Cheba Hut Rides ‘The Green Wave’ as Expansion Heats Up

Cheba Hut Rides ‘The Green Wave’ as Expansion Heats Up

RainTree CEO Brent Dowling, Cheba Hut chief relationship officer Seth Larsen, and Cheba Hut COO Marc Torres

Over the past 20 years, Cheba Hut has earned the reputation as the bad boy on the block, and it’s perfectly OK with that. With a beach-y, free-spirited vibe, the marijuana-themed concept doesn’t want to be just another sandwich shop. It’s motto—“escape the established”—has driven Cheba Hut since it debuted 21 years ago in Colorado.

And as acceptance around the legalization of marijuana grows, Cheba Hut sees fresh opportunity. The brand believes it can capitalize on “the Green Wave,” chief operating officer Marc Torres says. In areas where marijuana is now legal, Cheba Hut partners with dispensaries by leaving menus in their waiting rooms as a form of cross-promotion.

“We own that,” Torres says of the bad-boy positioning. “That’s something that we’re proud of. We’ve been doing business since 1998, way before legalization was even being talked about it.”

Torres says interest in the brand is spiking, from consumers as well as operators hoping to join Cheba Hut’s growth. The brand has turned down as many potential franchisees as it’s accepted, he adds.

“Nobody’s doing what we’re doing,” Torres says. “We really do feel like we’re in our own lane.”

CHEBA HUT Franchise Opportunities

Torres believes the brand will hit 35 units by the end of this year and the 50-unit milestone by the end of 2020.

Cheba Hut’s expansion strategy has evolved over the past two decades, corporately and on the franchised side. This year, the brand, which was featured on QSR’s 40/40 List in 2018, hit the 25-store milestone with the opening of its Las Vegas restaurant. Currently, the breakdown of units is 11 company-owned and 14 franchised.

In 2015, Cheba Hut put the brakes on franchising. Leadership realized in order for the brand to succeed and grow successfully, a complete review of operations and processes needed to take place. Over the last three years, Cheba Hut focused on improving its company stores to create a viable model that will be successful for franchisees to imitate, Torres says. Cheba Hut grew from six corporate locations to 11 during that time period. It had to walk the walk before it could ask others to.

After doubling the footprint of company restaurants, Cheba Hut felt it was time to explore franchising again in 2018.

“Our systems were in place and we were feeling great about the position that we were in,” Torres says.

Traditionally, Cheba Hut focused on markets supported by college towns. Its new growth chart, however, brings the brand to areas populated by younger consumers, like Atlanta, which aren’t tied just to campus life. Cheba Hut’s customers generally fit in the 18–34-year-old demographic.

Florida is another target where Torres sees massive potential. With the chill, beach-y vibe, the concept works in places like St. Augustine, where there’s not a major college crowd. But there’s still potential to open near campuses across the state.

CHEBA HUT

Guests can pair their sandwiches with craft beer or cocktails if they want while dining at Cheba Hut.

“We feel like it goes extremely well in those types of markets where you’re typically looking for something more than a sandwich and go,” Torres says. “You want a cool place, you want someplace that adds to your trip. It adds to your experience wherever you’re at, whether it’s St Augustine or Miami beach, we feel like Cheba goes really well with, especially if you’re on vacation.”

Last year, Cheba Hut brought on five new franchise partners, each with three-store deals, which is the current standard. Torres says the chain will gradually increase the number of partners they bring on each year. By the end of 2019, Cheba Hut will welcome six to eight new franchises, it says.

Even though franchising is ramping up, company growth is progressing, too. Cheba Hut is on track to open five to eight units per year, Torres says, and expects to continue to do so over the next few years. The corporate expansion helps spread brand awareness and, in turn, supports franchise growth in new and existing markets.

“The idea behind that is we feel like the company stores keep us really close to our customers and to our operations,” Torres says. “We’re able to really use the best practices from within our company stores and get those out to the franchise community.”

Torres believes the brand will hit 35 units by 2020, and the 50-store milestone by the end of next year. If all goes accordingly, the company could double its footprint in less than two years. But Cheba Hut’s leadership isn’t going to force that directive. So far, growth has been organic and Torres says that will continue.

