Established in 1996 by franchisor Sally J’Arlette-Joy, Sandwich Baron makes platters and sandwiches to order. The franchise is the biggest player in the sandwich business in South Africa and has experienced sustained and steady expansion over the years. Riccardo de Marco owns three successful units. Here’s what he has to say about making it work.
Why did you choose to expand to more than one franchise?
The brand is such a well-known one and growing every day that it made sense to expand into other areas.
One of the most difficult things with a new store is getting the staff acquainted with the way you run it and to change previous habits. Stocking a store can also become quite irksome because we carry such a huge variety of items, including food and packaging, and you have to have these ready to make sure the store is operational from the moment you take over.
How did you manage finance and cash flow when expanding?
Each store is individually run. Although the cash and all the electronic payments go into a single account, they have their own references. At the end of the month we consolidate the account and figures, and calculate which store did what amount.
How did your role change from one unit to several?
Trying to run more than one store can be very difficult, especially when you have one of the busiest in South Africa among them. The only solution I had was to bring in my family to assist in running the smaller stores.
What assistance did the franchisor provide when you decided to buy more units?
The franchisor was willing to help cover the stock as well as the rent for the first month and allow me to pay her back, and in this industry that is the biggest help you can get.
Being a franchise, it’s run according to our manuals, although there are always problems that arise when dealing with a business that delivers food. You need to make sure that each store has the right amount of stock and is always kept up to standard in terms of cleanliness. It can become quite difficult when you have more than a single store to check all these specifics, which is why it’s essential that if you are not there, the person in charge is on the same page as you.
What is the single most important thing to know about being a multiple unit franchisee?
Having a good managerial structure in place is of the utmost importance. This line of work is very hands-on and that makes it difficult to run between stores. That is the main reason why I have employed those closest to me to control and manage my other stores.
How do you maintain work-life balance?
Work and life unfortunately always go hand in hand as any business owner will tell you. No matter how much you try to separate the two, you will always find yourself sitting at home and having your mind turn to something that needs sorting at the office.
Riccardo de Marco
- Franchise: The Sandwich Baron
- First store: 2009
- Number of stores: 3