Great Wraps

Great Wraps CEO Interview

Mark Kaplan is the C.E.O. of Great Wraps, the #1 Wrapped Sandwich & Grilled Sub Franchise in the Industry. Before leaping into franchising, Mark enjoyed a successful marketing career with such corporate powerhouses as Colgate Palmolive, Nabisco Brands and The Coca Cola Company. At Coca Cola, Mark developed quite a reputation by leading Sprite past 7Up to take over the #1 position in the huge Lemon Lime Category. However, he gave up the Corporate world to acquire Great Wraps (with partner Bob Solomon) and set out to establish the Great Wraps Brand as the best way to enjoy a sandwich. With the public growing tired of generic fast food and looking for new sandwich alternatives, Mark's vision is becoming a reality. Great Wraps has over 85 stores in operation, with countless others in the planning stages...and the market is taking note. The Company has been named "Emerging Franchisor of the Year" by the Southeast Franchise Forum, and has been named to the Top Franchise Lists of Entrepreneur Magazine, Bond's Franchise Guide and Restaurant Business Magazine. In a recent interview, this is what Mark Kaplan had to say about Great Wraps, and the franchise industry in general.

What made you decide to give up the corporate world?
Every business person dreams of owning their own business, and controlling their own destiny. I loved the corporate world, but when I heard that a small "Mom & Pop" Wrap Sandwich chain was for sale, I knew that I had tripped over my destiny. The thought of surrounding my corporate Branding skills with a Team of food and franchise professionals was very exciting.and I was confident that this would provide a powerful foundation for franchise success.

Tell us a little bit about Great Wraps.
Great Wraps is a very unique and high-quality Sandwich Concept, and it's quite different from all the same-old sub, sandwich and burrito shops out there...and that's why people are drawn to it. Our menu features a mouth-watering line-up of HOT Wraps and Grilled Ciabatta Sandwiches. Customers can choose one of our proprietary recipes or customize their own creation to be as healthy (or as indulgent) as they want to be, as they watch their sandwich being made right in front of them. Regardless, we then grill the entire sandwich golden Brown. That's a taste explosion you just don't find anywhere else. But that's not all. Customers can custom flavor their "World's Greatest Fries" (Trans-fat free, of course) at the Great Wraps Spice Bar. Again, you just don't find that anywhere else, and Franchisees are thrilled to bring such a different, high-quality approach back to their markets.

Why is Great Wraps experiencing strong growth now?
Two things are occurring now that have dramatic effects on consumer behavior. First, generic fast food burgers, subs and tacos have simply lost their mass market appeal. The economy is tough now, both spouses are working harder than ever before and the shortage of time and money are making all of us re-evaluate what we really want to buy (or eat). So, when customers spend their hard-earned money for lunch or a quick dinner, they want something really good and "worth it". That drives them to look for something different, tastier and healthier than the quick-serve food they grew up with..and that's what we do. So we open our stores to a ready-market that's looking for the "next thing". And second, we're now focused on growth and are ready to support a much larger Franchise System. Our franchise inquiries are huge now because Great Wraps offers something new in the market, but also has a solid track record of PROVEN franchise success. That gives people the confidence they need to take the Entrepreneurial plunge.

What is your vision for Great Wraps?
We are positioning ourselves for methodical, long-term growth, and you will not see us on every other corner like the leading Sub Chains. Our Vision is to carefully build the Great Wraps Brand, while targeting specific growth markets for Great Wraps expansion. A critical part of our strategy is to provide our Franchise partners with a large enough geographic territory to develop a solid core business. That's what more and more food Franchisees want from their focus on quality of territories, and not just quantity of stores. Our focus is to open another 300 in the next 10 years, and this will not only keep us very busy but will also establish Great Wraps as the premier Wrap Sandwich Franchise in the Industry.

What is the single most important factor in choosing a franchise?
My advice is always the same, and I believe it's the key to success in any area of life. Before choosing a Franchise, I advise people to look within and understand where their passion lies. That will help you choose a franchise that will excite you, and motivate you to constantly improve it. This helps you rise above the functional goal of unlocking the door in the morning and trying to make money. I have seen that just going through the motions and focusing on the functional goals is a quick ticket to mediocrity. Real passion for your business leads to the pursuit of excellence at all levels, which can really catapults you towards a whole new level of success. When people have passion for what they do, they don't just go through the motions..they vibrate with energy and positive "can-do-ism" that everyone from employees, to your customers, to your Banker, will respond to in very positive ways.

