5 Serial Franchisors In The Money
4. Cathy Amato, Subway franchisee, Ruby Tuesday franchisee and development agent for Mooyah
Cathy Amato knows a thing or two about franchising.
She has been working as part of Subway's franchise development team since 1992. She and two partners also own 55 Subway franchises in the San Antonio and Austin markets and three Ruby Tuesday's (RT) and is adding better-burger franchise Mooyah to the roster. Last year she signed an agreement with one of her two partners to become development agents for Mooyah for South Central Texas. With their first Mooyah to open in March, they hope to be able to expand the brand to 50 restaurants in the area by 2020.
Even though she is an employee and franchisee of Subway, she is not restricted from owning other franchises so long as they are not direct competitors to the sandwich shop's locations. "Every one of my concepts, they're all in different categories," Amato says. "Fast-casual burgers does not compete with Subway's fast food."Multibrand franchising appealed to Amato. "I'm very aware that most people that start their own restaurants fail. I really wanted to go with a proven brand that I thought would give me a higher chance of success," she says of Ruby Tuesday's. "The brand was looking to develop west of the Mississippi. My husband had eaten at one and enjoyed their food." The road has been hard because Texas is considered an "emerging market" for Ruby Tuesday's and there is little brand recognition there among consumers. But Amato is confident her Ruby Tuesday's and Mooyah sites will be successful. "You have to feel that the brand has the ability to go any place and stand on its own two feet," Amato says. "I've seen a lot of regional chains [that don't ] have the staying power in other regions." When you get with a brand as large as Subway you're ability to buy at volume discounts, whether it's Coca-Cola (KO), cheese or meat, she says. In the case of her new franchises, she cites Ruby Tuesday as the largest buyer of crab in the U.S. because of their crab cakes. "With Mooyah, already the leadership and strategy planning is constantly negotiating contracts. As the brand gets more leverage and strength, it's going to lower the prices for everybody," she says. But before investing in her two new concepts, Amato says she was sure to talk with other franchisees and research technology systems to make sure companies are optimizing costs, since "if you're not profitable, you're not going to expand the brand." She likes Mooyah's embracing of social media and its decision to install kiosks in their restaurants so customers can order for themselves. "It's fun, cool, hip -- really the experience is part of the DNA. That will make them stand a head above a lot of their competitors out there, and that's why I jumped on the bandwagon," she says. "You're dealing with something like hamburgers and French fries that has total brand appeal across the U.S. Everybody likes hamburgers and French fries," she says. "Their product, it's better than anybody else out there. I don't think any of the other chains bake their own breads, and there are some good players out there."
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