“The goal of getting to 200 locations by 2025, we don’t have that number written anywhere,” Torres says. “We don’t have 100 written anywhere. We don’t have 50 written anywhere. We’re focused on growing organically. We also have pause buttons in here where you know our goal is to be the best franchisor around and put our people in the best position possible.”

CHEBA HUT Partnering with Raintree Franchise Sales

Cheba Hut brought on RainTree Franchise Sales to help find new franchise partners.

The work over the past few years set the company up to feel comfortable about this rate of expansion.

Unlike some of its competitors, Torres says, Cheba Hut’s focus is not just on the menu, but the overall experience a guest has when dining at the restaurant. It is not a place to just go grab a sandwich and leave—it’s a destination to enjoy something different, maybe a cocktail, and hang out with friends.

“People come here to hang out, they bring their friends, they bring their families,” Torres says. “That’s something that, again, nobody’s hitting on, especially in the sandwich segment.”

Even though the 18-34-year-old demographic makes up a majority of its customers, Torres says, Cheba Hut meshes well with blue-collar workers as well. They are a little older, have disposable income, and feel like they’re reliving a younger age when they’re at the restaurant.

“That’s something that we do really well as a brand,” Torres says. “When people come in, they feel like they’re back in college or back in their party days. I think that’s what sets us apart.”

Along with giving customers an experience, Cheba Hut also attracts with pricing. Customers typically get out of the door with a sandwich and a beer or cocktail for under $20.

“People that sometimes have the wrong idea about who we are and what we do,” Torres says. “Just come on in. Come on in, have a sandwich. Enjoy it. Cheba is not for everybody, but the people that get it are diehard fans and those are the people that we focus on serving every day.

Franchise Marketing and SEO: What You Need to Know

Franchise Marketing and SEO: What You Need to Know

franchise marketing SEO

 

Hey, Franchise Developers!

By now, you have undoubtedly heard about Search Engine Optimization, or, as it is more commonly called, SEO. But how much do you really understand about how SEO relates to franchise marketing? This week, Raintree Marketing Director Linton Dowling chats with us about what SEO is, why it’s important, and what it can do to help grow your franchise.

Search engine optimization, or SEO, may seem like just one more marketing buzzword to keep track of these days, but it is actually one of the most important things your Franchise Development team could be doing to get an edge on your competition.

First of all, let’s go over what SEO actually is. As you may already know, search engines like Google and Bing use complicated algorithms to determine which websites on the Internet best fit the keywords entered into the search bar, so that they can return the results that meet the users’ needs. The algorithms are top-secret, and the exact formula for how certain websites rank higher on a search results page intentionally remains something of a mystery. (According to Moz there were over 3,200 Google Search algorithms updates in 2018 alone.) Google for the first time recently released a ‘cheat sheet’ on what their algorithms are looking for on sites and blog posts and how to better improve your organic rankings. Tips include:

Content and Quality: 

  • Do your website and frequent blog posts contain useful, accurate and researched data and opinions?
  • Do your blog posts provide relevant and updated information on your topic/subjects?
  • If your blogs are using other websites information and data, is this original sourcing or merely cut and paste?
  • Do the headlines and subject provide an accurate summary of your blog posts, page topics?
  • Is this content more likely to be sourced and shared on social media?
  • Is the content free of errors? (spelling/grammar, stylistic and analytical)
  • Does it have fresh images, infographics or videos?
  • Most importantly, does the page or post present well on mobile devices?

 

Furthermore, SEO experts at an experienced agency are able to analyze website performance and pinpoint the best keywords and phrases to use in the site’s copy, in order to improve its organic search results rankings. 

