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Pinal SitaramPinal Sitaram is a serial franchisor who owns and operates Buffalo Wild Wings franchises in the Los Angeles Metropolitan area. He worked previously as a franchisee for PostalAnnex+ and Best Western Hotels. Pinal has set a three-year goal to add eight new Buffalo Wild Wings franchises, providing steady work for the underserved.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • Pinal Sitaram explains his background as a franchisor
  • The challenges of running a franchise
  • How to know when it’s time to add more franchise units
  • Differences between running a restaurant franchise versus a hotel franchise
  • How did the pandemic impact Pinal’s restaurants?

In this episode…

Join Chad Franzen in this episode of the SpotOn Series as he queries Pinal Sitaram on his 14 years of experience as a franchisee for multiple Buffalo Wild Wings locations in the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area. Pinal explains the hardships of owning a restaurant franchise, the motivation behind opening a franchise, and his quest to add additional franchises in his community.

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Episode Transcript

Intro  0:04  

Welcome to the Top Business Leaders Show. Powered by Rise25 Media. We feature top founders, executives, and business leaders from all over the world.

Chad Franzen  0:20  

Chad Franzen here, Co-host for this show where we feature top restaurant tours, 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 combined 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 podcast. If you have a b2b business and want to build 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 [email protected] Pinal Sitaram is a franchise owner of Buffalo Wild Wings. He’s an entrepreneur with multi franchise experience. His desire is to build an organization that empowers stability of life through work within the communities they serve. Over the next three years Pinal’s commitment is to add eight new franchise units. Pinal, thanks so much for joining me today. How are you?

Pinal Sitaram  1:23  

I’m doing very well. How are you?

Chad Franzen  1:25  

Good, thank you. So you’ve been a franchise owner with Buffalo Wild Wings for the past 16 years. What led you to do that at that time, 16 years ago.

Pinal Sitaram  1:35  

The brand itself was in its infancy and kind of knew of it growing up in the East Coast in Ohio and Michigan and my college and high school days. So when my wife and I moved out to California, you know, we decided to take this journey. And my background is finance and Her background was international studies. And we didn’t have any kids. And this was the right play for us at that time, it seemed to create the cash flow that we would need to survive in what is a very expensive state.

Chad Franzen  2:07  

Sure, sure. So finance and International Studies, did you either one of you have any restaurant experience leading up to that?

Pinal Sitaram  2:15  

We did not.

Chad Franzen  2:18  

What about your experience as a franchisee? Had you had experience as a franchise owner leading up to that?

Pinal Sitaram  2:24  

I did.

Chad Franzen  2:26  

Can you tell me about that?

Pinal Sitaram  2:28  

I was the franchisee for Postal Annex prior to Buffalo Wild Wings. And then PostalAnnex is a retail shipping type of store like a UPS Store. It’s a local brand from Southern California franchise and then also franchised a Best Western hotel in Southern California, which Best Western is more of a franchisee ran organization. Because franchisees are the members that ultimately own the brand. And so yeah, that was my prior experience. And prior to that I did work and develop and construction and ran a general manager Holiday Inn Express.

Chad Franzen  3:09  

What kind of as I as a prior franchisee from you know, non restaurant entities, what made the restaurant industry attractive to you

Pinal Sitaram  3:19  

The ability to serve so many.

Chad Franzen  3:23  

Okay?

Pinal Sitaram  3:23  

you know, and that that could be equated to transactions.

Chad Franzen  3:29  

Okay, where was your first Buffalo Wild Wings location?

Pinal Sitaram  3:34  

In City of Marietta, California,

Chad Franzen  3:37  

What were the early days there like as you guys kind of just got started?

Pinal Sitaram  3:42  

Well, the brand was not known and west coast. So the branding wasn’t there. And so we had to work significantly harder. Both my wife and I put in so many hours, practically from 8am. By 8am is when the first person would get there. So I’d generally be there by 730. And for the first four or five years probably would be there until between one of us until closing which could be 234 in the morning. Oh man. So we had to pay those dues, because we didn’t know the game.

Chad Franzen  4:20  

Sure. What were some things that you kind of, you know, realized that you didn’t know as you as you were kind of starting that journey.

Pinal Sitaram  4:30  

The size of the operations. Okay, the industry itself, which is very you know, just it’s a very tough industry. And California is a very tough state. And our timing of opening was we reopened in 2007 of May. And so that was right at the cusp of where that economy before we hit Great Recession Yeah, so that that’s that’s what the beginning was there was a lot of, you know, so many everything was a new learning curve.

Chad Franzen  5:11  

So how was it? How was it different than, you know, how was operating a Buffalo Wild Wings franchise different from your other experience as a franchisee? And and what did you realize quickly

Pinal Sitaram  5:25  

The money coming in and money going out.

Chad Franzen  5:28  

How so? What do you mean?

