#BeBetter Podcast with Michael Kurland

Make Better Decisions by Walking In Someone Else’s Shoes with Robert Branca

Treat everyone equally and they will go the extra mile.

Robert Branca, Jr., is President, General Counsel, and Director of Development for entities including Branded Management Group and Branded Realty Group. On today’s show, Robert shares how he has kept his turnover rate in his Dunkin’ Donuts franchisees to 30%, an industry phenomenon, by being better to his employees in creative ways.

Robert Branca portrait

“Putting yourself in somebody else’s shoes helps you make better decisions.”

—Robert Branca

32. Make Better Decisions by Walking In Someone Else’s Shoes with Robert Branca

Key Takeaways

  • When employees feel valued and are invested in, they will work harder.
  • Treat everyone equally, the way you want to be treated.
  • Advocate for your team and strive to make their jobs easier.

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Robert Branca, Jr., is President, General Counsel, Director of Development for entities including Branded Management Group and Branded Realty Group, doing business in Massachusetts, Ohio and New York. He is the franchisee chair of the Dunkin’ Brands Government Affairs Committee, member of the board of directors of the of Dunkin’ Brands Franchise Owners PAC, former vice chair of the Washington, DC-based Coalition of Franchisee Associations and 2015 chair of the Multi-Unit Franchising Conference.

He and his direct family partners own and operate 87 Dunkin’ Donuts. His extended family, including in-laws, siblings, spouses, children and cousins, own more than 1,000 Dunkin’ Donuts and dominate the brand in the Northeastern U.S. Rob and his partners are currently expanding their Dunkin’ Donuts and real estate businesses into the Midwest.   They are also developing a Korean-American concept slated to open in the fall of 2017 and have established Worcester Building Systems, a custom manufacturer of stainless steel exhaust hoods, ductwork, and purpose-built restaurant equipment.

Rob graduated with honors from Boston College and holds a law degree from the University of Michigan Law School. Before franchising, he practiced law and specialized in commercial transactions, real estate development and complex financing arrangements, which introduced him to franchising.

“Good ideas are everywhere. You just have to be willing to listen.”

—Robert Branca

Podcast Transcription

Hello, I’m Michael Kurland, CEO and Co-Founder of Branded Group. Welcome to the #BeBetter Podcast. To me, our company’s mantra to “Be Better” is more than a tagline; it’s a culture that permeates our organization, propelling our team to Be Better to each other, our customers and our communities as well as to ourselves. Each week on the #BeBetter podcast, I interview leaders who authentically exemplify how they are being better in their professional and personal lives.

Today’s podcast is dedicated to Keep America Beautiful. Formed in 1953 by a group of corporate and civic leaders in New York City, Keep America Beautiful sought to bring the public and private sectors together to develop and promote a national cleanliness ethic. Learn more about Keep America Beautiful at kab.org

Michael Kurland (00:01):

All right. Welcome to another episode of the BeBetter podcast. I’m your host, Michael Kurland. Joining me today, a special guest. We have Robert Branca. He is the President of Branded Realty Group and Branded Management Group. Not to be confused with Branded Group, which is our company out here in California. So Robert, welcome to the show and tell everybody a little bit about yourself and what your companies do.

Robert Branca (00:35):

Sure. So we’re essentially a family business. We’re in franchising, real estate development and private equity. We started here in Massachusetts, so we’re the East Coast branded here. Then as far away as you probably can get in Southern California and we’re in the Northeast, I’m sitting in Massachusetts right now, the other brand. We started off with Dunkin’ franchises, which is a fantastic brand. We operate the network in Massachusetts and network in New York and a network in Ohio. We used to operate one in Florida, which was sold about six or seven years ago. We also do a lot of real estate development related to those franchises and non Dunkin’, real estate commercial, real estate, like plazas, office buildings, apartment buildings, and things like that. We also invest in other companies. We actually were founding partners in a company that owns franchise ores and some other companies in different industries that we think we have some sort of competency in their business and then we can perhaps help them with funds and expertise.

Michael Kurland (01:44):

Well, and we also, you and I have a unique connection that we didn’t even know about until we started talking pre-Show. It wasn’t my first job. My first job was at Caldor and if anyone knows what Caldor is, I will send you a gratitude journal. That was back in Connecticut. But my second job ever was working for a Dunkin Donuts franchisee in Wilton, Connecticut. And it was Cain management. And you used to be the lawyer for Cain Management as attorney, right?

