In light of Veterans Day Nov. 11, the restaurant industry is promoting numerous opportunities specifically designed to reintegrate military veterans into the workforce.
In July, the National Restaurant Association announced the launch of its new Military Foundation, created to provide training and industry support to military hospitality programs, promoting foodservice and hospitality career opportunities for former servicemen and women and military spouses, and working to provide small business ownership opportunities for military veterans.
Plenty of restaurant chains are offering special ownership incentives for veterans as well. They include:
GFG, the parent company of Great American Cookies, Pretzelmaker and MaggieMoo's/Marble Slab, is hoping to recruit 150 veteran franchisees by 2014 through its Patriot program, which includes a 40-percent discount on franchise fees. The program initially featured a 15-percent discount.
Tim Hortons Cafe & Bake Shop recently announced its participation in the International Franchise Association's (IFA) Veterans Franchise Initiative (VetFran), which provides financial incentives to qualified veterans to help them acquire franchised businesses.
Michigan-based Hungry Howie's Pizza - which was named a 2012 "Military Friendly Franchise" by G.I. Jobs Magazine – is actively targeting veterans for franchising opportunities. The chain is offering a special $10,000 discount to veterans — 50 percent-off the initial franchise fee.
"We have a strong veteran presence at Hungry Howie's Pizza," said Brian Ognian, vice president of franchise development. "Veterans make excellent franchise owners and we are always looking to add them to our system. Offering these incentives is a great way to entice the entrepreneurial-minded veterans we are looking for."
CiCi's Pizza launched its Patriot Program earlier this year. As part of the program, the company waives its franchise fee for the first restaurant, as well as 50-percent royalty fee reduction for the first full year in operation for all qualified, honorably discharged U.S. veterans. This totals to an approximate savings of $58,000.
Additionally, veterans enrolled in CiCi's Patriot Program are required to hire a manager who is also an honorably discharged veteran. CiCi's Pizza will support the veteran franchisee to obtain his or her Certified Franchise Executive (CFE) designation through the International Franchise Association (IFA).
Earlier this month, Baskin-Robbins announced its new veteran incentive program. As part of the program, the chain will waive the initial franchise fee of $25,000 for developing a new Baskin-Robbins location in select markets for qualified, honorably discharged U.S. veterans. In addition, the company has created a financing program specifically designed to assist new and existing franchisees to develop new restaurants.
"Having served as an officer in the U.S. Army, I know first-hand the importance of supporting our troops as they transition back to civilian life," said Bill Mitchell, senior vice president and brand officer, Baskin-Robbins. "As part of our brand's commitment to veterans, we are very excited to launch a new veteran franchise incentive program and hope to make someone's dream of owning their own business a reality."
This Veterans Day marks the sixth anniversary of the Little Caesars Veterans Program. Created in 2006, the program provides honorably discharged veterans with significant discounts and credits toward opening a franchise. Since the program launched, veterans have opened more than 200 Little Caesars stores.
Tasti D-Lite and Planet Smoothie are waiving 100 percent of their franchise fee for military veterans through the remainder of 2012. This incentive, which equates to about $30,000 in savings, kicked off in July.
Subway's program for enterprising military veterans is designed to reduce the costs associated with the purchase of a franchise. The franchise fee of $15,000 is waived for any honorably discharged veteran who wishes to open a Subway restaurant on a government or military installation. If a veteran wishes to open a Subway at any non-military or non-government location, they can get the franchise fees reduced by 50 percent.
Bennigan's veteran's incentive program waives the franchisee fee for all qualified and honorably discharged U.S. military veterans seeking to own a franchise. The total savings is estimated at approximately $35,000 and the program will be offered through 2013. Bennigan's offering is a part of "Operation Enduring Opportunity," a program developed by the International Franchise Association (IFA) with a goal "to hire as team members and recruit as franchise business owners 75,000 veterans and military spouses and 5,000 wounded warriors by 2014."
Other promotions and giveaways for Veterans Day
In addition to franchising incentives, many chains are showing their appreciation by offering free food and hosting other promotions.
Subway announced a partnership with the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP), a nonprofit organization with a mission of honoring and empowering wounded service members. Jared Fogle will visit Naval Support Activity Bethesda (Md.), home of the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, on Nov. 10 as the chain launches a national program honoring veterans through a partnership with WWP. The program will also launch an online campaign to encourage Subway fans to recognize veterans. Video content featuring WWP Alumni and its mission will go live on Subway.com, and the brand will encourage its 800,000-plus Twitter followers to join in the conversation using #SUBWAYSalutes hashtag. Fans using the hashtag will be given the chance to win Subway gift cards throughout Veterans Day weekend.
Einstein Bros Bagels and Noah's New York Bagels are offering a free Signature or Classic Bagel to all active, inactive and retired military personnel on Nov. 11 from 5:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Participating Bennigan's restaurants across the country will partner with local charities to host a donation drive for Veterans Day. Bennigan's is also offering food discounts for veterans and current service members with a military ID on Nov. 11 at participating locations.
Tim Hortons Café & Bake Shop is giving all active and inactive U.S. military veterans a free donut in an effort to thank them for their service and dedication to their country. No purchase is necessary. Veterans need to either be in uniform or show their military ID when they visit a Tim Hortons Cafe & Bake Shop.
Burger King customers are invited to donate $1 or more throughout November in honor of Military Families Month. Thousands of Burger King stores have partnered with Veterans of Foreign Wars to support its Unmet Needs program, which provides emergency assistance to military families while their family member is in active service. Cash donations made to the participating Burger King restaurants will help military families in need pay for essentials such as rent or mortgage, utilities, medical expenses, vehicle repairs and food.
McDonald's units in the Lima, Ohio, area are offering a buy-one-get-one-discounted promotion featuring a Big Mac or Quarter Pounder with Cheese. Veterans who purchase the first will get the second for 12 cents at any restaurant owned by franchisee Jerry Lewis. Lewis will also make a donation to a local veteran's organization for every Big Mac and Quarter Pounder with Cheese sold on Nov. 12.
Great American Cookies will give away a free cookie on Nov. 11 to those either in uniform or carrying proof of service.
Finally, United States Beef Corporation, Arby's largest franchisee with 280 restaurants, will honor veterans on Nov. 12 with a free Roast Beef Classic Sandwich during regular business hours. All active duty and veterans in uniform or with proof of military service will receive the deal. This offer is valid only at participating Arby's locations in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois and Colorado.
The NRA's analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data shows that nearly 10 percent of restaurants in the U.S. are at least 50-percent owned by military veterans. Veterans are majority owners of 33,864 restaurant businesses, and half-owners of 31,805 restaurant businesses, totaling nearly 65,700 restaurants total.
Photo provided by geograph.org.uk.
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Alicia Kelso has been a professional journalist for 15 years. Her work with QSRweb.com and PizzaMarketplace.com has been featured in publications around the world, including Good Morning America, Voice of Russia radio, Consumerist.com and Franchise Asia magazine.