Andrew Martin Of Six Figure Dinners: Five Things I Wish I Knew Before Opening a Franchise

An Interview With Cynthia Corsetti

You may need to develop your own operational systems rather than relying solely on the franchisor’s. You may expect your franchisor to place a fully functioning, fail-proof business in front of you. There’s way more to it than that, particularly for a smaller but growing franchise.

The world of franchising offers a unique blend of entrepreneurship and established business models. However, navigating the franchise landscape can be daunting, especially for those embarking on this journey for the first time. There are lessons to be learned, pitfalls to avoid, and success stories to be inspired by. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Andrew Martin.

Andrew Martin is a seasoned entrepreneur and the founder of Six Figure Dinners, a unique peer advisory group dedicated to supporting business owners through collaboration and shared wisdom. With a journey that began in childhood, selling polished rocks and sports cards, and evolved through various ventures including a significant stint with Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt franchise, Andrew has cultivated a deep understanding of business operations, community building, and mentorship. Holding an MBA from UCLA, his career is marked by a passion for aiding fellow entrepreneurs to navigate challenges and achieve their business goals, leveraging his experiences to foster a space for growth and mutual support.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive into our discussion about succession, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

My path to entrepreneurship was deeply influenced by early experiences and family encouragement to be creative and solve problems. Starting with selling polished rocks as a child to trading sports cards as a teenager, I learned the value of goods and the importance of customer demand.

My professional journey began at Trex and was further shaped by an MBA from UCLA. However, it was my venture into franchising with Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt that truly cemented my entrepreneurial career, teaching me invaluable lessons in business operations and the significance of community and mentorship in overcoming challenges. This blend of experiences propelled me into founding Six Figure Dinners, aiming to support and guide fellow business owners through the complexities of entrepreneurship.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

Perhaps the most remarkable moment in my career that stands out to me occurred early on, during my rock-selling venture at a young age. This experience might seem small or inconsequential to some, but for me, it was my first foray into the world of entrepreneurship. The process of preparing and selling rocks not only ignited my entrepreneurial spirit but also taught me foundational lessons about value, customer interaction, and the sheer joy of creating something that others are willing to pay for.

This early venture set the stage for my future endeavors, instilling in me a deep-seated belief in the power of creativity, hard work, and the importance of understanding the market’s needs. It’s a story that I often reflect on, reminding me of where I started and how those early lessons have permeated every aspect of my career, shaping me into the entrepreneur I am today. It was a humble beginning, but it was filled with significant insights that have guided me through various challenges and successes in my career.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

My favorite life lesson quote is from my dad. He said “‘An item is worth what someone will pay for it.” This principle has been a guiding light throughout my journey, especially during my tenure with Menchie’s. It underscored the importance of understanding market value and customer perception, which has been crucial in navigating the challenges of entrepreneurship.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Our company stood out because of our innovative approach to local market adaptation and our relentless focus on operational efficiency. For instance, we introduced the Menchie’s mascot to actively participate in local community events, significantly enhancing our brand presence in Houston. This initiative not only connected us more deeply with our community but also demonstrated our ability to creatively leverage brand assets to our local advantage.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. What factors did you consider when selecting your franchise, and how did you determine it was the right fit for you?

When selecting our franchise, we looked for a concept with strong product and branding that had the potential for growth in a metropolitan area. Menchie’s had about 30 units when we began, which meant it was established but still had room for significant growth. My background in various food service roles during high school, combined with my passion for the industry, made a food concept particularly appealing. Menchie’s met all these criteria, offering a balance between a proven business model and the opportunity for us to make our mark.

Can you share a significant challenge you faced while establishing your franchise? How did you overcome this obstacle, and what did this experience teach you about running a successful franchise?

A significant challenge was realizing that the franchisor at that time was still in the early phases of developing all the key systems we needed as multi-unit operators. We had to develop our own systems for scaling, hiring, training, and maintaining financial stability, among other things.

This was compounded by issues like equipment maintenance and high turnover in the first year. Overcoming these challenges taught us the importance of having a hands-on approach and deeply understanding every aspect of our business. It was a hard-earned lesson in the reality of franchising: success requires more than just following a set formula; it demands innovation, adaptability, and continuous learning.

Looking back to when you first started your franchise, what was one aspect that completely took you by surprise? This could be related to the franchising process, customer interactions, or day-to-day management that you hadn’t anticipated.

What took me by surprise was the sheer depth of involvement required to run the franchise successfully. I initially thought that with the investment in a franchise, most of the operational systems would be in place for us to execute. However, the reality was far different, requiring us to develop our systems and deeply engage in every aspect of the business. This realization shifted my understanding of what it means to be a franchisee, from being a passive investor to an active operator deeply involved in the minutiae of daily operations.

In hindsight, what advice would you give to potential franchisees about selecting a franchise that aligns with their personal and professional goals?