Robert Branca (02:23):

I just one of them on an episode of Below Deck Mediterranean.

Michael Kurland (02:27):

Oh, Sean. Yeah, that doesn’t surprise me.

Robert Branca (02:30):

Runs in all kinds of circles. He was Johnny Damon’s charter guests.

Michael Kurland (02:36):

Oh, great. I’m glad to hear Sean is still doing well. So anyway, we’re doing this season on gratitude. We’ve been talking a lot to our guests about what their personal practices are with gratitude and what they’ve learned throughout the pandemic, et cetera. So let’s talk about that. You’re in the restaurant industry, how has COVID affected that and what has it taught you and what are you grateful for coming through this pandemic?

Robert Branca (03:10):

Sure. So, it was actually right before things started shutting down. It was my last business trip. I was in Washington DC, we’re on a conference call with the other the brand leadership at Dunkin’ and our then CEO had been at McDonald’s in Asia. So he had lived through SARS, MERS, and mad cow disease. So he had a lot of crisis management skills and he really got us prepared. We weren’t taking it seriously because at that point, people were like, Oh, it’s in China.  People on the plane were joking about it. The hotel was farther along the lines to get into the Senate and Congressional offices. I do a lot of lobbying for the franchise industry and for Dunkin’. I’m chairman of their government affairs committee. A few days later it was like a light switch flipped, and nobody knew what to do. There was huge amount of fear and uncertainty.

Robert Branca (04:03):

So one of the things that taught me to be grateful for was to be a part of franchise and also a part of maybe perhaps the best franchise system in franchising in terms of the franchisor franchisee relationship. There were plenty of other people to lean on fellow franchisees, like our mutual friends and the franchise management team. They were pretty much locked down. So we were left to our own devices, largely to operate and they helped us formalize systems, send out PowerPoints, get all our ideas, get our best practices, help us check with the local regulations, which were changing not just day by day, hour by hour and some local boards of health. We were just making things up. So we quickly put together a team and I found out that was in Massachusetts, for example there’s a state board of health association.

Robert Branca (04:57):

So we had a central point of command. Instead of going in 130 different towns and saying, you don’t have to do that. This place has a COVID case, you don’t have to shut down for two weeks, test it. You don’t have to do that. This is the best practice. So we’re able to like find touch points like that, that helped us communicate and stay open. So I was incredibly grateful for the team of people I had around me that I collaborate with on a daily basis. Otherwise those relationships became extraordinarily important when the storm hits, right? The teamwork that we had built up in the past became an incredibly valuable tool. The same thing happened when the Families First Act came out and then the Cares Act came out, we were sort of caught between the Families First Act, which provided an additional $600 a week in unemployment, basically paying people to stay home.

Robert Branca (05:57):

Whether they’re were legitimately scared and I had people that were legitimately scared, some older employees, or even younger employees that said, Hey, my parents live with me. My mom has diabetes. My dad has asthma. I’m afraid if I’m working in the store, I’ll bring it home. So, we closed the dining rooms. We did drive through only. And again, we worked on systems, you hand out trays, no touch transactions. And I always say it’s sometimes better to be lucky than smart. We had made investments in our app infrastructure and some of the other things that we were doing, which turned out to be huge boosts, like third-party delivery. We had that stuff all set up and ready to roll when the pandemic hit. So we just put it on steroids and that saved us. It kept our businesses open in large part.

Robert Branca (06:45):

I closed some permanently, some are still temporarily closed. They may never reopen. But and right now it’s because I don’t have employees to work more than anything else because they’re still having that problem. So we got together, we lobbied, we had all franchisee calls. We talked to the most common lenders in our systems and lobbied on behalf of our franchisees, Hey, this is what we’d like payment deferments to look like. We did webinars for our franchisees, my fellow franchisees, with some experts that came in, here’s how to talk to your landlord, call your landlord, don’t have your lawyer call because then he’s going to have to get his lawyer or she’s going to have to get her a lawyer and the conversation’s much different. These are things that are reasonable to ask for and reasonable things to expect.