In addition to franchise marketing websites, SEO practices can be used to optimize original blog posts, video content, and other online content related to franchise marketing so that search engines like Google and Bing prioritize it, by showing it on the first page or as a top result. In relationship to franchise development, this means that people are actively searching keywords that closely relate to both the franchise itself and the type of franchise opportunities they are looking for in the system. With literal billions of Google searches taking place across the globe each day, using SEO to optimize your franchise’s website, videos, and other content could make the difference between having your brands appearing at or near the top of a search results page, or not appearing at all!

franchise marketing seo

The franchise development industry is falling quickly behind in SEO practices, compared with other industries that use SEO best practices to gain a significant advantage. Franchisors and franchisees alike are underperforming in terms of organic traffic and mobile-first indexing (find your score on Google’s free PageSpeed Insights Tool) – in other words, by not making sure to update their website’s content with copy that includes keywords and phrases that have been proven to generate search rankings, they are missing out on generating both desktop and mobile organic traffic, which, next to use of Google AdWords, is some of the lowest hanging fruit when it comes to lead generation.

Fortunately, there are ways to correct this, and many of them are inexpensive or even free! While many big franchise development firms spend millions of dollars in optimizing organic search, a few easy solutions can help improve organic search rankings dramatically without costing a penny. Depending on the CMS (content management system) your company uses, there are a number of great SEO programs to help guide you in blog posting and optimizing organic traffic to improve search rankings. Here at Raintree, we use WordPress, a CMS where over 2 million blog posts are posted each day. WordPress features a handy SEO tool called Yoast , which provides the content writer with real-time feedback and suggestions for improving the optimization of the copy prior to going live on the website. This works well for us- some of our best-performing sites have up to 40-50% organic traffic!

franchise marketing organic clicks

Finally, we use Google’s keyword planner when creating content for any new sites and frequent refresh keywords depending the volume of traffic they bring to our site and more importantly how many quality leads they generate!

Here at Raintree, we believe in an omnichannel approach where SEO is one of the main pieces required for a competent and necessary franchise development and marketing campaign. In addition to website content, we also extend our SEO to channels like YouTube, Vimeo, LinkedIn, and most importantly, our weekly blog posts aimed at organically attracting the appropriate leads to these channels. Consistent content creation across all platforms is required to keep your franchise marketing efforts relevant in the eyes of Google, potential franchise owners, and consumers alike.

As with any other aspect of business, knowledge is power! I always encourage our franchise marketing team to keep up to date with industry leaders like Neil Patel, as well as stay informed with news and updates from sites like Moz, Yoast, and other established SEO thought leaders. I also advocate undertaking free certification courses like basic Google Analytics, basic Google Search Console, and WordPress training to develop an in-depth understanding, which leads to greater expertise and improved results. These courses carry certifications that are officially recognized by corporations worldwide, which means they directly benefit your team members as well as your organization.

By gaining a deeper understanding of the science behind SEO, you and the rest of your franchise development team are already well on your way to optimizing your current and future content in a way that will drive organic traffic to your website and blog posts, which in turn will help to improve your search results rankings. However, as they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day- you will need to be patient and wait for your SEO efforts to begin paying off. It can sometimes take months to be able to see a difference in your website’s performance metrics, and getting your brand’s franchise website to the top of the search results page can be a slow and steady climb. Rest assured you are on the right path, and you should eventually see the payoff that comes from optimizing your franchise marketing content.

To sum it up, SEO can be a very powerful tool that drives your franchise marketing efforts with very little cost to your organization. Once they become well-versed in SEO best practices, your franchise development team will be able to quickly and instinctively optimize virtually any piece of content they produce. However, like any marketing project, it is important to research SEO first, rather than diving straight in and trying to optimize your website. SEO is an ever-increasing marketing field that requires more attention than most companies in the franchise development industry are currently giving. Because of this, staying up to speed with the latest best practices in SEO will give your firm an instant competitive edge, and help you stay on top of the game in years to come. I look forward to talking about areas of franchise development, marketing, and content creation and development with you.

Linton joined Raintree in 2017, and in 2018 became Marketing Director

franchise marketing director

For more useful Marketing Tips or questions on the above follow him on LinkedIn or send him an email:

linton@raintreesales.com

Franchise Brands Can Utilize Segmented Market Availability- Here’s How

Franchise Brands Can Utilize Segmented Market Availability- Here’s How

franchise brands segmented availability

 

How can franchise brands successfully use segmented market availability to their advantage? Raintree CEO Brent Dowling shared his thoughts and expertise with Cristina Merrill in this 1851 Franchise spotlight article. Read on to learn more about Raintree’s unique philosophy and tactics that have been proven to help drive franchise hypergrowth across multiple industries. 

