Dan Pool is the Owner and CEO of Pools Restaurant Group. He has owned and opened over 150 restaurants throughout the United States. Pools Restaurant Group currently consists of 30 Gandolfo’s Delis and 18 Petro’s Chili & Chips. Previously, Dan worked for Chili’s and Bennigan’s, owned several gourmet food trucks, and was the President of Golden Corral.
Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:
- Dan Pool opens up about starting in the restaurant industry after being kicked out of his house at the age of 15
- The story of Dan’s mentor, who was incredibly successful despite his third-grade education
- How Dan transitioned from fast food worker to the President of Golden Corral without any formal college education
- What made Dan decide it was time to start his own business, Pools Restaurant Group?
- Career mistakes that turned into valuable lessons
- The airplane epiphany that helped Dan transform his life and business
- How Dan got involved with Gandolfo’s Deli and Petro’s Chili & Chips
- What are Dan’s aspirations for the future?
In this episode…
Some people learn through years of expensive college education. Others, like Dan Pool, learn through the school of hard knocks.
When 15-year-old Dan came home to find all of his belongings tossed onto the front lawn, the future didn’t look bright. He was sleeping in friends’ cars and barely making enough to eat by working at fast food restaurants. But what started as a way to survive turned into a lifelong passion for the restaurant industry. Since then, he’s started several restaurants, became the President of Golden Corral, and created his current business, Pools Restaurant Group.
In this episode of the SpotOn Series, Chad Franzen is joined by Dan Pool, Owner and CEO of Pools Restaurant Group, to discuss how to turn unfavorable circumstances into roaring success. Dan shares how he learned to run a business without any formal education, the mistakes that turned into valuable lessons, and why he decided to start his own restaurant group.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
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Chad Franzen 0:20
Chad Franzen here, Co-host for this show where we feature top restauranteurs, investors and business leaders. This is part of our SpotOn Series. SpotOn has the best in class payment platform for retail. And they have a flagship solution called SpotOn Restaurant where they combine marketing software and payments all in one. They’ve served everyone from larger chains like Dairy Queen and Subway to small mom and pop restaurants. To learn more, go to spoton.com This episode is brought to you by Rise25. We help b2b businesses to get ROI clients referrals and strategic partnerships through done for you podcasts. If you have a b2b business and want to be building great relationships with clients, referral partners and thought leaders in your space, there’s no better way to do it than through podcasts and content marketing. To learn more go to rise25media.com or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Dan Pool is the Owner and CEO of Pools Restaurant Group. He has owned and opened over 150 restaurants throughout the United States. He’s worked for Chili’s and Bennigan’s and has been the president of Golden Corral. He’s also owned gourmet food trucks. Pools Restaurant Group currently consists of 30 Gandolfo’s New York Delis and 18 Petro’s Chili and Chips. Dan, thanks so much for joining me. How are you?
Dan Pool 1:33
Great. Thanks for you for asking me.
Chad Franzen 1:36
Sure. It’s my pleasure. So your involvement in restaurant in restaurants goes way back. Tell me about how you got started. And where?
Dan Pool 1:46
Well, it’s a funny story. I came home at 15 all my stuff was thrown out the front yard and I kind of knew I needed to eat. So slepping friends cars, and they got stumbled into the restaurant business. So they never got out of it. So I’ve done every bit fast foods in the early days and, you know, work a couple of jobs. I was fortunate. It was summertime not wintertime. And when my dad decided it’s time for me to go then so I was able to work a couple jobs. And both all of them was in the restaurant. They had enough sense at least to know that I needed to eat.
Chad Franzen 2:26
Yeah, well, wow, that is quite a story. So you you started out doing probably what’s appropriate for a 15 year old fast food
Dan Pool 2:34
I was doing. I was actually there was a chain called the wienerschnitzel fast food. So I did. I did the wienerschnitzel and another concept called Long John Silver’s they were luckily they were next door to each other and in walking distance in Amarillo. So I would literally finish up one walk over to the other and so for quite a while I was eating hot dogs and fish.
