When Franchisee Challenges Franchisor

It is in the best interest of a company to do what will help them make the most money. When that company is a national franchise, like Applebee’s, it might seem a little surprising that a large portion of their success comes from one franchisee: Zane Tankel.

He had been a serial entrepreneur since the 1980s, starting and selling a small commercial printing company and then a share of a drug-testing business. After buying and selling real estate for a few years, he decided to try franchising. Although he feared the role might be constraining, Mr. Tankel had heard that Applebee’s was an entrepreneurial restaurant chain, and he went to its headquarters in suburban Kansas City, Kan., to meet with its chief executive.

Sixteen years later, Mr. Tankel owns 34 Applebee’s. He has repeatedly challenged the corporation to accept changes to its formula — from its uniforms to its menus. His first restaurant on Staten Island took in $3.5 million the year it opened, 1995 — a time when the average Applebee’s was taking in $2.2 million.

Today, his Times Square location has the highest annual revenue, about $13.5 million, of any Applebee’s in the world. His 34 locations average $4.25 million in revenue, double Applebee’s nationwide average.

Photo by Mrs. Flinger

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