Robert Branca (07:36):

So we did a lot of that. So people didn’t get stuck in terrible situations with lenders and landlords, and also help them with the PPP applications right now, these are the things you need to do to be prepared. We were talking to the government the entire time. I spent more time lobbying, I think, than I ever had during a sustained period of time. It was over Zooms like this, as opposed to putting on a tie, running through the airport and then flying home that night. It was a little bit easier in some respects to not have to travel and to be able to do it from home or my home office. We were able to shape the legislation and again, we were in a position where we’re using, we’re caught between the Cares Act and the Families First Act, and that’s not an enviable place for private citizen to be.

Robert Branca (08:28):

But we were able to navigate it. We talked to other brands, The International Franchise Association are very active in the coalition to franchisee associations that I’m on the board of. Then I have friends that are franchisee leaders in other big systems that large franchisees. We talked continuously, made sure we had consistent messaging to Congress and the state governments. This is what this should look like for franchising and franchising and should be included. So we were able to get people prepared to get PPP money and we used it to compete with the expanded unemployment and families. First back, we just used it as large bonuses. One of my chief lobbying points is we should be able to use it to pay bonuses, attendance bonuses for people who are showing up because we all are our businesses to these folks.

Robert Branca (09:22):

So, and again, another thing I was very grateful for were where our core group of employees. Just fantastic loyal people. So we shoveled that money out to them, got it in their pockets right away. Because we want to make sure that they felt rewarded for coming to work. And the customers, our guests were phenomenal. They were throwing tip money at them left and right, because for them was to go through the drive through and see that familiar face that pre-pandemic, they saw every morning. That was huge to them too. So, and they showed their appreciation to our people. So again, I’m incredibly grateful to be part of the Dunkin’ system and part of franchising and for our teams. They stood by our side and we stood by their side and we all got through it together. It was a really incredible experience. One, I will never forget and I’ll share with my kids. They’re still somewhat younger now, but so they’re having experiences they’re never gonna forget. Right?

Michael Kurland (10:27):

I think for all of us no one’s ever that’s lived through it is ever going to forget the pandemic. I think it’s not quite over yet and I don’t think it’s going away anytime soon, but at least we kind of got a hold on it. But I think you brought up a lot of really good points and I want to touch on the things that I heard there. The gratitude for the systems in place. You were able to plug and play and you said it’s better to be lucky than smart, right? I feel that I’m very grateful for that as well. When the pandemic hit, when we started Branded Group in 2014, we did a cloud-based system. We didn’t do servers in a server room and then all these computers and everyone thought I was crazy when we set it up.

Michael Kurland (11:16):

It wasn’t my call. It was the IT guy that I was working with. He made the call, but thankfully he did because March 13th or March 14th was our last day and we were able to flip a switch and everyone worked remote starting that following Monday, whatever that was the 17th or 18th. And without that system being set up in place, we would have had such a failure with our infrastructure. We would have had to have people coming in the office. I don’t know how that would’ve worked when we were right in the beginning of the pandemic. Like you said, people were on planes, people were joking about it. And then next thing, Oh crap, this is real, I need to work from home. And, it was a very uncertain, unknown time. Right. So I think I’d like to agree with you on that. And I was very grateful for that from my point of view. Then you also, you made a good point. So let’s talk about the lobbying for the franchise guys for people that don’t know. How many locations does Branded Management Group have as franchisees?

Robert Branca (12:26):

We have 90 units. We actually opened a few because some that are gone forever, we sort of replaced them with better locations that became available to us during the pandemic. Another thing I’m grateful for I mean, obviously the business remains challenge, but again, grateful to be in business, grateful to be alive still here on the other side of it. And our extended family has about 2000 units of Dunkin’ franchises, franchisors have other brands, too.

Michael Kurland (12:57):

Absolutely. So overall you at least have over 90 locations with these other restaurants that aren’t  Dunkin’.

Michael Kurland (13:10):

So you’re a pretty big, you’re a pretty big fish though, when it comes to being a franchisee, correct. You’re not on the mom and pop side of franchises. And so the point I’m trying to make is there are people out there that they own one, two, maybe three restaurants, right? So, they are a small, I don’t want to say mom and pop because they have the backing of the franchise. But that’s their life bread. So if they had that one, two restaurants close down, they don’t have a way to make that money. So what you said about lobbying for these franchises to teach them how to apply for the PPP and how to call their landlords without the lawyer. I think you made a really big, big point there. Like you made it a humanized thing.

