Mrs. Winner's Chicken & Biscuits

Q&A with Mrs. Winner's Chicken & Biscuits Adam Edwards, Director of Franchise Sales

How was your franchise/opportunity originally conceived and started?
Mrs. Winner’s was founded in 1979 by Jack Massey, an entrepreneur who had previously owned KFC. During the 80s and 90s Mrs. Winner’s built a solid footprint in the Southeastern United States, and at one point the system included approximately 200 locations throughout Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas, North Carolina, Alabama, and Mississippi. The combination of a distinctive menu and flavor profile emphasizing southern home-style cooking with its service and atmosphere set Mrs. Winner's apart from its competitors.

What was your original vision for your company? How has that changed over time?
We began by establishing a strategic franchising plan to capitalize on the Company's valuable and under-leveraged brand. Our current strategy focuses on redeveloping regional cities including Nashville, Atlanta, Memphis, Birmingham, and Little Rock and other southeastern United States locations with their concentric outlying towns, where Mrs. Winner’s brand is historically well-known. The Company targets as potential franchisees experienced operators of quick-service restaurants, and welcomes applications for multi-unit market development agreements and single-store franchises. Franchise fees for the first 20 new locations will be priced below the Company's competitors, then brought to parity.

What do you believe is the single most important factor when choosing a franchise?
Choose an industry you are 100% passionate about! You have to enjoy the concept and the day-to-day tasks that come with it.

Why should someone choose your franchise over other similar franchises?
We value coaching our franchisees! One often overlooked, though extremely important, factor to consider when evaluating a franchising opportunity is whether the franchisor offers a well thought-out, structured and proven coaching program. Great franchisors understand that their success hinges on each of their franchisee’s abilities to be entrepreneurial & savvy. Great franchises will invest in their franchisees’ development.

What makes your industry attractive?
Affordability is one of the factors favoring casual fast-food chains. Cautious consumers, in the backdrop of challenging macroeconomic environment, are not only avoiding eating at expensive restaurant chains but are also getting choosy when it comes to the menu.

What types of qualities do you look for in potential franchisees?
We're looking for franchise owners with impressive restaurant experience and a strong financial history. If you have a passion for operating great restaurants and serving the best chicken and biscuits in the world, then you may have what it takes to be a Mrs. Winner's franchisee. Agreements for single and multi-unit territories now available!

What do your franchise fees and royalties cover?
The franchise fee is the cost of acquiring the rights to operate a Mrs. Winner’s restaurant in a designated territory. The fee goes towards the franchisor expenses with regards to restaurant development for the franchisee including pre and post opening support. Restaurant development support includes the following areas: site location analysis, lease review, architectural plan review, equipment specifications, construction material specifications and construction site visits.

The royalties cover ongoing support in the following areas: up-keep of the operating system to include training materials, operating procedures, product development, business strategy, technology and other key areas of the overall business. The royalties go towards support services to the franchisee including: operation visits and audits, marketing consultation, business consultation, training, and supply chain management.

How do territories work for your franchisees?
Territories give franchisees the right to open a restaurant in an area of their choosing that does not infringe on existing franchises. A market development agreement grants a franchisee multiple territories of their choosing that do not infringe on existing franchises. A market development agreement is for those individuals looking to open five or more franchise restaurants.

Why has your franchise model been successful?

  • We have a strong home-style, southern tradition and we’ve been serving a side of love for over 30 years
  • We have a robust site evaluation process
  • We aid our franchisees in equipment selection and layout
  • Our accounting methods allow for accurate detailed daily reports (DDR)
  • On-site training for operators and their management team
  • Proprietary food preparation and service.

Where do you see your franchise in 5 years and 10 years?
Bojanagles, Churchs, and Popeyes have all increased units substantially after initiating transformation efforts. We plan to add between 30 and 50 locations during the next five years, and an additional 100 locations in the second five years. Other bone-in chicken concepts have undergone turnarounds and grown unit count at a brisk pace. As an established brand with a legacy of high quality food, Mrs. Winner's is well-positioned to pursue new unit growth.

Mrs. Winner’s will continue to grow in the Southeast over the next five years in key marketing areas including Atlanta, Nashville, Memphis and Birmingham with an additional 50 restaurants and another 15 restaurants in outlying markets in the southeast. In ten years, Mrs. Winner’s will regain its crown as the regional consumers’ favorite fried chicken restaurant with approximately 150-200 restaurants throughout the southeastern United States.

What is your favorite advice for new franchisees to help them succeed?
Choose a franchise business that you'll enjoy! Most businesses - all types of business, not just franchises - succeed when the owner truly enjoys the products and/or services that the business supplies. If you really enjoy and are interested in the products and services, and the customers and markets, then you will learn and gather information and skills rapidly. If you enjoy the business it is likely that you will possess a good deal of knowledge about it already.

What would you tell potential franchisees who may be nervous about the financial burdens of starting a franchise?
Franchise ownership doesn’t have to be a risky endeavor. The choices that you make before you even go online to look for the franchise of your dreams, will greatly impact your chances of franchise ownership success. Ask tough questions and learn from other franchise owners who’ve been successful.

On average, how long does it take to start a new franchise from the franchisee's point of view?
3 to 6 months is a reasonable time frame

What was your background and experience before founding this franchise?
Chief Executive Officer John Buttolph practiced corporate law in California for 30 years, before serving as general counsel for Mrs. Winner's and Lee's Famous Recipe Chicken brand. John is responsible for strategic planning, franchising, and business operations.

Director of Operations Jay Bandy brings over 25 years’ experience in leadership positions in the quick service industry, including 7 years as project manager for McDonalds Corporation and 4 years supervising 57 Mrs. Winners’ and Lee’s franchised restaurants. Jay’s core competencies include business strategy, restaurant development, brand marketing, franchising, restaurant operations and systems optimization, supply chain, and profit analysis.

Do you have any franchisee testimonials or success stories that you would like to share?

  • Mrs. Winner’s Decatur, GA location re-opened in October 2013 after operating unsuccessfully for several years as a mom-and-pop chicken and fish restaurant. In 2014, its first full year as a Mrs. Winner’s, Gross Sales were $1,743,000.
  • Stockbridge operated as a Mrs. Winner’s for more than 15 years under former ownership groups. Following a re-imaging and due to the tremendous resolve of the outstanding franchisee, unit sales have increased in the past twelve months by 49 % to more than $20,000 per week.
  • Our franchise community has been successful and resilient as partners in building the brand for over 20 years. We’ve seen recent success in the Atlanta DMA with our Stockbridge and Decatur restaurants seeing extraordinary sales increases in the last two years. We salute our long-standing operators Paul and Michael Umphenour in North Carolina and Gary and Vickey Shelton in Georgia as models for our future success.

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