Truckee’s Squeeze In ready to franchise; opens Bay Area location
Learning the other view of franchising
Even while Misty Young is launching a franchise program for her family’s Squeeze In restaurants, she’s learning the other side of the franchise business.
Young is part of a group of four investors — the others are from northern California — that won an area-development agreement with Rita’s Italian Ice.
East Bay Ice Empire Inc., the group that includes Young, is looking to develop 75 franchise locations in Sacramento, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Joaquin, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties.
It’s the largest franchise-development deal in the history of Rita’s Italian Ice, a Trevose, Pa., company with more than 600 U.S. locations.
The experience with Rita’s Italian Ice, Young says, provides her with a good view of the franchising business through the other end of the lens — the viewpoint of a potential franchisee.
Plus, she says, she’s learning more about the details of operating a franchisor from an experienced food-service company.
RENO, Nev. — For years, Squeeze In has assiduously collected contact information from customers through its EggHead Club loyalty program.
The work is paying off in a big way this month as the Truckee-based restaurant chain takes a giant step out of its home market into Silicon Valley.
And the expansion into a new market is preparing the company as it begins a franchise-sales program that’s planned to launch 10 locations within the next couple of years.
The new location in Redwood City, the fifth to carry the Squeeze In brand, is more than 200 miles and at least two media markets distant from the company’s nearest location in Truckee.
But Misty Young, who owns Squeeze In with family members, says data from the EggHead Club showed a potentially strong following already exists for new location. More than 4,200 members of the loyalty program live within 50 miles of the store.
The Bay Area location, she says, is likely to represent a one-of-a-kind deal for Squeeze In.
The company’s first four locations — South Meadows, northwest Reno, Sparks and Truckee — are owned by Misty and Gary Young and their daughter and son-in-law, Shila and Chad Morris.
The Redwood City location was developed by a partnership of Squeeze In with Dr. Morgan and Nikki McCarroll of Reno and Dr. David and Robin Soran of Redwood City. The 65-seat restaurant employs about 40.
Katrina Loftin Winkel of the business brokerage BTI Group managed the administrative process of the transaction.
Squeeze In’s next round of growth, however, will come from a franchise program that the company rolled out to enthusiastic early response.
“We’ve been inundated,” says Misty Young, noting that four applications from potential franchisees already are in the pipeline.
Squeeze In Franchising LLC charges a $40,000 franchise fee, collects 5 percent of gross revenues and collects a marketing fee of 2 percent of gross sales.
Franchise documents project that the total investment to open a store range from $187,300 to $353,500, figures that include the initial franchise fee.
The company expects to launch only three franchised stores this year, followed by seven locations in 2015.
“We want to make sure that we do it in a structured, methodical way,” Young says.
But after the company gets its sea legs in 2016?
“It’s on,” says Young.
The Young family has been working toward franchising for a couple of years. Gary and Misty Young purchased the original Truckee location — a 14-table restaurant squeezed into a space barely more than 10 feet wide — in 2004.
“It’s a hallway with tables,” Young says in describing the Truckee location. But she says the long, narrow operation ensures that servers stay in close contact with customers.
After launching larger northwest Reno and South Meadows locations — decisions driven in large part by EggHead Club data about customer locations — the company got back to a smaller long-and-narrow design with its Sparks location.
The Sparks restaurant, Misty Young says, is designed as a template for franchised locations.
Those locations are expected to range from 1,450 to 2,500 square feet.
Between the location in a new market, the franchise program and the ongoing challenges of owning four restaurants, Misty Young works long days.
“I don’t sleep a lot these days,” she says. “But I sleep really soundly.”