Brix Franchise Brands' Luke Mandola on Consistency, Support, and Innovation
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Brix Franchise Brands' Luke Mandola on Consistency, Support, and Innovation

Brix Franchise Brands' Luke Mandola on Consistency, Support, and Innovation

As a leading multi-brand restaurant franchisor, Brix Holdings is capitalizing on growth opportunities and consumer trends across the United States. In this insightful interview, Luke Mandola, Vice President at Brix Holdings, shares his perspectives on what sets the Brix franchise brands apart, strategies for ensuring consistency and quality, support provided to franchisees, the benefits of multi-unit ownership in the restaurant sector, and how Brix is adapting to current industry dynamics.

With a diverse portfolio of brands like Friendly's, Orange Leaf, Red Mango, and Smoothie Factory + Kitchen, Mandola offers a compelling look at Brix's approach to expanding its national footprint through strategic franchising.

What sets the Brix Holdings franchise brands apart as an attractive option for potential franchisees?

Mandola: Brix is home to some of the most talented and accredited restaurant industry professionals in the nation. The HQ leadership team has combined experienced scaling, redesigning, and developing brands within the restaurant sector with household names like TGI Fridays, Shipley Do-Nuts, Fuddruckers, and more. Their experience with these brands has equipped us with the knowledge and expertise needed to continue masterfully growing Brix Holdings and supporting its portfolio of companies and the owners within it.

Along with that unrivaled support come strong reputations that precede each of our brands in the eyes of consumers, making the investment even more reliable. Friendly’s, for instance, is a beloved legacy brand with nearly 90 years of experience in the restaurant industry. The diner brand continues to grow and expand with the demand for family-friendly concepts and the never-ending love for ice cream.

The population growth in the South provides a unique opportunity for the diner/parlor concept to expand and address the consumers with a need for frozen sweet treats and new business opportunities. The same can be said about Orange Leaf, Red Mango, and Smoothie Factory + Kitchen. The frozen yogurt, smoothies, and smoothie bowls sectors are growing, especially as people seek more options for healthy, quick and savory meals during all parts of the day, and not just dessert.

What strategies does Brix Holdings employ to ensure consistency and quality across various restaurant brands?

Mandola: There’s decades of history across the Brix portfolio of brands, and upholding the positive reputations rightfully earned over time by each is of the utmost importance. It is our responsibility to ensure all of our owners are equipped with the tools and resources they need to succeed, and have the support from leadership to do so.

This year Brix will be hosting our first all-brand national conference, inviting all our faculty, staff, owners, and operators across the system to connect, learn, and be rewarded for all they do. This is also an opportunity for us to have more in-depth conversations with our owners and learn about the ways we can improve our models to better support their growth.

Can you give an example of how Brix Holdings supports franchisees in terms of training, marketing, and ongoing operational assistance?

Mandola: Brix Holdings is known for its comprehensive support system for franchisees across its various brands.

  • Training: Brix Holdings provides extensive training programs for franchisees and their staff. This typically includes both initial training before the store opening and ongoing training sessions. This might involve training on food preparation techniques, customer service standards, inventory management, and operational procedures.
  • Marketing Support: Brix Holdings offers robust marketing support to help franchisees promote their businesses and attract customers. This can include access to professionally designed marketing materials, such as signage, menu boards, and promotional materials. Additionally, Brix may provide guidance on local marketing strategies, digital marketing campaigns, and social media management to help franchisees effectively reach their target audience.
  • Ongoing Operational Assistance: Brix Holdings understands that ongoing operational support is crucial for franchise success. We typically offer continuous assistance through field support representatives who visit franchise locations regularly to provide guidance, address operational challenges, and ensure compliance with brand standards. Franchisees also have access to a dedicated support team that they can contact for assistance with day-to-day operational issues, troubleshooting, and business advice.

Overall, Brix Holdings is committed to providing comprehensive support to its franchisees, helping them succeed in their business ventures, and ensuring the consistency and quality of their brands across all locations.

Can you share insights into multi-unit ownership within the restaurant sector?

Mandola: Multi-unit franchising provides a variety of benefits and opportunities for investors interested in the restaurant sector, and the Brix network is living proof of that. As a portfolio company with a diverse pool of restaurant businesses at a variety of investment levels, we offer multi-unit opportunities with singular brands, as well as multi-unit opportunities across our roster of brands. This not only allows prospects to get into business ownership at a cost that makes sense to them, but it also provides opportunities to diversify business portfolios with restaurants that satisfy different parts and deliver different unit-level economics.

Multi-unit franchisees within our network see their investments with the Brix brands as opportunities to grow and scale their businesses, while also enjoying more of the freedom they were seeking as aspiring entrepreneurs. For example, multi-unit, multi-brand owner/operator Amol Kohli is opening another Friendly’s this summer, after starting with the brand as a waiter and opening his first Friendly’s in 2010. He owns and operates more than 30 Friendly’s locations today.

What are some of the current trends you're seeing in the restaurant industry, and how is Brix Holdings adapting to these changes?

Mandola: First among the many trends impacting the restaurant industry in 2024 is a steady rise in prices across the nation for goods and services, corresponding with increased conversations about inflation. Although many businesses have decided to raise costs during this time, Brix is an outlier in that we have not changed menu pricing, nor will we compromise the quality of our goods. While this is a challenging balance to maintain, it’s a top priority for us to sustain our long-held reputation for value.

Inflation has also impacted the labor market, with shortages for restaurants and businesses around the U.S. Brix is combating those issues by targeting areas for expansion where costs are lower to operate within the market and still pay employees competitive wages. This also contributes to the growth trends Brix is capitalizing on in the southern third of the U.S.

Expansion to the Sunbelt States was gradually increasing over the last decade, as many people moved away looking for more space, warmer weather, fewer government restrictions, and lower cost of living. With the increase in population and better spending power in these states, it makes sense to go where the growth is happening. Brix Holdings is continuing expansion in these states, with several different brands coming to Florida, Texas, and Arizona by the end of the year.

Can you discuss any recent innovations implemented by Brix Holdings to drive growth?

Mandola: We’re taking a very strategic, market-centric approach to franchise development right now. As we continue to grow, we’re honing our efforts to specific markets in the Southeast and Southwest, like Florida and Texas, where population growth continues to rise. In 2023, Texas alone experienced a surge in nearly half a million residents in pursuit of robust economic opportunities and lower cost of living, creating the ideal market for our brands.

To accelerate our expansion into these target markets, we also boast several incentives for qualified prospects. For instance, we offer a 50% military discount for active military and veterans on their first location across all our brands.

What advice would you give to emerging restaurant brands looking to expand?

Mandola: Restaurant brands looking to expand should ensure they have systems in place that are proven to work and generate growth from their owner/operators. There should be clear brand standards for owners to follow that provide direction and guidance so that branding is consistent across the network. There should be ongoing support from leadership, providing resources and tools to franchisees as needed to ensure their growth. It’s also important that you’re inviting well-capitalized investors into your franchise network who have the right background, industry knowledge, and experience to be a true asset to the company.

Published: May 7th, 2024

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