity to participate as a speaker. Certainly looking forward to next year’s event,” said Clement Troutman, a Tropical Smoothie Cafe franchisee.

“The event was great! It was good to see the interest in district manager development with it having a full room with a standing audience. A lot of people approached me to thank me for the information afterward. I believe that we made a difference,” said Aicha Bascaro, founder and CEO of the American Franchise Academy.

“I thought the event was fantastic. It was one of the better conferences I have attended, and I attend a lot,” Jim Balis, CEO of Sizzling Platter.

Next year’s Multi-Unit Franchising Conference will be at Caesars Forum in Las Vegas, March 25-28th, 2005. For more information, visit www.multiunitfranchisingconference.com in the coming months.

Published: June 14th, 2024

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Multi-Unit Franchisee Magazine: Issue 2, 2024
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