Growing your restaurant group or franchise from a single unit to multi units is not possible without the right people and right technology on your side. That's what Kyle learned.

Kyle is the President of Chicago Scoops, a franchise group that operates Cold Stone Creameries and Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factories across 11 states. Kyle and his team started as a single unit operator in May 2014 and they have plans to grow the platform to north of 75 units in the coming years. 

The fast growth mentality was instilled in him right after graduation, when he started his career at Sizzling Platter, LLC, a restaurant group with over 400 locations.

We interviewed Kyle to find out what processes and tools he’s used to help him grow as quickly as he has.

Kyle: It was great to be there [Sizzling Platter, LLC] for a few years to feel the level of growth they were experiencing. It gave me the opportunity to meet great business partners that eventually lead into starting a new group in Chicago. We started with Little Caesar’s pizza and then got into Cold Stone in the middle of 2014 with 1 unit and today we’re at 37. We did all of our acquisitions in about 2.5 years really kind of group up operations and our plan is to be somewhere north of 75 units in the next 2 and a half years, in 2019. That’s our goal internally for growth. So it’s been amazing.

I think a lot of my passion comes from creating an organization that has huge growth opportunities for employees and being able to mentor people that maybe didn’t have the same opportunities I had to go to college. Plus I’ve always been involved with technology.

So that’s our secret sauce: taking care of people through integrity and training, good grassroots operations and then tech-enabling our units to make them more efficient and therefore increase the bottom line. That’s our passion, it certainly is for me.

Rally: How do you take care of your people? Is it hiring someone still in school and helping them grow in the organization?

Kyle: Oh yea, absolutely. It’s fun to be able to look someone in the eye and say “I guarantee you advancement in our company. Ultimately it’s in your hands, but we’ll give you the tools to succeed”. It’s really powerful. I’ve been so blessed to have young men and women that have worked for me since I started my first franchise that are now working at the corporate office and help run this giant platform. Creating those types of opportunities for people is really fulfilling and it’s definitely what gets me up in the morning. 

Rally: The quick service restaurant industry is known for pretty high turn over rates. Has this management approach helped you with turnover?

Kyle: 100%. We really pride ourselves on having much lower turnover than the industry averages. Of course it’s higher in certain areas like downtown New York City, but we really pride ourselves on having extremely low management turnover. People want to be with us for 3–5 years maybe even their whole careers. We tell our employees that we plan to grow into new markets and that we’re going to need more general managers, supervisors, corporate support and that those opportunities are available to them. 

Rally: Besides the financial metrics, how do you measure success in your business?

Kyle: For us it’s when we’ve maintained growth and we haven’t killed our team. I have this firm belief that you grow with your people. Like I said earlier we have goals to be at 75–100 units but if our team is not ready for that we’re not going to do it. So for me when I look back at a year I’m going to ask myself did I grow, did my team grow, are we better than last year and are we better off to handle more growth next year. One of our favourite sayings in our executive management meetings is that we’re a different company every 6 months. That’s part of the entrepreneurial journey. Sometimes you just make things happen and there’s no better feeling than being put to the fire and just saying “I gotta do this”.

Rally: What advice would you give to the 1–2 unit operator who wants to expand and get to 5, 10 or even 50 units? How do you get past that initial threshold?

Kyle: I’ve been the 1–2 unit operator that struggled to pay personal rent and literally counting every penny. I’ve been there. But to get past that stage, you need to make this business a business of managing people and streamlining processes. I’ve seen a lot of 1–2 unit owners that are just trying to do every single thing themselves. I call them Super GMs. It’s probably the number one thing that happens when a general manager gets promoted to being a multi-unit manager is they just try to run the 5 stores themselves, driving around to every store and doing the inventory everyday and they just end up having a heart attack. That’s not your job. Your job is to manage people and processes. Best advice I’d give them.

"You need to make this business a business of managing people and processes."

Rally: Technology is a big part of your “secret sauce” for growth. Has it always been that way for you? 

