Spotting Martine Thomas in a crowded room is easier than ever. Why?
Because she’s typically sporting a Pita Pit shirt, even when she’s not working at her Pita Pit franchise.
“I’m not afraid to walk out of the store and go out for dinner and still have my Pita Pit shirt on. There are some companies you work for and you don’t want to be seen with their shirt on,” Thomas says. “One time I went out with my boyfriend and ended up wearing my Pita Pit sweater to a bar, for dinner!”
It boils down to this – she’s proud. And as a franchisee of one of the most iconic quick-service restaurants in Canada, she has every reason to be.
Especially when you factor in her age. Fresh out of university, six months shy of her 27th birthday, Thomas has already achieved what most haven’t accomplished at double the age: franchise success.
Balancing a Full Plate
A sharp departure from her degree in Bio-Resource Management, Thomas had no experience in franchising or business management prior to seeking out a Pita Pit opportunity.
In fact, other than working part-time for Pita Pit while in school, her only work experience after graduating in 2015 was as an assembly line worker.
“I was inspecting parts and working on the line, paying off debt and tuition. I used to work night shifts and rotation shifts too. Then, one day, I thought enough was enough.”
Filled with resolution, she decided to take a bite out of her ambitious goal: franchising with a brand she’s always been passionate about.
“I believe it’s one of the healthiest choices for take-out,” says Thomas about her decision to open a Pita Pit franchise three months ago. “I’ve always loved the food and the freshness of the products.”
Yet, franchising with your favourite brand, as sweet as it may be, is still no piece of cake. From legal requirements to everyday challenges even seasoned franchisees struggle with (such as recruiting the right employees), it can be overwhelming at times.
“I’m always trying to find a balance so that I can still have a life outside the store,” Thomas says. “It’s definitely been a learning curve. Right now, some things still feel like a foreign language. But I’m learning.”
The Bread and Butter of Franchising Successfully – Customer Service
You know you’re a millennial when you have an app for tracking the temperature of your fridge.
“I recently got sensors for my fridge and freezer and anytime my fridge goes off, it sends a text message to my phone,” Thomas explains. “This way, I know instantly when the temperature is not in its optimal range.”
With employees sometimes forgetting to secure the fridge properly to power outages to technological malfunctions to getting tasked frequently with large meal orders (like an order of 200 pitas), it’s an investment, that in the long run, could save her a lot of food, worry and money.
But surprisingly, when she asked a few of her fellow Pita Pit franchisees about purchasing the app, not everyone was on board. And what Thomas uncovered was that it had a lot to do with age.
“I’m comfortable with technology and I think a lot of younger people tend to be too. There was definitely a trend that depending on who I would ask, they would either see the app as necessary or not.”
Whether the app eventually becomes part of the franchise system or not, it’s just one of the many fresh ideas Thomas brings to the table as a young franchisee.
Yet that doesn’t mean she’s thrown out the traditional ones too. Like delivering great customer service. A staple ingredient for any great business, Thomas believes being a Pita Pit franchisee is more than just serving pitas. It’s about serving people.
“Greeting customers and asking how your day was is my favourite part about being a franchisee. And it’s something my employees do a good job at too. It makes it so much more inviting for the customers. It’s not just ‘here’s your pita, take it and go.’”
Far from a stale experience, connecting with different people has made franchising a rewarding endeavour for this millennial.
“It’s been crazy, fun-filled and unpredictable, in a good way.”
While she admits it can be tough running a store in your twenties, support from Pita Pit, friends, and family, and a passion for customer service has made a career in franchising a worthy pursuit.
By Trisha Utomi