Blimpie/Kahala Executive Q&A Series – Pat Conlin
March 28, 2016
Few people understand what makes Blimpie great quite like Pat Conlin – a Long Island based Blimpie area developer who has spent his entire career with Blimpie. An entrepreneur at heart and one of the most loyal and giving professionals in franchising, Conlin was born to help other aspiring entrepreneurs realize their dreams of business ownership with their very own Blimpie franchise. Read on to learn more about what Pat and other Blimpie area developers do each and every day to help local Blimpie franchisees thrive.
Q: So Pat, you have been with Blimpie since the very beginning of your career. How did you end up with this franchise brand?
P: Well, I have always wanted to own my own business. Even when I was a young kid with a newspaper route — that was back when people still got newspapers — I knew that I wanted to own and run a business. I worked for a guy who owned an ice cream store for one of my first jobs, and I remember he clearly loved being his own boss. More specifically to Blimpie, my sister and brother-in-law owned their own Blimpie franchise in Hempstead, NY – near Hofstra University – and I thought I would work with them after I graduated from Rutgers University. But when I graduated, I was fortunate enough to land an interview, and ultimately, a job, with Blimpie International. So, I instead started to work directly for Blimpie’s Atlanta-based parent company in1985, just as the Blimpie franchise system began to surge in growth. About a year after that, I moved back north and became the area developer for Blimpie for Long Island, and opened a couple of Blimpie franchises of my own…and I’m still here with Blimpie 30 years later!
Q: Thirty years in Long Island is a long time. Why did you decide to settle there?
P: I spent the first 12 years of my childhood in Long Island before my family moved to New Jersey. My sister went to Hofstra, a University based in Long Island, and that’s how she got involved with Blimpie. Long Island ended up being perfect for me because I loved it there growing up and my sister had already established a family presence there when I started working for Blimpie. Blimpie International offered me the chance to develop the Blimpie brand in Long Island and I believed the opportunity was too good to pass up!
Q: I’m sure some things have changed in the past 30 years in Long Island. Blimpie resonates well with people in the tri-state area, but what makes the Long Island area, specifically, a great place to own a business?
P: Well the New York, New Jersey metro area is a high income area, and many local people, like myself, want to be in business for themselves. The people in this area have money, they want to invest it, and they know the demographics in this area are strong enough to support a business. They have what it takes to be successful and dozens of them have become excellent franchise owners in Long Island and throughout the Tri-state.
Q: Most aspiring entrepreneurs understand the franchisee-franchisor relationship and the trade-offs that come with it. But things might get a little hazy when you bring in an area developer, so can you give us some clarity on the role of an area developer?
P: In the early years of Blimpie, founder Tony Conza and his partners realized a great way to grow the business was to sell off regions to entrepreneurs like myself, who would then look for people to open franchises to grow the area. As a Blimpie area developer, you’re almost like a miniature parent company for the franchisees in your region. We provide operational support and maintain operational standards for each franchisee. Additionally, it’s our responsibility to help new owners secure what we believe will be a successful location for a Blimpie restaurant. We’re also involved in the marketing co-op, informing and executing marketing plans for each individual franchisee and the region as a whole.
Q: So you guys offer an extremely high level of localized support – a vital competitive advantage when compared to other franchise brands that don’t also have that regional developer. That’s pretty powerful stuff.
P: Absolutely. As an area developer, my strength is that I’ve lived in Long Island for most of my life, so I know these communities like the back of my hand. That helps when I’m discussing certain specific areas with a potential franchise prospect, or when a current franchisee wants to try something different with their marketing. I can tell them about a location on Main Street that someone at the national office wouldn’t know about. It gives me a great deal of credibility with established franchisees and franchise prospects in and around Long Island.
Q: Let’s dig deeper into what you do for existing franchisees. How many do you work with? Describe the powerful impact you can have on their business.
P: More than likely, if they have an issue they’re encountering with their business, I can provide a quick and effective solution because I’ve probably already been through it in my role as an area developer and franchisee. I connect with my franchisees on a daily basis and they know I’m always just a phone call away if there’s an emergency or if they just need some help. Since I’ve owned and operated a store, I can also jump behind the counter and make a sandwich. My franchisees know I’ll do whatever it takes to help them succeed as business owners.
Q: I know it’s tough to find or know you’re looking at the “perfect” franchisee, but I know there are some traits that make for successful ownership. Can you describe those? How much does it help to be a former Blimpie employee?
P: Franchise owners who previously worked as Blimpie employees often transition smoothly into ownership because they know how to plan for and execute the day-to-day operations. However, they can sometimes struggle with the business management side and may need some support with payroll, marketing, employee management, etc. However, former employees aren’t the only great franchise owners we have in the system. Regardless, the key to success is a passion for people and a passion for the Blimpie brand. Our best franchisees are outgoing, friendly, and truly enjoy interacting with customers. They’re not afraid to hop behind the counter, make sandwiches and engage with customers who come into their store. They understand that it’s their responsibility to connect with customers and ensure they deliver a quality experience to keep them coming back for more!
Q: For those who are interested in area development opportunities, what can you say to them?
P: There are several areas still available around the country! Kahala and Blimpie are seeking area developers who possess a deep knowledge of their community and bring business ownership, real estate, and sales experience to the table. Similar to great franchise owners, the best area developers have a passion for people and excellent communication skills. If you’re interested in a bigger opportunity with Blimpie and want to help the brand blossom in your town, then an area development opportunity is right for you.
Q: Why is the time now to buy into Blimpie subs, the freshly sliced franchise?
P: After 50 years serving fresh-sliced subs, Blimpie franchisees have never been better positioned for success than they are today! Sandwich shops are growing in popularity amongst consumers and Blimpie still has the best tasting sandwiches on the market. And with Kahala, we have a top-notch research and development team consistently developing new tastes and flavors that resonate well with today’s customers. We’re always looking at new ways to grow and make our sandwiches more profitable. We’ve come out with a redesign in the past few years, making our physical store match our online presence. Bottom line – we’re having a blast at Blimpie and the time is now for aspiring franchise owners seeking a great and proven sub sandwich shop business model at a reasonable price!