What does typical day look like when you own and operate a Panago Pizza franchise? Well, that depends. What day of the week is it? What’s going on in the local community? Is school in or out? What’s the weather like? How long have you been in business? Brandi and Ron Cales purchased the Panago in Kindersley, Saskatchewan five years ago, and they say all of these things will affect what you do on any given day. It took some time to set their daily routine and get into a good flow. There have been ups and downs, but they would “do it all again in a heartbeat.”
At any given time, one or both members of the husband and wife team are present at the store. They each work a regular shift, with one working days while the other works evenings, and they share the behind-the-scenes administration, from staffing to balancing the daily paper work. “Our typical day starts at 8:30 a.m. and ends at 10 p.m.,” says Ron. “However, we have the added hours of office work, supervising staff, making sure our projections are done, and groceries and supplies are ordered, plus we’re always on call in case of emergency.”
One of their greatest challenges is finding a good balance as they juggle work responsibilities, family time, and volunteer commitments. In addition to running their Panago franchise and raising their busy family (the three children, who range in age from six to 11, all play minor sports), both are active in the local community. Ron is a volunteer firefighter, while Brandi volunteers with the school council. Both are involved with their kids’ baseball and hockey leagues, either coaching or coordinating.
When they first started operating their Panago franchise, Brandi was working a full-time job elsewhere, so Ron handled everything in the store. They had purchased their location from an existing franchisee, so they were not starting totally from scratch, but there was still a steep learning curve and both were putting in long hours. “When we first started the call centre really saved us,” says Ron, referring to the centralized Panago phone number that is set up to handle customer calls and route orders to the nearest Panago location. “Even now, there are times when we get too busy and don’t have time to answer the phone.”
Brandi now works full-time alongside Ron, plus, she says, “We have a very good manager who takes a load off of us.” Two more full-time staff and close to two dozen part-timers, mainly high school students, round out the staff team. The Caleses find Panago’s labour matrix tools are helpful when they are setting schedules, and say that working with staff is one of the highlights of their daily routine.
Another highlight is serving and interacting with customers. “We are both friendly and outgoing, which we believe is an asset to owning a fast-paced restaurant. We get a ton of walk-ins.” Along with their regulars, they say, “We’re in an oil town, so there are lots of temporary workers coming in and out.” Although the store has seats, typically customers pick up and go or have food delivered.
Groceries and supplies are delivered three days a week. “There is an art and a science to ordering,” says Ron, adding how he finds that accurately projecting needs is an ongoing challenge. “If we were in a city and ran out of something, we could borrow from our fellow franchisees, but the closest Panago to us is two hours away so we need to keep a large inventory of some items.” Pizzas make up the lion’s share of sales, and there is a diverse range of toppings to stock including vegan and lactose-free options. The store also carries salads, wings, and desserts.
Keeping a finger on the pulse of local activities and events is important, and something that they work into their daily routine. “You need to know what’s going on in your community,” says Ron. He and Brandi keep track of rodeos, sports tournaments, and other area events. They also plan for hot lunch and pizza days in the local elementary and middle schools, plus cater to the high school and middle school canteens. They also do sampling, dropping off complimentary pizza samples and menus during nursing week or volunteer appreciation events, for example.
Initially Brandi and Ron struggled with food costs and waste, and over time they have found Panago’s food waste control system to be an effective tool. “We are also transparent with our staff and share information about things like food costs – the more they know, the better our performance,” says Brandi.
Listening to their staff and keeping everyone informed is important to the Caleses, so they regularly post information on a staff-only Facebook page and on the in-store staff notice board. They also hold staff meetings every month or two – usually timed around a new product or promotion. “We belong to a franchise that is always looking for ways to improve our product. Panago is always looking to find healthy alternatives to cater to all customers,” says Ron. “When they come out with something new, they automatically ship some out to us.”
Both Brandi and Ron have post-secondary education and restaurant industry experience. “Panago offers great training on how to run a store, so I don’t think you need a business background. But it most definitely would be a bonus,” says Ron. More significantly, “We believe experience in working in the food industry is important.”
The Caleses frequently turn to their Panago Business Development Manager (BDM) to answer questions and provide support. “We 100 per cent use our BDM. She’s been amazing! She comes out to do reviews and help us set goals – financial, training, business growth, marketing – and she’ll also do surprise visits during the year to assess cleanliness and speed of service, plus an annual evaluation to rate the quality of our products and service,” says Ron. Panago’s BDMs are at the core of the company’s operational systems, and are available to help franchisees navigate any business challenges that arise after they have completed initial classroom and hands-on training.
“We love that Panago stands behind their franchisees, and has many systems that help get you to be the best you can be,” say Brandi and Ron. “Success doesn’t happen overnight, it requires hard work and determination. You have to be able to adapt and learn on the fly. We believe baby steps and putting Panago’s systems in place are key – stay focused on the task.” The franchise has proven operational systems that guide the day-to-day running of the store, with flexibility to respond to each franchisee’s unique situation. “We love that no matter what Panago you visit, you can expect the same quality pizza and great service.”
While there are franchise opportunities available in all provinces, Panago is focusing its expansion efforts in Saskatchewan and Ontario. There are incentive programs available in both provinces. Brandi and Ron offer this advice to people who are interested in operating a Panago: “Talk to current franchisees and study the product. We chose Panago because we loved the brand. We figured Panago was the perfect choice for us. Franchisees should be positive, hard working, organized, great with communications and able to work well with people in a fast-paced environment.”
By Kym Wolfe