It’s safe to say that every franchise brand wants to achieve significant growth, but what happens when a brand has officially crossed the line into “established” territory? When you’re a large brand, there’s usually only so much more room in which to grow. 

Fortunately, there are many ways for established franchise brands to successfully approach segmented market availability and use it to their advantage, according to Raintree co-founder and CEO Brent Dowling. Raintree is a franchise sales organization that provides brands with services such as lead generation, content management and more. Raintree currently works with 17 franchise brands, including Anago Cleaning Systems, Cheba Hut, Footprints Floors and songs for seeds. 

Established franchise brands with limited market availability have plenty of options when it comes to strategic growth, Dowling said. 

“Facebook targeting reigns and would be our first choice as a marketing channel when heavy geo-targeting is required,” Dowling said. “Ultimately, though, we are advocates for national growth in most situations. Given that the brands we work with have specific supply chain challenges, we have strong geo-targeting campaigns in place to help. But for most brands, we look to national growth.” 

When it comes to approaching segmented market availability, Dowling believes franchise brands should consider growing in available markets through their current operators.  

“As a franchise, it’s far more efficient to support one owner with 10 locations than 10 owners who each only own one location,” he said. 

Some established franchise brands might consider opening corporate shops and then selling those to Franchise Owners. 

“It really depends on the brand and their infrastructure,” Dowling said. “We have some brands with only one location or territory. Then we have brands such as Nekter Juice Bar, which successfully runs 50 corporate units while doing a great job supporting 120 franchise units. Ultimately, if we see that a brand’s new franchisee growth is outpacing its support infrastructure and that the cash flow is tight, offloading a corporate location or two onto a franchisee is a great strategy to ensure you have the necessary capital to support your franchise growth.” 

Of course, some established brands might want to grow within a market in which they already have a presence. If that’s the case, the brands will need strong testimonials from the successful owners within those markets, Dowling said. 

“From a franchisee-franchisor relationship perspective, I suggest reaching out to the franchise owner in that market as the very first step and clearly communicating the intention to grow,” Dowling said. “Ensure that the franchisee is aware of the strategy and give them the opportunity to purchase the territory first. Doing so can prevent conflict.” 

And brands should nix the idea that growing close to company headquarters will yield significantly better results. 

“While understanding that many brands want to grow close to home, we no longer see the advantages in that strategy,” Dowling said. “At Raintree, across 17 brands, we see no correlation between franchisees who are close to a brand’s corporate headquarters in terms of financial performance, as opposed to those in markets geographically far from them. As a franchisor myself, I’ve realized it’s far better to find the right franchise owner then the right market. That strategy continues to pay dividends for us as we grow.” 

Just because a franchise brand is officially an established one with many, many locations doesn’t mean there isn’t room for further growth. Franchise brands simply need to continue focusing on what they’ve always done: finding the right franchise owner, whether that is an existing franchisee or a new addition to the system, and making sure they are entering a viable market. 

 

Raintree has been helping franchise brands achieve exponential growth through our proven, multi-faceted franchise development program that is second-to-none in the franchising industry. To find out more about how Raintree can help your franchise brand experience significant potential growth, visit us at raintreesales.com.

Hounds Town USA Franchise Success Story

Hounds Town USA Franchise Success Story

Hounds Town USA Franchise Success Story

RainTree brings the Hounds Town USA story to life through robust content and a thoughtful long-term marketing plan to achieve 200 percent growth over the next 18 months

When former NYPD canine handler and Commanding Officer of the Nassau County Police Department canine unit Mike Gould retired in 2001, his experience with dog behavior led him to start Hounds Town USA, an interactive doggie daycare, boarding, and grooming facility. He grew the brand to three corporate locations, two of which were sold as turn-key businesses to former employees and customers, before turning to franchising. Along with President Jackie Bondanza, the brand signed several more franchisees on their own and realized that in order to properly scale the brand, they needed a franchising expert to not only position their brand in the marketplace but to provide the strategy on how to recruit the franchisees that fit the brand best, both culturally and financially.