Chad Franzen 2:55
Okay, well, that’s a you know, for a 15 year old. That’s okay, diet, I guess what? What, uh, so So you did? So you did that just to basically to financially survive? And as you said to eat sushi, how did your progression in the industry go from that point? Well, I
Dan Pool 3:12
just stayed. So I mean, for me, it was, you know, it was just, you know, just a progression. I mean, I did fast food and then a little bit later in, in my restaurant career, I had gotten to work for an actually got into the bar business for a little bit. And when the laws changed in Texas from 18 to 21, the bar business kind of went away and I was 22 or 23 at the time, had a young son, BBs is what the way you’re going to go. And so I’d actually got on with Bennigan’s and got on with Bennigan’s and that was kind of my introduction into the full service world. So I did Bennigan’s and staking out for a number of years then I went to work for God well with work for concept with Larry Devine, the founder of Chili’s worked with him and the chilies and Ts concept for a few number a number of years help them open up a new brand called new brand at the time called T ‘s got relocated to Dallas. And then after a little bit with with them Larry, the t his concept wasn’t going as strong as he wanted. He sold it. And I had an opportunity what I call it I didn’t go to college, I barely got out of high school, and I call Mike you know, your mentors in life a lot of times are your best professors. And I was very blessed to get an opportunity to go to work for a guy by the name of Tom Hopkins. And Tom Harkins had at the time a number of Castle lays anti pasta and another concept called crazy Jose’s and I had an opportunity to go to work for him. He was looking for a Director of Operations that’s kind of a whole nother story in itself. But Tom was a Horatio Alger award winner. And the Horatio Alger award, if you’re not familiar with it, it was a ratio Alger was was a rider back in the Depression, that would write stories of hope. And so the Horatio Alger award is a very prominent award to win. And it’s basically it’s people who aren’t supposed to make it in life. And Tom had a third grade education, couldn’t read, couldn’t write, became a Kirby door to door salesman became the number one Kirby vacuum cleaner, door to door salesman in the country. Again, couldn’t read, couldn’t write, get all the information, go home, recite it to his wife, she’d fill out the contracts, he would go back and do the sales. And by the time I had met Tom, he had just he had sold a bunch of he had a Winnebago lots that he sold for about 30 million got into the restaurant business and was just powering through it. And I was looking for Director of Operations. And so my time with him is I kind of call it my Ivy League, because at the time that you get a chance to go to work for an individual like that, that had the drive. I was just, I was a sponge. I mean, he would just talk for hours on set in front of him just listen to him. And just his successes in business and his his beliefs. And so long story short, I was his director of operations for about four years. And that was my four year of ivy league education. He actually had a massive stroke. His family came in and assumed a lot of the business sold off a few so forth. And at the time, I had Golden Corral, who had been recruiting me. And so at the time with Golden Corral, I reached back to him and said, Hey, are you interested? I scored very high on some of their testing, whatever that means, right? And so they brought me in now I was supposed to come in as a multi unit supervisor. Next thing I know, I come out of training. And I’m as the kitchen manager in Garner, North Carolina. And so I’m kind of like, this isn’t what I got hired for. This isn’t what I was thinking. And Irwin Roberts was just a phenomenal mentor for me as well. He was the area president for that division I was in and basically he said, if you’re as good as what you say you are, then you will move up the ranks because that’s how chorale at the time was, which was all company destruction. And that was true. I went from a kitchen manager to President building crap. And within about five, four years, five years, and just had a phenomenal phenomenal time with Chorale. But what I am is I’m a builder. I enjoy growing brands and concepts. And so once I had reached to a degree a certain place, Ted Fowler, phenomenal CEO. He wasn’t going nowhere. Matter of fact, I think he just retired maybe about five, six years ago. And that was kind of the top of the summit. And so I had a 32 at a lot of energy and add a lot of confidence. And so well, why not jumped out on my own. And ever since then, I’ve been doing. I’ve done Sunday’s barbecues I’ve done, I’ve done you know, I’ve had concept pizza concepts, I’ve had 30 Pizza concepts. As you mentioned earlier, I did partnered with Johnsonville sausage, and we did gourmet food trucks in Texas with with Ralph and John Wagner and just again, another fantastic mentors, Ralph Staters, with Johnsonville. And so between barbecue and pizza, and we did full service restaurants, we had a concept called the Fieldhouse that we opened and, you know, a few years after we were selling, it kind of moved on. And so I’ve done sandwiches, which is again the office which, you know, we’re extremely proud of. And then now with Petros Chilean chips, helping that team grow. So here’s a quick run through stopped a little bit with the restaurants over the years.
Chad Franzen 8:59
It sounds like it to say the least. So you said you became the president of Golden Corral at age 32. You never went to college, and you barely finished high school. You started working at fast food when you were 15. How did you go from, you know, fast food worker to President without getting kind of you know, your stereotypical education?