Michael Kurland (14:00):

Like you brought empathy into the conversation and you had, Hey, John, call your landlord, Peter, and talk to him, don’t get your lawyer involved because then everyone’s going to lawyer up and it’s going to be a big legal process where It’s a different thing. Exactly. So I think that’s great. Like the fact that you were able to go out there and use your knowledge and buying power to help these other smaller guys navigate through this unknown time, like great job. I don’t know if anyone’s told you that.

Robert Branca (14:35):

Thank you. It wasn’t just me. I mean, that’s some of the value of the associations that we’re members of as we banded together, those of us that are in leadership obviously you share in leadership, you always have a heavier load to carry. But I can’t say enough about my friends in this industry all pulling together, everybody shouldering their portion of the load to make things happen.  A lot of time on the phone, a lot of time on the laptop. But and a lot of hard work, but it got us to the other side or almost to the other side. And, we dealt with our own tenants. I had personal conversations with a lot of them, only one of them, my largest tenant lawyered up.

Robert Branca (15:26):

A lot of my small tenants like I got a tailor, right. A nail salon. Those people were fantastic.  Hair salons, those people, they were closed.  If you’re doing dry cleaning and nobody’s wearing suits and ties anymore, you’re in a world of hurt. But I know those people and they’ve come out of it. They’re still there. And we’ll work out whatever it is we need to work out. I’m not worried about that. Like I said, it was one of my largest tenants, the most established richest one that was more of a more difficult negotiation.

Michael Kurland (16:03):

I can tell you. I can tell you from my point of view too, with when the pandemic hit, we do service work, facility management, construction management for national retail, restaurant, et cetera. And we had the same issue.  Our smaller clients were like, we’ll pay you as fast as we can. And know it may be a little bit of a lag in getting paid. And we were like, totally understand, we’re going through this together. And we had a couple of our clients that were okay, pandemics here. And we’re going to go to net 120 on top of already, whatever our terms were. And I’m like, that’s six months from now. And they were like, deal with it. We did what we had to do. We still work with all of them, but it was just, it was the stances like you said, some of how you view it. So anyway, we have that in mind. So talk about now how, like you said, you’re starting to come out of it on, on the other side of COVID what’s going on with you guys now? What are you seeing with the franchisees? How’s everything starting to come together?

Robert Branca (17:21):

Everybody’s got a severe lack of employees. We’re running on restricted hours, because you don’t want people to work shifts. We have stores that are closed simply because even though they have drive-throughs, we don’t have people to work them. We’re doing all kinds of things attendance bonuses, retention bonuses, recruitment bonuses. You bring us an employee, I’m going to give you a bonus. And none of it’s really working. But, we’re lucky in that my family has a core group of employees. So we get a core group of our best stores remain open because those people have been with us for years, which is somewhat unheard of in this industry to have long-term workers in the sector, but we do and their kids have come to work for us and they bring in a largely new Americans.

Robert Branca (18:15):

Well, they’re not so new. They’ve been, many of them been with us for more than 10 years. But they brought relatives of theirs. They came over to this country, we gave them their start. So we’re very fortunate to have those relationships with those people who, again, keeping us alive, keeping our bills paid. Again, things will get better.  We’ve had bad times and good times and good times will come again. It’ll get easier to operate. We’ll get more employees. I hope, I certainly hope. But it’s a struggle right now. But again along the gratitude aspect I’m still in business. There are a lot of people in this industry who are not in business. A lot of small, independent restaurants are gone for good.

Robert Branca (19:05):

People I know. I have a friend just down the street from where I am. He’s got a longstanding, very popular restaurant. He closed for like the winter just because it wasn’t cost-effective to operate. He reopened and closed after two weeks because he can’t staff. He’s fortunate he owns his building, but he does have a mortgage. So, there’s going to be a lot more stories like that that people are living through right now. I don’t know how all that’s going to fall out. There are a lot of people who took PPP money and took the second round. They may be zombie companies, right. They’re still walking and talking, they’re dead. They just don’t know it yet. I hope that’s not the case, but just from casual observation, there’s going to be fallout.