My advice would be to choose a franchise within your area of expertise and passion. Getting a strong sense of the business operations before you start is crucial. Many franchisors sell the dream of a turnkey business, but the reality is that success requires deep operational knowledge and a hands-on approach. If you’re considering a franchise in an industry you’re not familiar with, you’re likely to face a steep learning curve that could be costly both in terms of time and money.

How do you balance adhering to the established systems of your franchise with the need to innovate and adapt to your local market? Can you provide an example of a successful adaptation or innovation you implemented in your franchise?

Balancing the franchise’s established systems with the need to innovate was crucial for our success. A prime example of our innovation was the introduction of Menchie’s mascot as a prominent figure outside the store, which significantly boosted our brand recognition in Houston. When we started, no one had heard of Menchie’s locally. But by the time we had our mascot go through schools and events, all the kids were telling their parents about Menchie’s.

This adaptation demonstrated our ability to stay within the franchise’s guidelines while also pushing the boundaries to better connect with our local market.


What are your “Five Things I Wish I Knew Before Opening a Franchise”?

  1. The importance of industry experience from the start. Knowing nothing of the industry, I thought I could hire key people with experience, and they’d run it for me, handling the things I didn’t know. This was false.
  2. Understanding that the franchise’s success relies heavily on my direct involvement. I had to be directly involved in the day-to-day and oversee everything to ensure it ran properly.
  3. You may need to develop your own operational systems rather than relying solely on the franchisor’s. You may expect your franchisor to place a fully functioning, fail-proof business in front of you. There’s way more to it than that, particularly for a smaller but growing franchise.
  4. The fact that operational efficiency and managing expenses are crucial for profitability, more so than focusing solely on sales and marketing. This is why in my current business, Six Figure Dinners, the majority of our conversations and coaching focus on scaling for profitability, not solely revenue.
  5. The value of negotiation in real estate and equipment deals to avoid overspending and ensure better returns. The fact is, we overspent. Had we negotiated more on equipment, had we been more patient when searching for real estate, we could have saved.

As your franchise has grown, what have been the key drivers of its success? Looking forward, what strategies do you plan to implement to ensure continued growth and sustainability in an ever-evolving market?

While location is certainly a big factor, what I actually found was having a good employee training process was the best driver overall — I hadn’t really considered that. That really was the difference in a lot of ways. It was about whether we could develop the process — we couldn’t afford to have the top employees out there — we had to invest in a process. We developed a pretty good process in our pay range to get average people in that pay range to perform above average.

Had we not sold, the better employee training became, the more we could have drilled down on other expense categories. We could have done some creative ad campaigns. We started to develop consistent data, and I would have liked to split test various modes of advertisements. We were really just getting into that at the time we sold, as we had really just figured out how to get operations consistent across stores.

I think the same thing about distribution. I think we would have been able to negotiate better terms, but couldn’t quite get there because we spent so much time building training processes. Once they were in place, I really think we could have moved some other levers.

Off-topic, but I’m curious. As someone steering the ship, what thoughts or concerns often keep you awake at night? How do those thoughts influence your daily decision-making process?

The business was just so vulnerable. You can work to acquire a new customer, and pay that acquisition cost, service them for 3 months and it’s great… but one day, they come in and see a fruit fly and they’re gone forever.

And in a location-based business in the food service industry, those repeat customers are so important. We could only acquire business within a small radius of maybe 5 miles. Most people aren’t going to commute long distances to get frozen yogurt, so we had to keep customers happy.

In any food service business, the brand is just so fragile.

For most franchisees you are heavily reliant on employees. One employee that has a bad day or doesn’t want to be there could result in negative interactions that could have a negative impact on scores of customers.

I was up late thinking about getting calls with problems like these.

This created a lot of motivation to invest in our employees and the training processes. And this ultimately motivated me to get away from location-based service businesses. How do we improve morale, training process, incentive process… this was our greatest problem and greatest success. It became my full-time job, really.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I think my current venture, Six Figure Dinners, is exactly that. We are helping business owners who were in exactly the place we were with Menchie’s. We were profitable, we were scaling, but we weren’t equipped to deal with some of the issues that came along with it. Joining a mastermind group helped me immensely, and so I seek to help others as I scale Six Figure Dinners out across the country.

How can our readers further follow you online?

You can visit my website, and follow me on LinkedIn here:

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

About the Interviewer: Cynthia Corsetti is an esteemed executive coach with over two decades in corporate leadership and 11 years in executive coaching. Author of the upcoming book, “Dark Drivers,” she guides high-performing professionals and Fortune 500 firms to recognize and manage underlying influences affecting their leadership. Beyond individual coaching, Cynthia offers a 6-month executive transition program and partners with organizations to nurture the next wave of leadership excellence.