Dan Pool 9:23
Well, I I honestly, what’s great about the restaurant business is it’s, you know, it’s the Show Me not telling me if you know, back, especially back in the old days, and if you ran numbers, then you were promoted in so many times, you know, you’d love to say that you went through the six months corporate training program and you got promoted here and there. Well, 90% of the time when you’re coming out of training, you’re dropped into what I used to call Vietnam because if it was operating, running great, the manager was still there. So most of the time, the places you got dropped into you were dropping into a battlefield well My education with Tom was in just one thing he had taught me have always lived with no matter how route you are, you’re wrong if the end result isn’t what you wanted. And he kept preaching that to me over and over and over, when I would come to him and beat up different issues in the store, he would always say to me as at the end result, you want it? Well know what you were wrong. And that, I mean, what about hard lessons? You know, every time I turned around, he would take money out of my bonuses. So if small, were costs were high in the stores at the time I was over, he would figure a percentage out, take it out of my bonus, you know, so if food cost was because he would say if I can’t hold you accountable, who do I hold accountable. So it was almost an unfair advantage. When I got to corral because I was used to plastic someone pulls out the back door, and every trash can was dumped, and you went through it with a rake. And you, you know, if you found spoons and knives and forks, then you know, the next bunch of trash cans that you went through the servers went through back then when the servers would go, they would only do that a couple times. And guess why you didn’t have spoons and forks in the trash can. And so the philosophy and the beliefs that he had taught me allow, and then the organization’s chorale was a very much number oriented, it didn’t care who you were, what your background was, it was at the end of the day, can you execute and operate? And that is one of the things about the restaurant industry? Is it you know his execution and operation because black a lot of times you’ll see on the franchise times or the restaurant news when it used to come out and it would show the hot concepts. People would say, Oh, what do you think about the hot concept, let’s let’s see how hot they are, how hot they are in five years, and 90% of them are around. So at the end of the day, you have to have an operator, you can have all the fluff and talk to you blue in the face. But at the end of the day, if you don’t have consistency, and you don’t have anything, you don’t have retention, where you retain your co workers. And that was another thing that Tom used to teach me. Not teach me used to cost is if someone if someone left during training, that was okay, because he could say they made buffalo theirselves through the interview. But after training for 12 months, they were mine. And if they left that cost me well, if it was going to come out of your paycheck, how would you interview and if it’s going to come out of your paycheck for sure. How would you train. And so through that I learned the value of retention. And that’s something that I’ve always been good at building teams and create an environment where they wanted to stay in was I went into one thing I did learn to what I learned different from the Bennigan’s take an L days and even t as chill as it was back then it was the turn and burn, you would you know have you would have 2530 year old men back here ready to go. And they didn’t think about retention, it was work, bring them in, burn him out, get the next one. And now that and also back then, you know, people’s quality of life was different. If someone would say to you, you know, we can put three managers on and pay us 100 grand a year or we can put four or five managers on and pay you 65 What do you want? Well back then we said 100 and nowadays people say well pay me the 65 because I want to have a quality of life so that that culture and that that style has changed a lot. So back then it was very Maverick.
Chad Franzen 13:13
So you really learned to establish positive cultures as you during your time coming up? Would you say that’s the key to kind of, as you said, going into more like can conditions and turning it into a success?
