Menchie’s franchisee keeps it all in the family
Richard Ryan was no stranger to brand-building. Before partnering with his son, Kevin, to open their very first Menchie’s franchise in Allentown, Penn., Richard spent 22 years in corporate brand management for Fortune 500 companies. For the past dozen years, Richard and Kevin have been custom homebuilders, a business they plan to continue alongside their Menchie’s stores.
How did you find out about Menchie’s?
My son Kevin was working for AT&T in corporate sales in the Los Angeles area, and he actually discovered Menchie’s. I went out to visit in April 2011, and he said I want to take you to a really cool frozen yogurt place, and I fell in love with it.
Why did you want to open a franchise?
We had been thinking about it. We were looking for a business that could complement our homebuilding business, because it’s very cyclical in nature. We thought it would be a good move to get into another business not related to construction. We looked at a number of opportunities, and when we looked at Menchie’s, we pulled the trigger
How long have you been a franchisee?
About a year and half. We opened our shop in July in Allentown, Penn., at the Shops at Cedar Point.
Do you own one unit or several?
We are getting ready to open our second one; we’ve just about finished construction. Actually, our construction company is building our Menchie’s and others in the area.
Why did you want to open more than one?
We felt that Menchie’s was a great opportunity, and we felt we wanted to be in a situation where we had a little bit of critical mass.
Did you have food or retail experience before owning the franchise?
No. I had been in a retail baking business years ago, but more as an investor than an operations partner.
What do you like about the job?
I think it has come down to the fact that Menchie’s is a very happy place. That’s really what our mission is — to try to make people smile. People have fun there; they enjoy going there. Like any other business, it has its challenges. By and large, it’s the first job in my life I’m actually excited to wake up in the morning and anxious to get here.
What sets Menchie’s apart?
I think what sets Menchie’s apart is the strong team in Los Angeles. The franchisor is very good at building a brand. That was something that was important to me. They know how to build a brand — remember, that was my background. I like the people, and I really like the business model. The self-serve model was really appealing to us.
How large is the opportunity to grow with Menchie’s?
I think it’s as big as your pocketbooks are deep. The opportunity to grow is tremendous. It really started on the west coast and moved east, and there are still a lot of markets out there that are not Menchie’s markets yet, but they’re getting there… We have plans to do a third store.
Who are your main guests? Who are your best guests?
I think Menchie’s appeals to all people — all life segments, all age groups, but the primary guests are probably families with children.
What attracts guests to Menchie’s rather than its competitors?
I think that Menchie’s, more than any other frozen yogurt store, creates an experience for our guests in-store. In our store, every Thursday is game night; every Friday is karaoke; every Sunday is story hour for younger children. I think that’s what really sets us apart. Really, the Menchie’s operation sets us apart. The stores are very inviting, and they have a unique design. There are a lot of competitors who try to copy us, and that tells us we’re doing something right.
What does your typical day look like?
A lot of times, we open the store with just myself or Kevin and maybe one other team member. We have an office at our first store and a conference room. Lately, we’ve been spending a lot of time getting our second store ready for operation. A lot of time we’re going to schools, hospitals, senior citizens’ organizations, the pediatric cancer ward, Da Vinci Science Center, where we can spread the word with Menchie’s. We’ll hand out samples and hand out coupons and giveaways and do fundraising.
For example, we were at some middle and elementary schools recently. We’ll bring a couple of tables, set up merchandise, give out tattoos and stickers with Menchie on it. Sometimes we’ll hand out samples or sell yogurt at cost as a fundraiser and give the proceeds to an organization we’re supporting. We prepack the yogurt in 8-ounce cups, freeze it overnight and bring them with us. Sometimes we add toppings, and sometimes we’ll bring a few of the more popular toppings with us.
What is a secret to your success?
Obviously, in any retail situation, the location has to be a good one. We did our homework on locations. For our first store, we knew this was centralized with great access and visibility. We have 11 schools within a 3-mile radius; that’s 9,000 students. That’s really big for a Menchie’s. In our second store, it’s quite different. There are a lot of big box tenants, like DSW, Sam’s Club, Target… we’re anxious to see what happens. We hope it’s even stronger volume.
What kind of person do you think would enjoy owning a Menchie’s franchise?
You’ve got to have some kind of entrepreneurial streak running through you. Also, somebody who really wants to be involved in the community. You have to be somewhat outgoing and you have to be good at selling — selling yourself, selling the company, selling the Menchie’s brand. I think also you need some good business skills. My marketing background has really helped us. I also have a strong financial background. It’s a little easier than if I was a doctor or landscaper or something totally different.
What does franchise ownership allow you to do that you couldn’t before?
It allows us to make decisions ourselves. We don’t have a whole staff of executives that have to make the decision; it’s just myself and my son Kevin. We can make the decisions and move faster. There’s a lot of flexibility in how you run that business. I really think that would be one of the big points. I’m probably spending more hours at Menchie’s, but that’s my choice. You certainly could spend fewer hours and be as successful, but we love it. We work about 60 hours a week. It’s definitely a labor of love.
Would you recommend a Menchie’s franchise to someone else? Why?
Absolutely, if they had the right acumen and the right mindset and an entrepreneurial spirit. It’s an extremely strong brand, and it’s extremely important that they’re the largest self-serve frozen yogurt concept in the world. They’re really on the move and really poised for success. It’s a relatively simple business model, but it’s a business you can operate even if you’ve never had any restaurant or food experience.