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How Employees Can Become Franchise Owners

Talent and capital are often the magic combination that makes successful franchise ownership work.

Franchise ownership may seem like an unattainable goal, but it has become a reality for many hard-working folks throughout the United States who started as employees − that’s right − employees.

From waiters to heating and air conditioning technicians, to carpet cleaners to construction workers – many employees worked their way up the ranks of a franchise company to become an owner. The exciting news is that some solid, financially healthy franchisors have programs that help hard-working, quality employees every step of the way to become franchise owners.

Williams Castaneda never dreamed he’d own one of our Golden Corral restaurants. In 2004, he moved to the United States from El Salvador and didn’t know the language or the culture. However, he did know how to work hard and his diligence and dedication paid off.  Castaneda started at a Golden Corral restaurant in Durham, N.C. as a server, waiting and clearing tables.  He worked his way up to hourly assistant manager, then to kitchen manager and his appetite for excellence landed him the job as general manager, which opened the way for him to join Golden Corral’s Operating Partner program. Now, he’s on track to become a Golden Corral owner.

“It’s a dream come true that I could come here to this country without even knowing the language, start as a server and now be on track to become a Golden Corral owner,” says Castaneda. “The American dream of business ownership is possible if you go to work for the right franchise company that will help you every step of the way. This company stands by its employees and its owners and helps us make all the right moves so we achieve success.”

The Ownership Process − Easing the Transition 

Golden Corral’s Operating Partner Program is one of many in the world of franchising that helps employees become owners. After six years as a Golden Corral general manager, our company helps people like Castaneda follow a structured path to become a successful owner. The company puts employee-prospects through a training program, helps them save for a loan down payment, build a resume, develop a business plan, achieve a solid credit score and secure a loan to buy their own restaurant with an incredibly low down payment.

These programs work well when the franchisor has a long, proven track record and has established excellent relationships and trust with lenders throughout the country. In our case, when we bring lenders a franchise prospect, whether they’re in the Operating Partner program or not, the lenders know we have fully vetted the prospects and completely trust them to own a restaurant. This makes navigating a loan a much easier process.

In my many decades in franchising, I know Golden Corral is not alone in helping employees become franchise owners.  The Dwyer Group, a company composed of multiple franchise concepts, also has a program that helps workers become owners.  It’s called The H.I.R.E. program, Hiring Individuals, Recruiting Entrepreneurs. For every year that workers are employed by a franchise within the Dwyer Group system, they earn a growing discount toward the purchase of their own franchise. The more years employed, the bigger the discount.

Through the H.I.R.E program, a former employee, Kelly Ramos, was able to buy The Grounds Guys franchise in Ashville, N.C.  Ramos was an employee of her dad’s Mr. Rooter franchise, another Dwyer Group brand, in Asheville for several years.  When The Grounds Guys territory became available there, she jumped at the opportunity to own her own business.  The discount she got as an employee helped her fund the new enterprise.

Chris Williams is another employee who now owns a franchise. He worked as a technician at Aire Serv, a heating and air franchise. Through the discounts he got through the H.I.R.E. program, he was able to buy his own Aire Serv and is now operating a successful business with the knowledge he learned from the ground up.

Of course, franchise ownership is not for everyone.  Franchisors look for specific qualities they know will make someone a successful owner.  Golden Corral looks for people who have in-depth knowledge of restaurants and who have worked in a restaurant or owned one in the past.

We look for those who can manage people, who can motivate a work force to operate with energy as a unified team and who are great at delivering customer service.

Taking the Path to Ownership

Here are some tips you can share with people who are working in a franchise business and hope to own one someday.

  • Learn everything possible about every aspect of the business so you fully understand the roles and responsibilities of everyone who works there.
  • Save your money. To buy a franchise, you need a considerable down payment.  Golden Corral helps employees save through a voluntarily paycheck withdrawal program. Employees can save part of their paycheck that is matched in part by Golden Corral and the money saved over time goes to a down payment.
  • Look for business partners, whether they’re colleagues, relatives or friends.  Many people partner to buy a franchise because they just can’t raise enough capital alone or they don’t have the experience running a business. The combination of talent and capital is often the magic combination that makes successful franchise ownership work.
  • Talk to company leaders about the steps you need to take and ways you can improve to become the ideal franchise owner.

Williams Castaneda is making all the right moves to one day become a franchise owner. He says Golden Corral is his second source of pride and joy. His first is his precious one-year old daughter who is “the most beautiful person ever.  I have everything I ever dreamed of. I’m a dad. I’ll soon be a business owner of a company I love and truly believe in.  I’m a very lucky man.”

Robert McDevitt, CFE, is senior vice president of franchising for Golden Corral Buffet & Grill.  Golden Corral is a grill-buffet chain that achieved record system-wide growth in 2012, opening 18 new restaurants – one every 14 business days.  He can be reached at 919-781-9310 or

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