Dan Pool 13:26
Yeah, I would say talent talent relationships equals productivity and profit. I mean, you just you have to have those people have to know and it doesn’t vary much today. Matter of fact, probably even more so today. You just have to talk different but back then, you know again, I think it was because I came from nothing I had nothing and the fact that I did work my way up through the ranks. So when someone sits there you know in the area supervisor says yeah, I did the thing I did the bathroom too well. I did the bathroom. And then you know I would even take you know what the difference when I would go into stores, I would take my coat jacket off and I would go work the line I would because I did that I’ve cut the meat at work the line I’ve never taken you know back when I was multi unit. You know, when I first got store, I take the dishwasher go check the bathrooms, they weren’t clean, take a coat roll up my sleeves. It’s something when the dishwasher or whoever is watching you wipe is clean a toilet correctly. And that culture, that group of kids that that that goes a long way. You know today you may have to speak different and you actually need to spend more time today is just it’s very similar, but it’s also very different because there’s more of a chip on the shoulder, if you will, in today’s world versus what we ran into before. You know before it was you know, it was he didn’t have as much well, it’s just different which put it
Chad Franzen 14:50
that way. So you you established Pools Restaurant Group, and it’s been almost 20 years now. What made you what was kind of the turning point that made you You decide it’s time for me to start my own thing. And then what did it look like when you first got started? Well,
Dan Pool 15:07
you know, Bible says the root of all you know, number one sin is pride. Well, I had pride. I was sitting there thinking that, you know, I had grown Golden Corral, we had grown, we’ve been very successful. And, you know, I thought I should be CEO, you know, I was keen calm, you know? So what are you gonna do? How you can get out on your own? Well, you are you learn real quick, you know? Because, you know, yeah, hard work pays. But hard work doesn’t ensure success. You know, I’m smart. Well, smarts doesn’t ensure success. And, you know, the phrase I use a lot that six success usually comes from good judge can’t argue with that good judgment usually comes from experience, we really can’t argue with that experience usually come from. But I literally have failed my way I made about every mistake you could possibly make from chasing the money to, you know, being hard headed to it’s my way or the highway to work in 120 hours. And, you know, you know, again, not knowing my kids at the time and justifying it because I’m working and, you know, maybe every excuse there was the nail me you never gave me pieces. I never worried I never worried if I was going to go broke or go because I knew I worked. And I knew I knew the restaurant business. But every other piece of it, you know, in that regard, because you get out and you think the corporate world that you’re a part of all they don’t know nothing, you get out real quick. And the reason they were successful, no matter who they were, even the ones that have closed today, the ones that were been around for years are Western sizzler Western steers and Ryan’s and all of them, they did no stop. And but again, through culture and through time, and through evolution, these things turn and move. So for me, it was a lot of there was a lot of, you know, I fell I literally fell away, I got out and, you know, got into the barbecue business with Eric combs and 911 happened. And you learn real quick, you know, got a lot of pride got a lot of ego 911 happens. And it just is what it is. So we at that time, we had to make the means to part ways, took a bloodbath. And you know, at the time, to be quite honest with you, I literally had 28 bucks left in my account. And that was it. And I got a daughter getting heading to Princeton, I had a daughter, the Princeton and got her Master’s at Vanderbilt, the son of Georgia, you know, and so, you know, at the time, you know, there you are setting with that, with that, you know, in front of you. But that’s when you fall back on my mentors, my Tom Harkin to get a third grade education, you know, the different things that you have learned. And again, what choice do you have? So you,
Chad Franzen 17:45
I’m sorry. So you, you talked about these mistakes that you made, I think mistakes can be so valuable, because how else do you learn? was? Was there any specific one or scenario where you’re like, yeah, that just put that, you know, turn the light bulb on in my head, or you just helped me turn the corner and move forward? You know, incredibly, was there any one scenario that you can describe?
Dan Pool 18:09
No, I think it was a combination. But what I think it was come to the the number one age, you know, as you get older, you know, I like right now I’m in my 50s, I love my 50s You know, and you, you know, you’re not in a house that you’re in a hurry, but during the rush, you know, I’m gonna walk down the hill, you know, in my 30s, Lord, have mercy kick the door, down, go, you know, screaming through it, and here you go, what was probably evolution of those failures. And then again, the fact that I had good people speaking into me, and that I had a, just a burning desire, and it’s all it’s all numbers, if you just realize that it’s a numbers game. And if you keep swinging, eventually it’s going to pay and so to me, it was a it was a, it was an it was all of the the stuff, it was all and then patient starts to come and kids will help you with that patient started to come in again, numbers when you have failed, you know, and you know, these restaurants open and they fall and fail, you better learn from them. And you know, when you’re working those days, you better you better. So now I think where we are is, you know, we’re not in a hurry. We’re 100% debt free. We do this because we’d love it, the people who are involved with us, or people that are in the same and you know, we’re not chasing and I think to be able to come to that realization because you watch so many restaurants fail, why does eight out of 10 Mom and Mom and Pop restaurants fail in the first year? And why did Corporation start to fail? Because they chase the money and they take their eye off what the who they’re serving, who is their customer and and in your customers, even your your your managers, your franchisees? You know, it’s just that chasing the money is where I think a majority of not all brands will begin to fail. So To us, it was just inertia. And I’ll be honest with you, you know, God, God in my life was you know, he woke me up on the airplane, he asked me how I was doing and yeah, I can build a company and I can tear a company down. But how was I doing? And when, when, when God woke me up, and I almost like the Christmas story where you look back at the ghost of the past. That’s, that’s not who I that’s not who I want to be. That’s not who I wanted to be remembered to be. And that definitely wasn’t the person that was going to walk in the kingdom of God. So, you know, this awakening that he had, and it was him the awakening that he had on me. And the timing that he had allowed me to begin to move in the direction I am today.