Michael Kurland (19:59):

I’ve got a great friend in the industry and when this whole thing went down, when it first went down, we’re in the same industry. And he said, I’m all about competition and I’m all about winning, but I don’t want to win like this. Like I don’t want people to go out of business like this. And I agree with him. Because if we are going to lose, we are going to lose some competition, but that’s not the way anyone wants it.

Robert Branca (20:28):

Product, service, price, speed, right?

Michael Kurland (20:31):

I’d rather have him still here. So but we talked off air, so it’s a problem that I think is going to be the new thing, especially in the restaurant industry is not being able to staff. Like I said, out here before we got on the show, we got some prominent restaurants in California, we just opened for indoor seating about two weeks ago and they can’t staff properly and they’re trying to do it because they want to turn those tables over to get that money in the door, but they don’t have enough staff. So, the product they’re putting out is subpar currently. I’m sure it’ll get better in the weeks and they’ll like, right-size everything. They said. They said the last restaurant I went to that it wasn’t great.

Michael Kurland (21:18):

They said they were going from walk-ins and reservations to reservations only. So at least they can prepare for the night of at least how many people they know are going to be coming in and it’s better than what they were doing. But the one thing that I really want to talk about, because this is the BeBetter podcast is we talked in the show notes, you had a less than 30% turnover rate pre pandemic. And let’s just talk about what’s the normal turnover rate in the quick casual service restaurant. 130%. So audience, I really want you to hear that. This is an industry where you probably, for every 10 people you hire, you’re probably losing nine of them within six months and maybe one sticks around. So this is not a number to be scoffed at.

Michael Kurland (22:14):

So to be at like less than 30% like that, you are doing something right as a business owner. So you talked about a few things with your PPP money because a lot of people took their PPP money and either put it in their pockets or whatever they did some of the bigger businesses. But you did the thing that made you able to keep your employees. You’re being better to your employees. You took that PPP money, like you said, and you used it for bonuses, for attendance and hiring. Let’s talk about that. Like what pre pandemic kept you guys at less than 30% in an industry that’s an average of 130% turnover?

Robert Branca (22:53):

Well, one good thing is managers, right? Store managers. The employees in the store reflect the management, right? So having good quality people that you have a very good relationship with is where it starts. Pay? We’ve done surveys. My brand has done surveys. Pay is usually not the number one criteria, if your best employees, it’s how you treat them. How they’re recognized, how they’re trained, what kind of training you provide tools that you provide to them to train their crews that makes their life easier. And then some of the other benefits like paid leave, we had, you could earn up three weeks, paid leave and everybody gets the same benefits that I get, right. I’m the president of the company. They get the same health, treat everybody equally like you want to be treated.

Robert Branca (23:50):

And then the lobbying thing. Like paid sick leave came in and that just kind of screwed us up because we’re already given three weeks. Some people just would say, well, I’m not going to take it. Okay. Well, here’s a check for three weeks’ pay. Some people wanted to do that. Particularly students. They wanted the money more than anything. But we had a lot of people like they wanted to go back to the old country. Like I said, new Americans, people from Albania, from Brazil, from Romania and that’s usually what they would want to go for an extended period. So it was important to them to have a long enough period. And then if they stay another week or two, not to fire them and make them start all over to earn because it’s important to them that they go to the major life events, right.

Robert Branca (24:35):

That their family has that’s still there, the births, the marriages, things like that. Somebody with elderly relatives I’ll see them one more time. That was important to them. So we recognized that. My partners and I recognize that from my father-in-law, who was the founder started that practice because he was one of those guys. Came to this country with nothing. So we kept those convictions and then while they would go for three, four or five weeks, their kids would come to work for us. So every summer break and it works for them. It works for us. Their households had extra money. And then the government came in and said, here’s another week you have to provide. So we struggled with, well, what do we do? Do we replace them week? And we’re like, if I were that person, I’d feel like I was getting screwed, even though the government screwed me.