Kyle: Being highly involved in technology is just the way I was groomed and mentored with my partners. From day one we always looked to implement technology to streamline things, whether that’s streamlining our back office, our corporate overhead, our processes. Solink is one of the technologies we’ve adopted that has changed our whole landscape for being able to scale as quickly as we have.

Rally: How has Solink impacted your ability to grow?

Kyle: I’m gonna make him blush now, but when I met Mike [Mike Matta, CEO of Solink] I recognized his drive as a leader and entrepreneur. He looked me in the eyes and said “I’ll make this happen” and “what else do you want?” and I believed him. Mike and his team have delivered on all their promises. On a partnership level, that’s number one for me. It’s very hard to find vendor partnerships that help you scale and go as fast as you can go and deliver on their word. There’s a lot of good sales people out there that will get you believing in their product but what really matters is execution. That’s what I’ve seen from the Solink team. 

"Solink is one of the technologies we've adopted that has changed our whole landscape for being able to scale as quickly as we have."

From a product and service standpoint, it has streamlined travel, it has allowed us to have eyes and ears on restaurants as we’ve grown so fast, it has streamlined our theft prevention and security processes. 

Being able to have our security system across 11 states all linked to one platform is pretty freaking cool. My past experience has been that every region might have their local security guy and if something breaks down you have to contact that vendor. To simplify all of that and just be able to send an email to the Solink team when I need something has definitely been a huge part of our success and allowed us to scale as quickly as we have.

Solink Web View

We’ve got a construction project going on in Brooklyn right now and it’s nice to jump on there and see how things are going. And from a security standpoint it’s helped us with fraud. We don’t shy away from the bright lights; we like to operate in prime time locations like New York City, Baltimore inner city, areas where there just happens to be more fraud and theft and it’s helped us reduce our losses.

I’m excited to see what Solink evolves into. I think they have a great niche market in security, cameras and POS integration and I’m excited to see what they do next because I know Mike has a lot of tricks up his sleeve. 

Mike: Just out of curiosity, I logged in to see the usage on your Solink system and almost every single one of the users you have has logged in once pretty much within the last week. 

Kyle: Oh yeah, my management team has it on their phones. Everyone loves it. Every time we go into a new store I usually do a really quick webinar on training and show them how to use it. The reaction I get is: “This is mine now?” Yep, have fun. 

Rally: What were you using for security before Solink?

Kyle: Oh my gosh, a little of everything. Some stores didn’t have cameras or I’d buy cameras from an old owner or install our own cameras. We were also using DTT. We had a little of everything. We do a lot of acquisitions and part of the struggle with that is you’re inheriting a giant spider web so to help clean it up is so powerful. 

Within a matter of days you can be live with security cameras integrated with the POS and you don’t have the $5000 up front cost like most security companies do. On a price standpoint, it’s more affordable than the rest even if you’re talking about leasing cameras. When I tell people what the costs are they look at me like “there’s no way, nah it’s too good to be true”. Plus having it all in the cloud so I can access everything remotely. So the value is huge.

Just to hear “we’ll charge you monthly, we’ll get you up and running quickly and we’ll facilitate it all from Canada”. It’s awesome!

"Anyone that cares about their business, whether that's a single unit operator of 100 units, should have a service like Solink." Kyle Welch

Recap of Kyle’s franchise growth tips:

  • Provide growth opportunities to your staff and do what you can to set them up for success.
  • You can’t do everything yourself. Delegate the day-to-day operational activities so you can focus on managing people and processes. 
  • Equip your management team and your units with technology that streamlines your processes.
  • Go with the cloud: Cloud-based technologies allow you to manage aspects of your operations, like employee scheduling and security, remotely and across every unit. Cloud technology will play a huge role in helping you scale.

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"I've been the 1-2 unit operator that struggled to pay personal rent and literally counting every penny. But to get past that stage, you need to make this business a business of managing people and processes."

This franchisee's secret to fast growth

We talked to Kyle Welch to find out how he grew his restaurant group from a single unit to 37 in under 3 years.

Solink is a whole new kind of security system for franchise owners. This article is the latest installment of our recurring series where we ask entrepreneurs to share their stories of starting and growing franchise businesses.

BY SOLINK- MAY 02, 2017

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