|Chains aim to
attract military vets as franchisees
Reduced fees, other incentives recruit can-do team
players who know how to ‘make things happen on
By DINA BERTA
PADUCAH , KY. (May.
21) —Robbie Doughty’s Little Caesars pizza franchise here
is his first venture in the restaurant business, but
he’s pretty confident he’ll be successful, since he is
accustomed to overcoming challenges.
A former U.S. soldier stationed in Iraq,
Doughty lost both his legs in a mortar attack nearly
three years ago. He was determined to recover quickly
after in-hospital visits from physical therapists and
Doughty returned home on prosthetic legs
in just a few months, a fraction of the time it takes
the average person to recuperate from such serious
“It was one of those
if-they-can-do-it-I-can-do-it type of things,” said
Doughty, a Paducah native who was planning a long career
in the military until the bomb blew up his Humvee.
It was that can-do attitude that caught
the attention of Mike Ilitch, founder of Little Caesars
Enterprises and a sports and entertainment mogul.
Ilitch, chairman of Ilitch Holdings in Detroit, had read
about Doughty in a newspaper. Last fall, Ilitch offered
Doughty a Little Caesars franchise.
The chain, which has more than 1,000
branches on five continents and is regarded as the
industry’s largest carryout-only pizza brand, is one of
more than three dozen restaurant companies that are
among a couple hundred franchisors across multiple
industries that offer some type of new-franchise
incentives to military veterans, usually steep discounts
on franchising fees. Such programs are attractive
because they attract disciplined military veterans who
are regarded as ideal franchisee candidates.
“They were trained by one of the greatest
systems in the world—the U.S. military,” said Terry
Hill, a spokesman for the International Franchise Association
in Washington, D.C. “The franchise community is looking
for people who know how to fit into a system, how to
follow orders and processes, and make things happen on
After the Gulf War in the early 1990s, the
IFA launched VetFran, a program that connects
franchisors with government agencies to attract and
screen military veterans for possible franchise
agreements. Franchisors, in turn, offer the veterans
discounts on franchises.
The initiative has helped hundreds of
veterans become franchisees. The association recently
recognized former Marine Alan Martinez as the 700th
franchisee recruited by the VetFran initiative. Earlier
this year, Martinez and his wife, Kim, opened a Virginia
Barbecue franchise in Fredericksburg, Va.
Martinez had spent nine years with the
Marines and 11 years in the Coast Guard piloting
helicopters before retiring. When he eventually took a
job as a full-time pastor for a church, the couple
looked for a franchise opportunity to supplement their
The Martinezes opened the eighth Virginia
Barbecue store in March. The young fast-casual chain,
founded by Rick Ivey, offered the couple $5,000 off—a
25-percent discount—on the franchise fee.
“What’s so great about a franchise is a
lot of the process and procedures are already in place,”
Martinez said. “You don’t have to build them, just
implement them. It’s like a turnkey.”
Ivey, a certified executive chef with 25
years of experience in the industry, opened the first
Virginia Barbecue in 2000 and began franchising in 2004.
He listed the company with the VetFran program as a way
to advertise. The program is promoted not only through
the IFA, but also the Department of Veterans Affairs,
the Veterans Corp. and the U.S. Small Business
Administration. Since joining the program, Ivey has
signed three veterans, including Martinez, as
“Veterans have the beauty of being trained
to work in the system,” Ivey said. “They are not
mavericks. Some people who sign on—they are
entrepreneurs and they want to do their own thing and
not follow the systems. Veterans are people who
understand the value of working within set
Franchisors who participate
in the IFA’s VetFran program, offering various
discounts for honorably discharged veterans:
Deli & Ice Cream Shops
||Figaro’s Italian Pizza
|Great American Cookies
||New York Fresh Deli
||Papa Gino’s/D’Angelo Sandwich
||Wall Street Deli|
||Honeybaked Ham &
|Carvel Ice Cream
||Juice It Up
|Daily Grind Unwind
||Ritter’s Frozen Custard
|Dunn Bros. Coffee
||Marble Slab Creamery
At Little Caesars, honorably discharged
veterans can receive up to $10,000 in benefits,
including a $5,000 discount on franchise fees and a
$5,000 credit toward equipment. Disabled veterans are
eligible for up to $68,000 in benefits, which includes a
full waiver of the $20,000 franchise fee and equipment
packages. The chain will also help veterans negotiate
with banks for financing.
Since signing on disabled vet Doughty and
his partner, Lloyd Allard, who worked with Doughty in
the Army’s Special Forces in Iraq, Little Caesars has
received hundreds of calls from veterans about becoming
franchisees, said Dave Scrivano, president of the
company. The chain has signed up nine more veterans in
the last six months.
The veterans program also has struck a
chord with suppliers and the community, Scrivano said.
Some purveyors also have waived charges or offered free
services to Doughty for his store’s January opening.
“They are very appreciative of the service
that the veterans have given to us,” Scrivano said.
“When you step back and think about it, the U.S. is a
free economy and a free country because of the people
who have defended us over the years. This is a small way
to give back.”