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When Customers Become Franchisees

Stocks in this article: PNRA AA ENR

4. Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar
Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar franchise owner John Weiler has a bittersweet story about why he decided to open the sports-themed eatery in the Chicago market.

Weiler was no stranger to the franchise system. He was part of a group that owned six Blockbuster stores before selling them in 1998. While looking for his next franchised concept, Weiler and his wife went to visit their daughter at Miami University of Ohio. There she insisted that they eat at Buffalo Wild Wings, or B-Dubs, as it's unofficially known.

After walking into the restaurant and seeing how packed it was on a Friday night as well as how much his daughter talked up the place, he smelled a business opportunity (and probably some darn good wings). Weiler ended up speaking with the manager of the Oxford, Ohio, location for a half-hour and found out there were none in the Chicago market. When he got back to Chicago, he began the process of securing franchise rights.

"We've just been very fortunate to have a concept that people received well," he says. "Right when we set up to begin building our first store ... People were coming into the trailer asking when we were going to open."

Weiler and his team opened up the first location in April 2002. Today he has nine stores in the Chicago area and has signed a partnership to own the rights to another 10 in Maryland.

"There was a good, solid mix to the atmosphere that we had and the food. Also what we found out early is a lot of restaurants get repeat guests once a month -- we get them in a couple times a week," Weiler says.

His daughter, though, has never seen the restaurants. She was slain by a drunken driver before they opened. Now Weiler's franchises are dedicated to her.

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