Chad Franzen 20:48
He woke you up on an airplane. Is there a story behind that?
Dan Pool 20:51
Well, I was flying on an airplane. And I had no idea I was flying on the airplane. And I was kind of half asleep. Again, doing another one of those 90 hour weeks, you know, working hard, motivating everybody you know, and talking to both sides of your mouth, half awake, half asleep, and almost felt as though there was a it was it there was nobody else around. But there was a full plane. But I just felt this overwhelming. I still half asleep half awake. And it just said to me, I heard the voice says that, Dan, and I kind of shook my head a little bit. And you find yourself Yes. How you doing? And that’s kind of, well, how you doing? How have you done so far? Or without me and your life? You know, yeah, go to church. Yeah, take the kids, but I was the one that was, you know, hurry to get out and made a reason not to go. And yeah, you know, so Oh, you die. You go on that? Oh, yeah. Yeah, no, no, that’s that question. And honestly, on the inside, your answer will tell you. And so he said, How are you doing? And I was in a God literally started taking me back through. And yeah, you see the successes, and you see these failures. But at the time, you know, my son is calling me, Dan. And I don’t remember my daughter, except for her high school year. I have no memory of her when she was young. But I quantified it. And I justified it by the fact that Yeah, you had great vacations, you had great homes. And yeah, you get to go to Princeton. And yeah, you’re getting to go do all this, but they give it all up for their debt. And so when when, as that went back through my mind, and as he raised me through that mind, it was. And as I woke up, the ironic thing is I woke up, not woke up a plane that landed. And I was very rarely by myself. And so I ended up going to a hotel that I was supposed to go to. And as I’m talking, I actually had a cigar. And I wasn’t a big cigar smoker, but it was a Cuban, you’re not going to waste to Cuba. So then I have to go outside sit at the pool. And when you always tell the best advice any 30 year old man, start smoking cigars. Because you smoke a cigar, you’re not going to rush you have nothing to do, it’s not a cheap one. Key to that is folk, expensive cigars, because you’re not going to put them out, you’re not going to rely on them. And you’re sure I’m gonna rush through it unless you want to throw up. So what does it force you to do? It forces you to stop. So as I’m sitting out there, and I’m all alone, and I’m smoking that cigar, and then continue and it just played through my mind. And I made a decision fact, if you look at my office, I’ve got my my wife has a framed picture that says one life one focus, and it has Christ washing the feet of the disciples, because that was just such a changer for me. And it’s just been a chain reaction. And now, you know, our purpose and our mission or purpose is to give glory to God and all that we do. And then our mission, and then our core values. It’s all in line with that. And you know what we’ve stayed to that. And through stay into that we have seen things that are in all honesty, that would just blow your mind, because it’s not my business as Christ business. And when it’s Christ business, then what does he want me to do? Wow, that
Chad Franzen 24:08
is a great story. So so so for, you know, a young person, a young person in their 30s starting their own restaurant, what would you say is symptomatic of chasing the money as opposed to doing maybe what what would make them more successful over the long term?
Dan Pool 24:27
Well, you know, you always start out underfunded. You know, everybody can say, oh, yeah, I went and got this funding. Well, one thing I would say to him is there’s there’s two parts to that. If you can’t raise the money, you’re going to fail so you’re not ready. So don’t go borrow the money from France. Don’t go don’t know if you can’t put a plan together that people would invest in. Don’t go borrow 200 grand from dad and promising you’re going to pay him back. If you can’t put a plan together. I could put the funding together for your business, whatever it is, you’re not ready for it. If you have to go out and you know, get dad’s money or get off of Bob’s money, and that if it’s a plan, and there’s a plan that says, I’m going to give you a return, I’m going to give you a return in business. But I would tell you not even make it family. Because the most restaurants fail because they’re underfunded. Well, they’re underfunded, because they should have never, they’re not ready to open yet. So go work harder, go work longer, go work more. And then through that, as you can put together the more than enough double whatever number you end with it you go on a 350,000 unique set and have the discipline to say if I can’t raise that capital or if I can’t put together that deal, then it’s not meant for me. That would be my advice.
