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VetFran Panelists Share Hiring and Recruitment Strategies with Restaurant Industry Leaders

Operational excellence makes military veterans outstanding candidates as franchise business owners and employees.

The International Franchise Association’s VetFran program, which helps veterans transfer their military experience into franchise business ownership, was highlighted during the general session of the Restaurant Leadership Conference this past April in Scottsdale, Ariz. A panel discussed promoting veterans hiring and recruitment to restaurant industry participants that included many C-level leaders.

IFA President and CEO Steve Caldeira, CFE, who has been a member of the Restaurant Leadership Advisory Council since 1998, moderated the panel. The panel included IFA Hall of Fame Award winner and 2001 IFA Chairman Jim Amos Jr., CFE, chairman of Tasti D-Lite and Planet Smoothie; PepsiCo’s Lipton Category Manager Jerry Pegram; Quizno’s President and CEO and former IFA board member Stuart Mathis; and Sean Falk, a multi-unit franchisee of brands that include Great American Cookies, Salsarita’s Fresh Cantina, Pretzelmaker and Mrs. Field’s.

Caldeira introduced VetFran by showing video clips from such news media outlets as CNN and FOX Business. He presented the panelists, adding that “veterans’ leadership experience implementing systems and focus on operational excellence makes them an asset to the franchise industry.” He said he hopes franchising’s deep commitment to veterans inspires others.

Amos told of struggling after separating from the service as a Marine captain in Vietnam, where he received 16 decorations including the Purple Heart and Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. “When I left, my identity was gone and I didn’t know how to proceed,” Amos said. He explained that after a war, much of the country is eager to turn its back and erase memories, but that “veterans are hardwired to help you win.”

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Falk shared how his experience as a Marine infantry officer in the first Gulf War and Bosnia contributed to his success in franchising. “The transition from the military to franchising is a relatively simple one, because you are already experienced in the things that will make you successful,” said Falk. “All you need to succeed in franchising is the framework the military has already given you of following the rules, mastering the operations that are expected of you and then making it happen with your determination.”

Pegram, a West Point graduate and veteran who remains active in the Army Reserve, spoke of his experience spearheading PepsiCo’s Junior Military Officer recruiting efforts in offering practical advice for restaurant operators to recruit and retain veterans. “Veterans are tightly networked; if you do well by some vets, others will follow,” said Pegram.

Mathis further described the franchising-veteran link: “All franchisors have a system and veterans understand systems. The veterans we have brought in have produced great results and I have seen this at all three brands I have worked for.” Recruiting veterans is both good for business and the right thing to do, leading Quizno’s to waive its franchise fees for veterans, added Mathis.

Barry McCaffrey, the most decorated four-star general at the time of his retirement from the U.S. Army, spoke immediately after the panel and then joined franchise leaders for lunch. Impressed with what he saw from VetFran, he added: “From my 32 years’ experience leading troops, there is no question I would want them running a business or to be part of a franchise system as team members. Franchising, like the military, is built on systems and structure, making it a natural fit for veterans. I appreciate all that VetFran and IFA are doing on behalf of our veterans and service members.”

To learn more about the VetFran program, visit www.vetfran.com.

Josh Merin is senior manager of research & strategic initiatives for the International Franchise Association

Josh Merin is senior manager of research & strategic initiatives for the International Franchise Association

Josh Merin is senior manager of research & strategic initiatives for the International Franchise Association. He can be reached at 202-662-0762 or jmerin@franchise.org.

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