Enter RainTree, a franchise development firm that helps position both emerging and mature franchises for optimal growth. After working with several different sales companies over a six-year time period, Bondanza was referred to RainTree by a colleague.

“Meeting the team was like a breath of fresh air. They are not only professional and good at what they do, but they’re also smart and innovative and ahead of the curve,” Bondanza said.

And the feeling is mutual.

“The RainTree office manager is a Golden Retriever named Drummer, so it’s safe to say we have a strong cultural connection to dogs and were drawn to Hounds Town USA,” said RainTree Development Manager Alex Gesten. “When we did a comparative study of the other doggy daycare franchises, it was clear that the economics of Hounds Town were far superior to anything else out there, both from an investment and a profitability standpoint.”

RainTree quickly identified that founder Mike Gould’s background as a canine handler for the New York Police Department, as Commanding Officer of the Nassau County Police Department canine unit, and in charge of the Military Working Dog (MWD) program would be a differentiator that would resonate with potential franchise buyers.

To properly communicate how Gould’s background was operationalized to bring those same skills to franchisees and staff members, RainTree developed strong content, including a 6,000-word franchise report, and executed photoshoots to develop visuals to properly represent the story and deepen the emotional connection with prospects.

“With really strong content to rely upon, we were able to work with a minimal lead generation budget,” said Marketing Director Linton Dowling. “By focusing on creating compelling marketing collateral, we now need fewer leads to achieve our mutual franchise growth goals.”

That belief that content is king is shared by the RainTree the Hounds Town USA teams. RainTree co-founder and CEO Brent Dowling notes that “to win the awareness war in a highly competitive franchise landscape, you need not only regular content but effective and value-driven content.”

He adds, “Mike hosts a number of radio shows focused on pet care and training, and he and Jackie host an awesome YouTube channel called Hounds Town TV. Plus, Jackie posts regularly on their blog and sends out amazing newsletters. RainTree takes the same approach to content on the development side, and a lot of the content is transferable and translatable into the development program. Our role was to help find a voice for all that content that would resonate with franchise buyers, rather than doggy daycare customers. We simply built lead generation strategies and a franchise sales process that utilized this content in a way that better connects with the psyche of a franchise buyer.”

Bondanza identifies RainTree’s holistic approach to brand growth, particularly in an emerging franchise, as a key factor in the success of the relationship. RainTree has helped develop the long term marketing, operational, and system growth goals, making Hounds Town better positioned to grow.

“RainTree knows how to allocate budgets to maximize results, and there is always someone on their team who has a recommendation for improving the many aspects of our business, from legal to marketing and operations,” said Bondanza. “It’s refreshing to have professional, honest, and down-to-earth feedback and guidance even if this guidance comes at the cost of a lead, or of a short-term sales goal. RainTree fully understands that their job is not just to sell franchises; it’s to grow a brand. They see the bigger picture and are invested in it. And sometimes that means bypassing or turning down an opportunity for the greater, longer-term good. Understanding this is absolutely essential to a brand’s successful growth.”

Dowling notes that the two teams “quickly and seamlessly integrated into a singular, cohesive team, with shared goals, doing so in a way where we trust each other fully.”

“Like all brands in the RainTree portfolio, the working relationship is extremely strong, but in the case of Hounds Town, we’re all having an incredible amount of fun working on this concept and are even more excited for what the journey ahead of us,” said Dowling. “I have no doubt that Hounds Town USA will successfully penetrate a host of new markets in the US in the coming months and years. But today, we are all just enjoying the ride.”

May Franchise Consultants of the Month: Jack & Jill Johnson

May Franchise Consultants of the Month: Jack & Jill Johnson

the franchise insiders franchise consultant

 

How many people get to do what they love every day?  As co-Founders of The Franchise Insiders, husband-and-wife franchise consultant duo Jack and Jill Johnson have designed a business that allows them to follow their true passion: guiding prospective entrepreneurs to find success through franchise ownership. Since their company’s inception, The Franchise Insiders have created such a name for themselves in the franchise world that one would be surprised to learn that their company was founded only three short years ago. 

