French Fry Heaven

August 9, 2014 1 comment Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article talks with Scott Nelowet of French Fry Heaven.

French Fry Heaven at St. Johns Town Center. Photo courtesy French Fry Heaven.

19. What makes French Fry Heaven a good franchise opportunity for someone looking to open a business?

If you ask anyone in the restaurant business about their highest margin items they’ll tell you it’s fries, drinks and alcohol. All our stores carry two of the items and some are allowed to have alcohol. That gives us a great basis for a strong business. We systematize all aspects of the business so that it’s easy to understand and people can get started quickly. Everything is trademarked and copyrighted to protect the brand. The sauces, spices and salts are all proprietary and unique to French Fry Heaven. You don’t have to worry about setting up and having someone steal your business idea and set up next to you. We’re selling a great product that people love and it comes with a strong business system.

20. What do you look for in a franchisee?

We’re in a good position because we can be selective about who we work with. We make sure someone’s a fit before we bring them on. That’s good for us and it’s good for them.

As a business, one of our cornerstones is charitable service and it’s foundational for who we work with. For franchisees the idea of charitable service has to make sense to them.

The second thing we look for is people who are aggressive about building their business. You have to want to grow. We don’t want 100,000 stores and 100,000 franchisees. We want to have franchisees who are looking to open multiple locations. We want people who want to help us grow the brand in a significant way. We want to do this with as few people as possible because it lets us operate more as a family that can work closely together and help each other out.

We also want people who are competitive and want to win. Part of winning is making sure that every customer walks away happy. It’s also making sure that you maximize your selling and marketing efforts. You can’t  sit back and be passive. You need to work to wow your customers and introduce them to new things and new experiences. And you have to get out there and get your message heard.

Lastly, it’s a business with a bottom line so a good franchisee has to be bottom line focused. Those are the key things we’re looking for.

21. Are there any lessons you’ve learned from watching your franchisees?

Something I’ve seen, and it’s not just here at French Fry Heaven, is that when people start something, and it could be anything, they’re usually full of enthusiasm and have this idea that things are going to take off like crazy. Well, no matter what you do, year one of anything is just work. Lots of it. It takes a lot of effort and dedication and you have to be willing to put in that work to be successful. I see people who come with unrealistic expectations and think they’ll set up and the rewards will pour in. They’re always going to be disappointed. Other people jump in and go full bore. They embrace the work and get things done. They know it takes time and they’re willing to put in the effort and the time. We had one guy who opened up and within weeks of his opening you saw French Fry Heaven menus everywhere. It was sheer effort on his part to get the word out. But that’s what it takes. It’s all about the operator who’s willing to put in the effort to be successful.

22. Will you expand outside of the US?

We get a lot of interest from people who want us to expand that way. It’s easy to do because everything we do can be done internationally. The only challenge is in the name, but even there it sounds very American and that’s appealing to a lot of people. So, we have the interest and we’ll do it at some point but our first focus is to be successful here in the US and that’s what we’re working on now.

23. What’s the biggest challenge in scaling French Fry Heaven?

It’s staffing. We got a lot of money initially to launch the business. We built a lot of systems to allow the company to scale to 1,500 locations. But supporting a business of that size takes a lot of great people and we have to work hard to find them and attract them to come work for us.

24. Why did you start writing your BLOG and what’s the goal of the BLOG?

When I started the business I started getting lots of questions from people who wanted advice on what it would take to be successful. The only thing I could share is what other successful people had told me. But I also realized that a lot of successful people don’t really know what made them successful and weren’t able to offer more than platitudes to work harder or obvious things like that. It’s not that people didn’t want to help but that they didn’t always remember what they did to really become successful. What successful people did remember, vividly, was the things they’d botched. I found that it really helped to hear about mistakes people had made. Not many people write about their screw ups so there’s not much information about what not to do out there. I love writing and it got me thinking that maybe there was an opportunity to share some real world experiences that could help others. I think it’s important to see that people who are successful also make mistakes and you can learn from those mistakes.

25. What did you do before French Fry Heaven?

I was into college academics for about 20 years. I was a teacher, a professor, and did some administration work. Before that I’d been in sales and marketing. I’d worked for MTV. And before that I was in the Peace Corps. I’ve got an undergraduate degree in Communications, a Masters in Education, and a Post-graduate Fellowship in Multi-media. I was one of those 1994 web guys.

26. How did you go from all that to French Fry Heaven?

I was tired of academia and looking for something else. My wife and I were traveling to Europe for my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary. We wanted to find something that was being done in Europe that we could adapt and bring back to the US. French Fry Heaven is what came out of that. It was either french fries or a herring stand.

27. Where do you think French Fry Heaven will be in 5 years or so?

I think there’ll be 300 stores or so by then. You’ll be able to go to any major city and find a French Fry Heaven.

28. Have you ever thought of branching out beyond french fries?

French Fry Heaven will always be about french fries. We may add milkshakes, and one of our locations is adding craft beer, but everything will revolve around french fries. If we have an idea beyond french fries we’ll create a different brand. One of the things we found when we went around the world to research our toppings is that in a lot of countries people were putting full meals on their french fries - using the fries as a base for the rest of the meal. That doesn’t really fit with our snack brand but it may open the door for a separate business. There are a lot of great opportunities out there.

4790 River City Dr. St. John's Town Center
Jacksonville, FL 32246

10300 Southside Blvd. Avenues Mall
Jacksonville, FL 32256

100 St. George St.
St. Augustine, FL 32084


About the writer interviews are conducted by Jacksonville Beach resident Gerry Glynn. When Gerry isn't talking with restauranteurs he is working for a local software company, training for his next road race, and hanging out with his wife and dog.

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