Robert Branca (25:25):

You rely on your boss to treat you well, right? Your management team to treat well. So we just added it. It cost us more money, but we felt it was the right thing to do. And it was because those people are still with us right through this pandemic from getting another 600 bucks a week. That opportunity that’s just one example of the kind of thing, because we have limited time, but putting yourself in somebody else’s shoes helps you make better decisions. So being better that way is if I was in that situation, what would I want? And if I know that person I know and I know how they’re going to feel. And, again, it’s a compelling cost environment right now. Those decisions are going to get harder and harder. And I think more experienced managers are going to come through this better than less experienced managers than bean counters. I think relationships are going matter even more and they certainly matter through the pandemic. They’re going to matter even more.

Michael Kurland (26:33):

I think a hundred percent. You’re making a lot of great points. It’s a partnership. And I think you lead in an industry that is probably heavily focused on leaders that count the beans and you lead from a place of empathy. And I think that has garnered you a turnover of less than 30% pre pandemic. And I’m sure once we come out of this, you will have a turnover of less than 30% again. I can tell you definitely are someone who puts a lot of ilk into his employees and that’s great to see. That’s what we do at Branded Group as well. So maybe it’s a Branded Group thing. I don’t know.

Robert Branca (27:21):

So change your name and suddenly got great people. So some of the other things too, is I’m one of the elected leaders in the franchise system.  Dunkin’. One of the things that’s important for my fellow franchisee leaders and me to do is to communicate with our franchisor because they don’t operate any units, it’s asset-light system. We own everything, but the trademark, we own the locations, the procurement and distribution system, and obviously the relationship with our employees. So, but they provide the training tool. So our feedback to that and then they provide product ideas. So we’re going to make this avocado toast. And so we respond it’s killer product. Everybody loves it in one of the things was those products don’t always start the way they end up commercialized in the stores. One of the things is this needs to be easy to do, right? Because that’s going to be made in our sandwich station and that’s the toughest job in our store. So I have to think of, and I’ve done that job, right.

Michael Kurland (28:15):

I have as well, I have done the sandwich station.

Robert Branca (28:20):

Yeah, that’s right. I’m speaking to and speaking to experience, right. I need to make that job easier for that person to do, right? Because that’s incredible stress. You’re near hot equipment. And we put in huge exhaust fans. We actually manufacture them now we make them for the restaurant industry. It’s one of our businesses. We make restaurant equipment, but we put those in every store. We don’t have to, it’s not our brand standard. It’s not required, but it’s much more pleasant to work there. So we think about things like that. So we communicate that stuff to our franchisor. We’re like, this is the best practice. You should do it in this product. We need to score them. Like we need to take the complexity out of it. I need that person who’d want to show up to work and to feel good about having the confidence. Gee, I did a thousand transactions. I want them to feel good about doing a thousand transactions, not, Oh no, not another thousand customer day. Right. Communicating that to our franchisor team. And not that they don’t think about that. They’re all decent people, are good honorable people, but these are our employees. So, we have to, we have to constantly advocate for making that job easier to do.

Michael Kurland (29:37):

You’re hitting home with a lot of points. Just you are being better to your employees in a job that’s not the easiest job. So you’re taking everything you can to make their job just a little bit better. And that’s similar to what we’ve done at Branded Group and what we’ve tried to do from the beginning is our mission. One of our values is being better to our employees and we treat them fairly with pay. We treat them fairly with vacation. Like you said, that’s one of the things that we gave them right off the bat. We have the same health benefits. We have the same 401k. So we want them to stick around. We want our employees to be there and our job. Isn’t funny there, you’re on the phone all day. And you’re like shuffling between the client and the subcontractor and trying to get people to show up when they say they’re going to show up. And when they don’t show up, you’re getting yelled at by the clients. So it’s not a fun job. It’s difficult.

Robert Branca (30:36):

So my brother-in-law, one of my business partners, who’s our director of operations. One of the things he does, and again, he sees this and some of our best people, like he runs these contests. So it’s fun for them to try to beat another store. Right. Or do you know the crew?
Robert Branca (32:12):
So my brothers in law, they recognized right away that’s a motivating factor that people like doing it. They like working and they work harder because they want to, because they want to win. And it doesn’t almost doesn’t matter what the prize is. I mean, yes, it’s a nice prize. Right? You get a gift card, you get a pizza party, you get a dinner or cash bonuses.  You try to mix it up, but it’s the thrill of the competition. It makes it fun to work. Because you and I have both done that job. It’s stressful. When you get a rush in the morning and a bunch of people haven’t had their caffeine yet, not the easiest and they’re in a hurry, especially East coast people.

