Schlotzsky’s ownership a blessing in many ways

By Laura Elder

The Daily News

Published April 22, 2012

Cynde Whitson has a lot on her plate. She owns two Schlotzsky’s restaurants in Galveston County and is working on a third.

But the fast pace and constant challenges are what Whitson sought when she left a medical sales jobs to become her own boss.

“I can’t do the nine-to-five thing,” Whitson said.

Whitson owns a Schlotzsky’s at 221 S. FM 270 in League City. Last year, she opened a Schlotzsky’s and Cinnabon Express, 3325 Palmer Highway, in Texas City. As of press time, she was searching for site on Seawall Boulevard in Galveston to open a Schlotzsky’s, Cinnabon and Carvel Ice Cream store.

Atlanta-based Focus Brand Inc. is the franchiser and operator of Carvel, Cinnabon and Schlotzsky’s.

In 1994, Whitson, who grew up in Springfield, Mo., where the winters were long and cold, learned of a medical sales job in Texas. The warm climate was appealing, so she got in her car and drove to Dallas.

The job just wasn’t it, though.

“I felt like being an outside sales rep would be similar to owning my own business … managing my own territory, setting up my own appointments.

“I loved it, but working out of my home and long hours in the car — before cellphones — was very lonely.”

The idea of working in an office didn’t appeal to her either, she said.

“I had actually worked in an office for four years and it was a miserable experience,” she said. “Slow paced, routine … I felt like I was working my life away, living for Friday and dreading Monday.”

Whitson always dreamed of opening a business. When she was growing up, her father owned a small clothing store. As a child, she sometimes would go to work with him early in the morning and watch him take care of customers.

Whitson wanted that for herself. She earned a degree in business administration and marketing at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Mo., and wrote a term paper on franchises.

She considered buying a postal-related franchise or Diet Center but was drawn to food franchises. One of her first jobs was waitressing, and she loved its fast pace and that it involved constant contact with people.

So, Whitson did her research and decided on a Schlotzsky’s, an Austin-based purveyor of pizzas, salads and soups founded in 1971, which bills itself as the home of the original toasted sandwich.

The initial franchise fee today to become a Schlotzsky’s franchisee is $30,000. Franchisees also should possess cash liquidity of about $600,000.

She opened a League City store in 1999 and immediately was presented with challenges and the pace she sought. Whitson was general manager of the new store. Anyone considering buying a restaurant franchise should remember there’s a lot more to owning a restaurant than selling food.

“It’s a lot harder than you think it’s going to be,” she said. “You have to wear a lot of different hats.”

Whitson was the accountant, operations manager, marketing manager and repairwoman for the League City Schlotzsky’s. She had to hire employees — each Schlotzsky’s employs about 25 people — and handle catering.

If the sandwich oven stopped working, she fixed it. If there was a problem with the building, she fixed that, too.

“I’ve been on top of the roof more times than I can count,” she said. “When it costs $200 every time you call a repairman, you try to fix things yourself.”

When she opened the League City store, it was a particularly rainy year. Rain during lunch hour rush isn’t good for crowds. Then road construction in front of her store made access difficult. Having a known and well-liked brand name is only part of the equation, she said.

But she hired a good group of employees and worked hard to market the eatery and to build a reputation for customer service. Also, League City’s population boom in the past decade was good for business.

Catering to businesses is a big part of sales.

“You have to get out there and fight for it,” she said.

The League City Schlotzsky’s did well enough to capture the attention of Jimmy Hayley, president of the Texas City-La Marque Chamber of Commerce. Hayley was persistent in his efforts to persuade Whitson to open a franchise in Texas City.

Whitson looked at the demographics and was skeptical at first. But Hayley gave Whitson and officials with Schlotzsky’s corporate offices a tour of the mainland city known for refineries and petrochemical plants.

Early last year, in an investment of about $500,000, Whitson open the Texas City Schlotzsky’s to big crowds. The Texas City eatery was built to reflect Schlotzsky’s re-branding efforts, which include a new design, a co-branding deal with Cinnabon and a new service model in which employees deliver food to the tables.

“There was some pent-up demand,” she said.

Right away, Whitson noticed a difference in the League City and Texas City eateries. Refinery and plant workers, because of their shifts, start lunch about 10 a.m., Whitson said. Lunch in League City begins about 11:30 a.m.

Whitson also expects the clientele on the island, which is seasonal, to be much different from the other stores.

Whitson still enjoys the pace of the business. But these days, the mother of a 6-year-old daughter has the help of her family. Her retired parents, who moved to Texas from Springfield, help out at the Texas City store. Her husband, Mike, also has begun working in the franchise business full time.

Whitson still is involved in every part of the business and is happy with her decision to buy a Schlotzsky’s franchise.

“I take out food, clean tables, make sandwiches,” she said. “It really has been a blessing in so many ways.”

Source: Galveston Daily News

One Response

  1. To the Owners of Schlotzsky’s, when you were in the downtown Chicago I loved your sandwiches. I cound not get enough of that unique bread/taste. You closed the store and my heart. I lucked out, on a trip to Sprinfield,Illinois, I stoped to rest in Bloomington, IL (a half way point for lunch-driving from Chicago; I found a francise store there and I was in heaven. I had to buy buns to carry home, to keep the dream alive. As with all dreams they must fade away as well as the buns. Please come back to Chicago, we have great malls to start a store (Gurnee Mills, Lincoln Mall, Orland Square, and the like), consider coming back to Chicago, I realize it does get cold here but give us a break! (Smile)

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