Chad Franzen 25:51
So right now you own about I think it was 30 Gandalf those New York deli establishments. Can you tell me about Petros Yeah, yeah. Can you tell me about the the process of kind of building your current portfolio, Gandalf those and then Petros as well?
Dan Pool 26:07
Well, when I shared with you earlier that I was that I was, you know, literally coming out of Sonny’s BBQ got a daughter going to Princeton, and the 911 hit and literally lost every dime. I had $28 in the account and a daughter daughter headed to Princeton, a lot of people say I don’t know, you don’t understand. And it’s $28. And, of course, I mean, my whatever. 30s. And I’m and at that time you talk about ego booster, because you know, you thought you’re gonna, you know, be king of the world, especially leaving corral. And so I started looking at different brands, what can I get involved in, and for whatever reason, I thought that I was going to go raise 400,000 And I had a couple of people, I could go raise 400,000 and buy the rights to a concept called Firehouse Subs. And they were available at that time for in Atlanta. As I’m negotiating with Firehouse Subs, Grant Gan Tom Gandalf, which was, he had worked for me at Golden Corral, Tom Gandalf and his brother and his father had all worked for me at one time or another in Golden Corral. And we’ve been part we parted ways while they were in Golden Corral. And so while I’m sitting there trying to negotiate with Firehouse Subs Now with that being said, why Firehouse Subs? Well, because I literally had looked at all of them Jimmy, John’s jersey, Mike subway, you name them, cousins, blimp ease you name them I looked at all of them because all of a sudden what I realized I was good at was growing things aren’t growing things fast. And so one thing I realized about the sandwich industry was you can’t make money on one you’ve got to have multiple when my problem was is how can I be a subway just open it up and across the street opens a Jimmy John’s there’s 20% of my business or Jersey Mike’s or cousins or black bees. So what what was going to make this work? How could they work? Well at the time Firehouse Subs after 911 kind of had that fire kick to it right with the st meats and all that. So while I’m discussing with them, thinking that you know what this could work. My phone rings, Tom Janda to ask me, What am I doing? And that he needed a reference. So while we’re having a conversation, he starts telling me about his brother’s New York deli, which was Craig Gandalf. I said, Brother, I thought I knew him. I know he said one that you did let go. He says, started Long Island, New York. And he said to chase the girl back to Salt Lake City and opened up a traditional Deli. They’re Italian not Jewish, opened up a traditional deli there and about went broke. And he was homesick to Utah a pretty bland food so he started making sandwiches like his friends in New York, eight and then nine years later had been voted the best sandwich in Utah, or so many years later been voted the best sandwich in Utah for the last five or six years. So as soon as he said the word deli, it just registered in my brain like this. This is this is something we do this is a competitive advantage. What I liked about Chili’s, I thought they were better than Applebee’s and and and you know the other ones that you have one appear in Tennessee it’s one Blanco but I loved about Golden Corral. I felt like they were better competitive advantage they had a Ryan’s No Country Buffet and, and in a western steer and all the other ones. And so I’ve always looked for competitive advantages well, but Deli. And so long story short jump on a plane, Craig picks me up in Salt Lake at the airport in a base 1976 van with a plastic chair screwed to the floorboard, I’m a big guy. I’m 65 to 90 before dinner. Greg’s a big guy too. So I’m in the plastic care with him driving down the road. He had four delis at the time. And, you know he says to tell me about Welcome to the best sandwich I suggest he said, You know, it’s these guys work for me and then they go and kind of get their own open and help themselves. Oh, you got franchisee as well, no, no, what’s that? So I told him because now, you know eventually they’ll pay me let’s just let me get this right you got three guys open delis that that aren’t paying. He’s like yeah, so I started asking about food costs and labor costs and he’s going I don’t know, I don’t know. So I’m thinking I wasted my time going to get on the next flight heading back from Salt Lake or heading back out of Salt Lake, and we pull up to this gas station with a little deli on the side of it. And in Lehigh, and we get ready to get out and I’m hungry, and we were starting to walk up, he says, Look, probably get busy. He said, you know, grab a cup of sandwiches and you know, and I’ll get back to you and I go well, right. So I walk up look in a massive menu board. And I’m like, he goes, What do you want? I go, I have no clue to what you just make me to. And I went over there and sit down. Well, the play started getting busier. And he made me two sandwiches on Urban Cowboy in New York. Now