Pinal Sitaram  5:31  

So Buffalo Wild Wings, when I got into it, the size of the money, the volume that will take place was something that was you can say almost three times four times greater than the last volume of business that I ran. And then when it comes to employee count, it was also five times greater than the employee count that I had before. And then when it comes to scheduling and the hours of operation, and juggling all that, you know, that was very difficult, you know, try to satisfy everybody as much as you can stay within the lines as much as you can. What transcended very well and kept, kept me going was the ability of, you know, the the service side of it, the hospitality side of it, the fact that I could relate to the people that were coming in the fact that I didn’t feel like I was getting worn out working, you know, 15 1618 hours a day, because the conversations were always there to be had. And through those conversations, you you pick up more and more faith. We also exhausted all of our personal lines of credit. Yeah, you know, but besides that, what it is, is the energy that the community ultimately gives to you while you are serving them. And when you get so much of that blessing in return, I think that’s when, you know, we avoided a couple of bad position of sellouts. When we got into this company, it was in its infancy. So immediately, when the great recession took place, you can imagine the amount of buyers I wanted to come in and you know, get these franchise territory rights. And then they they you know, and they’ve had it on lockdown for all these years anyways, but still. So it was the it was the people. That one that worked with us that went through the trials and tribulation in the early days, that that created the value for the sweat equity that we had put in, that kept both my wife and I going. And so and then then we learn more. And then we learn more. And we had kids and we started raising them and you know all that good stuff that life gives you that much more valuable.

Chad Franzen  7:51  

So you, you guys have been putting in some serious hours for the first few years there. At what point did you know that it was time to add more locations? And how did that? How did that come about?

Pinal Sitaram  8:03  

I think that came about in two ways. One is the stability of what when we realized that what we’re doing has been good. And we’ve turned the tides because usually that happens with time. And then you have enough of the human capital that, you know, we created loyalty on the ground with in the trenches. And then most importantly, what was a great awakening is, you know, when we, you know, who is now my partner, but you know, at that time, you know, my partner had come on board was working with us for six, seven years. And who helped, you know, kind of alleviate a little bit of the stress that we were going we were going to battle ourselves. And so when I when when I realized that I can create an opportunity, you know, if that’s what you want, also, as we grow, then we can go on to the next. My personal goal was always to get to two units. That’s because I have you know, well, just sentimental reasons, but you know, two units is what I was because I have two kids, right? So like, yeah,

Chad Franzen  9:05  

so how many how many do you have now then? We’ve got two. Okay, two, two units.

Pinal Sitaram  9:11  

Yeah. I have Buffalo Wild Wings. Yeah.

Chad Franzen  9:14  

Great. What is the what’s the key to operating to as opposed to one you said you were putting in, you know, between your wife and yourself, you’re basically working around the clock. What’s kind of the key to now being the owner and manager of two at the same time?

Pinal Sitaram  9:32  

Think the advantage is that it’s in the numbers. So again, you have more people that you’re building, you know, a product with on the ground with and so that that and especially given where we are so I’m glad I wasn’t at one when when pandemic and so, you know, it helped knowing that we had more bodies to service.

Chad Franzen  9:58  

You mentioned the pandemic How did go Very impact or change your operations?

Pinal Sitaram  10:04  

I think it brought people closer. What do you mean? I think something that I could have never trained or even verbalize, you know, was naturally verbalized, and trained on a human level. People that were in the trenches, got to see what the reality is. And all of this, you know, everybody had a preconceived notion of what what the industry was going into this worker and the owners, and I think that changed and is changing really rapidly as we speak.

Chad Franzen  10:40  

You know, you, you talked about how you kind of started, are you kind of invested in Buffalo Wild Wings when it was kind of in its infancy stages? What did you did you have to do anything to make people aware of it? Or do is does the word wings just work?

Pinal Sitaram  10:58  

No, not really, actually. Because at that time, it wings itself was just coming off with appetizers on. Full Screen. I grew up with Buffalo Wild Wings in college days, where it was a counter service, you go up to the counter, you order you get a pager, you go sit down, you know, whenever it’s done, you go pick up your order, and then you go, you know, if you wanted to drink, you go check out the bartender, or pick up your drink, go back, you know. So that’s the system that I grew up with. The system today is much different. You know? So I think I think it’s evolved.

Chad Franzen  11:37  

What is your what’s your goal for expansion over the next few years.

Pinal Sitaram  11:42  

So we are doing two full service restaurants over the next 36 months. We are doing, we have been asked as one of 19 operators to also go test their Buffalo Wild Wings Go, which is an express model. And so those going to that will be five units that we will be doing. So that’s the work ahead of us right now. And then we also have another franchise, which will be opening up another unit of that this year. So that’s how we get to the eight.

Chad Franzen  12:17  

Is that a restaurant? Or is that something else? Retail?

Pinal Sitaram  12:21  

Retail.

Chad Franzen  12:21  

Okay.

Pinal Sitaram  12:22  

Like educational educational centers.

Chad Franzen  12:24  

Oh, great. Great. So how can people find out more about your Buffalo Wild Wings locations?

Pinal Sitaram  12:32  

Well, we’re a national brand so you can look us up on WWF Buffalo Wild wings.com.

Chad Franzen  12:36  

Okay, and one is in Marietta. Where’s the other one?

Pinal Sitaram  12:39  

Temecula.

Chad Franzen  12:40  

Okay. Great. Last question for you. When you visit Buffalo Wild Wings as a customer, what’s your go to item?

Pinal Sitaram  12:49  

Mango Habanero wings. And I like the chicken sandwich. Crispy Chicken Sandwich.

Chad Franzen  12:55  

Okay, very nice. Hey, Pinal, it’s been great to talk to you. I really appreciate your time today. Thanks so much.

Pinal Sitaram  13:00  

Thank you so much. You have a wonderful day.

Chad Franzen  13:02  

You too.

Pinal Sitaram  13:03  

Yep.

Chad Franzen  13:04  

So long, everybody.

Outro  13:04  

Thanks for listening to the Top Business Leaders Show. Powered by Rise25. Visit Rise25.com to check out more episodes of the show and to learn more about how you can start your own podcast