How Jack and Jill Discovered Franchising

In 2002, Jack was working at a company called Home Care Assistance, offering in-home care for senior citizens and people with disabilities.  

As the business started to grow, the Owners decided to franchise their concept and asked Jack if he would head their franchise sales department. In 2008, Jack became Vice President of Franchise Sales. As someone who loves a challenge and isn’t afraid to put forth maximum effort into everything he does, he was excited about this new endeavor and committed himself fully to his new role. 

Jack grew Home Care Assistance from a small business with little brand recognition to a top international franchise in just two years, continuing to award 30+ franchises per year for almost 10 years! 

During this time, Jack spent a great deal of time working with many franchise consultants and became fascinated with this aspect of the business. While he did enjoy developing one specific franchise brand at Home Care Assistance, the idea of having an inventory of franchise brands to choose from, and connecting prospective entrepreneurs with their ideal franchise opportunity,  resonated with him. He also was intrigued by the idea of starting his own company with his wife, Jill and taking control of his own destiny. 

One thing Jack discovered during his time helping hundreds of prospective franchisees realize their dream with Home Care Assistance was that he wanted the same freedom and schedule flexibility for himself and his family. At the time, Jill was working for IBM, a career that kept her very busy and constantly on the road. On top of that, they both craved a more flexible schedule to be able to spend time with their young son. 

Both Jack and Jill had a passion for helping people find success and could not think of a better business to start together than a franchise consulting company. In 2017, they launched The Franchise Insiders, with a mission of utilizing their franchising expertise to find freedom for their clients through business ownership and maintaining a laser focus on the happiness of their clients. 

The Johnsons decided to place their first ad in Southwest Magazine, the in-flight periodical offered to passengers on Southwest Airlines, to get the word out about their new company. Little did they know at the time, this ad would build their business. In the second month the ad ran, a Southwest Airlines Captain who was in search of a lifestyle change gave them a call and ended up investing in a franchise. And that was just the beginning.

This first placement propelled their business toward success. Since then, Jack and Jill have helped hundreds of people become Franchise Owners.

 

franchise insiders jack and jill johnson

The Secret to Jack and Jill’s Success

So, how have the Johnsons found such success in their franchise consulting business? They attribute it to a few things:

  • Through The Franchise Insiders, Jack and Jill have built their own brand identity founded upon honesty and integrity, client satisfaction, and a passion for helping people. The Johnsons understand the importance of building their own personal brand and have conveyed their voice through a highly professional website with a plethora of information, client success stories, and videos, among other things. 

 

  • Jack and Jill are driven to be the best at everything they do. “We are never satisfied,” said Jack. “We wake up every morning with both fear and excitement in our belly, ready to take on the day doing what we love most – helping people pursue their dreams!” They possess a hunger to succeed and are constantly seeking innovative ways to improve their business model. 

 

  • The Franchise Insiders are also extremely client-focused and are available for their clients any day, any time.  Their quick response time is usually under 10 minutes, and their clients are extremely grateful for their timely responses. Getting back to clients’ concerns and answering questions quickly not only increases their level of trust but also demonstrates that Jack and Jill truly care about them. 

 

  • Last but not least, Jack and Jill are constantly researching brands and updating their franchise consulting inventory with those that are doing it right. By having a number of exemplary brands under their umbrella, they are more likely to find the perfect match for their clients. The Franchise Insiders look for certain qualities in the brands they present, including scalability, the opportunity to build an empire, and backing by a third-party company, like Raintree. These attributes give them the added confidence that a brand’s FDD is sound, the concept is smart, and there is a proven sales process with an established company behind it. 

 

Through franchise consulting, Jack and Jill Johnson have not only transformed the lives of their hundreds of clients, but they have also achieved their own goals of freedom through entrepreneurship, controlling their own destiny, and being purveyors of the American Dream! They have the opportunity to speak to potential entrepreneurs with infectious energy each and every day and feed off of the drive and excitement of everyone they meet. As Jack says,  “It is good for the soul!” 

Congratulations, Jack and Jill, for being Raintree’s May Consultant of the Month. We truly appreciate your partnership and we look forward to continuing working with you to enhance more lives through the gift of entrepreneurship!