Michael Kurland (33:01):

I worked in the Wilton store with no drive-through no drive-through. So I did it before they remodeled it too. So I was at the sandwich station and worked in the line. And so, yes, I know about that morning rush. And we had some like 24 hour business down the street. So we also had a 6:00 PM rush every day, which was crazy.

Robert Branca (33:22):

Now we have third party delivery orders and app orders coming through on top of the drive through and the front counter. And so you want to find ways to make it enjoyable. And it’s a fast paced job, time flies, because you’re just always so busy. There’s always something to do. And if there’s no customers you’re restocking or cleaning, I mean to be ready for the next rush. So trying to find ways to incentivize people to enjoy coming to work and enjoy working hard. They’re really brilliant at that. They’ve been to like some Tony Robbins seminars, things like that that we thought it was okay, it’s worthwhile because we’ll come up with new ideas on how to light people on fire, right. That’s the way they talk about it. And they really incorporate that stuff into their day to day management skills. So training your trainers is also really important. Getting people to go out and get new skills and we go to conferences and talk to other people, what are you doing?  What ideas do you have? I mean you just try to learn, constantly learn because the business changes, the society changes. You can’t keep doing things the same way.

Michael Kurland (34:38):

Totally agree. I feel like if you’re not evolving, you’re dying. And I think one thing you really touched on was the training. You’ve gone back to that, like two or three times having a great training program in place. I can’t stress enough how important that has been for Branded Group. We have like Branded Group college and we have our head professors, Kiira Belonzi and that’s all she does is work on our training, constantly update our training, constantly retraining the folks that have been there.  If you’ve been there six months, you have to go through retraining and it’s not, it’s not a long arduous thing, but it’s like, it’s just refresh. Like, Hey, you’ve been here six months. Here’s a few things that have changed that we’ve noticed. And here’s some best practices going forward. So start incorporating this into your daily regimen. And it keeps the people there because we’re investing time and energy into them. And then they get, they are constantly getting better at their job and then they don’t want to leave.

Robert Branca (35:38):

So, and then they come up with ideas too. Like, how can I do this faster? Right. They come up and we’ll look at it. As long as it’s food safe, we’ll bring it to the brand. We’ll give them the credit for it. And like, Hey, you want to shoot a video that everybody in the system’s going to see?  I don’t want that faster. They won’t be on camera. So yeah, some people do. So, some great ideas come from inside the stores because these people are doing the job every day and they’re really clever. And they come up with stuff that I hadn’t done in in like my fellow franchisees haven’t thought of. So I mean, good ideas are everywhere. You just have to be willing to listen.

Michael Kurland (36:24):

Well, Robert, this has been a great conversation. I’ve really enjoyed talking to you this morning. I got a couple more questions for you. My last question is since you are an expert franchisee, what tips do you have for any other franchisees out there listening? What’s one tip that they need to know?

Robert Branca (36:47):

Get involved in your system, right? Run for office. If you have an elected system, if you have an appointed system, you want to be there, you want to be talking to the leadership of your franchisor, particularly if they don’t operate their own units or don’t operate many of their own units because you can really shape the direction. In our case, we’re private now, but we’re mid cap, publicly traded big company. And to have a say, I mean, it’s possible to have a say in it and if your franchisor doesn’t hear. There’s that old saying, if you don’t ask the answer’s always no. You may not get traction, but if you don’t try it definitely won’t get any traction in the direction of your brand.

Michael Kurland (37:31):

You miss every shot you don’t take is my sales blind from Gretzky. So well, Robert, again, it’s been great having you on. If the audience wants to get a hold of you, how can they do so?

Robert Branca (37:45):


Michael Kurland (37:48):

Great. There you have it guys. Well again, Robert, thanks for coming on and audience until next time,

Robert Branca (37:55):

Michael. Thank you.

I’d like to take a minute to thank you, our valued listeners. My intention is for this podcast to inspire you, in some way, to be better.  Change starts from within and radiates outward. Therefore, start with being better to yourself and only then will you recognize how to be better others and your community. Thank you for joining us today! If you want to learn more about Branded Group, then visit us at www.branded-group.com. From our website you can follow us on social media. Also, always feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn. Until next time, Be Better.

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