When I finally narrow down to my final choices, how do I make the final decision?
At this point, assuming the "finalists" truly excite you, it's a pure business decision that requires lots of thorough homework. Start with these questions: Was their philosophy to franchise sales more high-pressure or helpful? How long have they been in business? What do their Franchisees say? How does their fees & royalties compare to other franchises? What type of support do they provide? How helpful are they in getting my store open? Do they mark up your store design, equipment and construction to make a profit before you've even opened your doors? If you do this research on the front end, it helps insure a strong and successful franchise relationship on the back end..

Why choose Great Wraps over other food franchises?
Most Franchisees became interested in Great Wraps because they wanted to bring something DIFFERENT and SPECIAL to their respective markets. In this economy, Entrepreneurs are searching for Brands that enable them to stand out from all the retail clutter. But Franchisees will most often tell us they bought the franchise rights because they loved the taste and quality of the food, and because Great Wraps is so committed to Franchise Support. Our highest priority is to be very responsive to the issues and needs of our Franchisees. Our Team comes to work everyday with the same question in-mind: How can we help our Franchisees be more successful. We've all heard the clich�© "Be in Business FOR yourself but not BY yourself"..and it's true. Our Franchisees appreciate knowing that we've "got their back".

What type of Franchisee finds the greatest success with Great Wraps?
Like any business, Great Wraps has moving parts that must be managed well, from the quality and consistency of our products, to the efficiency of our operation..and all of this we will teach you. But we have learned that the real key to success in our System lies beyond the functional methods of running a store. We tell our franchisees that the key to success is their ability and willingness to connect with people. It starts with building a strong, positive and loyal staff that provides excellent service and appreciates customers. And then we preach the importance of connecting with customers. The economy is tough, and customers are looking for more than just great products when they spend their limited dollars. They want a great experience and they want to be treated well, from the initial greeting, to eye-to-eye contact, to warm "thank you" at all appropriate points. Ours is a people business, and we've shown the winners in our System how to take this to a whole new level. Other critical characteristics: the willingness to be a team-player and follow our Program, setting firm financial goals and establishing a plan to achieve them, being committed to local marketing and community, and keeping that "third eye" open to make sure your store is always clean and tight ".

Why is Great Wraps royalty and fees lower than other franchises?
Great Wraps represents one of the most exciting Concepts in the food industry today. We could charge higher fees, and all sorts of up-front charges for equipment and design like other Franchisors do....but we just don't think that's right. You see, we believe that Franchisees must be financially successful, and that our success is tied to theirs. Therefore, the question is NOT why is our financial package so low. The real question that Entrepreneurs must ask is why are other franchises so expensive. Our combined royalty and marketing charges are only 6.0% of sales. I'm amazed at how much other Franchise Concepts charge. Our Franchisees are hard working businesspeople, and we wanted to leave more of the financial benefits "on the table" for them and their families to enjoy.

Tell us about the Company's Territory Development Program.
It's a phenomenon that is really picking up steam throughout the Industry. Very simply, there are certain Entrepreneurs who are looking for a broader business opportunity than owning and operating one or two stores. They have the financial resources, business acumen and communication skills to develop an entire Territory, and they are very capable of finding excellent locations, negotiating leases, working with food suppliers and building a Team to power their stores. Territory Developers are helping us grow faster, and they are able to actualize their vision of owning a larger Company and controlling their market. It's a classic win-win! We're signing on more and more Territory Developers who want to develop whole markets with Great Wraps.

What is the future for Great Wraps?
We think it's very bright!! Great Wraps is leading a whole new sandwich category that is quickly exploding into the mainstream. It is simply a superior way to enjoy a sandwich, and there's no limit to where our flexible menu can go. Great Wraps is experiencing rapid growth, and the main reason for that is that Great Wraps offers the products and Brand Experience that people want. It's a business that our Franchisees are very proud to own.

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