remember, I’d eaten everybody’s sandwich a jersey, Mike’s Jimmy John’s cup cousins Blampied. You know, I’d use the credit cards. I flew all over the place he and I started eating that. That New Yorker. It was the best sandwich I ever had. So I’m eating it. Now starting to lean back in that old deli case. It had Tupperware bowls, but in those Tupperware, Bhojan potato salad, pasta salad, pea salad, macaroni salad, these fresh salads in my mind, I started thinking, where can you get first deli salads. Everybody else has chips. Now I look up on the board and I saw corned beef and pastrami and I thought where can you go and get a Reuben a pastrami sandwich? Where can you go and get these things? And long story short, he came back sat down, and my whole attitude changed. And I said let me tell you what I think we can do this be my last quick story for you. So I told him I said, let me go back cuz I had not done franchising. I was going to be a franchisee. So let me go back, put some stuff together. I said maybe we’ll run an ad that says we franchise maybe we’ll do so I get the paper. Well, at the time, Craig didn’t have two nickels to rub together either. And of course, I didn’t really know it much at the time. We’re sitting there. And I leave and literally he gets table tents from Pepsi. And he writes on there we franchise. And within 90 days, we sell $1.2 million
Chad Franzen 32:20
in franchises. Wow, incredible
Dan Pool 32:23
story, the rest of the story goes I kind of look at time want to be aware of time but but that and then through that I did a bunch of consultants. Over the years Petros had reached out to me in the early about if I would come and do some consulting that came and gave them some ideas that they’ve been around 37 years. They liked the ideas. Apparently they worked, they called me back, asked if I’d come back and came back. And at that time, they asked me if I would, you know, basically partner and help grow the brand. And we’ve doubled in size in the last five years, and we’ve got really good growth patterns.
Chad Franzen 32:56
Do you have aspirations for further growth than in the future?
Dan Pool 33:00
Yeah, we’re going to grow, you know, again, keeping in perspective, because I know, you know, I know what my weakness is. And my weakness is to get, you know, a million miles an hour. And so, you know, what, where’s God has that and what does he want us to do? And that’s right now and I’m trying my best to do is fulfill what he wants and the direction he wants us to go. And right now, it is ensuring that each each franchisee, and each company stores that we’re able to be good stewards. And from there, you know, we’re kind of modeling, we’re kind of molding on where our steps are being. One of the things for us is when you come on, we’re very clear about what a faith based company, you’ll see it in stuff that we do. And so to us is does that line up? And if it does great, and if not, hey, I completely understand. So we’re kind of an exciting time, you know, when especially when the pandemic hit, you know, ended up being the best year we ever had. We’re very blessed from that. But again, that was a God thing. That wasn’t a damn cool thing by any means. So, you know, for us, we’re going to grow the but we’re going to do it in the manner that brings glory.
Chad Franzen 34:09
You know, restaurants are such a big part of our culture and our lives. And I think people I think people have some idea of the roller coaster that living in the restaurant industry is but you’re you’re kind of the perfect guest for our for this podcast, because you’ve, you know, you’ve experienced the lows and the highs and you’ve got great stories associated with all of them. We’re big fans of gratitude. You’ve mentioned a few of your kind of mentors, but we like to let people publicly acknowledge people who have been influential in their journey. Would you like to pay tribute to any of them?
Dan Pool 34:42
Well, again, Tom Harkins, he’s no longer no longer with us, but he actually has a book out that you can look him up ratio Alger or Arwen. Roberts was a visit was a phenomenal one. And even ones that I have battled, but as you look back Eric Holmes learned a tremendous amount from him. He was born Bailey of the restaurant industry that that he you know he has been a this again someone to look back at. I’ve had some awesome people that have worked with me John Aiello has been my son Dane works with me I’m so blessed with him and he just brings a calming to what we do and a drive in the positive manner. You know give a lot of affection attention to my wife, Candace, she’s. She’s phenomenal.
Chad Franzen 35:26
Where can people find out more about everything you’ve got going on?
Dan Pool 35:29
Because the websites that www.petros.com, p-e-t-r-o-s. And then same thing with Gandolfo’s New York Deli. Feel free to do that or you know, in my contact is
Chad Franzen 35:42
okay, Dan, thanks so much for your time. It was great talking to you. You’ve got some great stories and really appreciate it. I wish you the best God bless. Thanks, everybody.
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