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Chicken Wing
06.26.2018

Hands-On Approach to Multi-Unit Operations Propels Franchisee to the Top

J.D. Penland decided to go into business when thousands of other business owners were getting out – during The Great Recession. He graduated from college a year earlier, and had a steady job in insurance. There were enough factors to convince most people to forego the risks of entrepreneurship.

But, J.D. and his brother Jeff decided to open up a restaurant franchise.

“I was on the route to stocks and security, but as the recession hit, that continued to look less and less desirable,” J.D. said. “I decided I needed to be in an industry that would always have demand, so I looked to restaurant franchises. People always need food, and the East Coast Wings + Grill opportunity really stood out to us. They kept up with the trends, and had great food and solid repeat business.”

On the Road to Multi-Unit Success

In 2007, J.D. and Jeff bought an existing East Coast Wings + Grill location in High Point, North Carolina, turned it around and sold it to another buyer in 2010. They then bought the rights to North Charlotte, a bigger market with more people.

A year later, they acquired another existing East Coast Wings + Grill location with their father, who had extensive business experience in the market. They built three new restaurants and have another in development in Denver, North Carolina, which will open later this year. The brothers now own roughly 10 percent of the business in the entire East Coast Wings + Grill franchise system.

“We’ve been in business for more than 10 years now, and we’ve found great success with the brand,” J.D. said. “But, it definitely hasn’t always been easy – especially when we first started out. We had a lot of things going against us. The economy wasn’t great and we were young, so we had to work even harder to earn peoples’ respect.”

Overcoming the Learning Curve

When they first became East Coast Wings + Grill franchisees, J.D. says it took six to nine months to get the hang of things. He and Jeff had to learn the franchise and restaurant industries, while operating their businesses every day, which could be overwhelming for the twenty-something brothers.

“One of the benefits of our age was that we had all the energy in the world,” J.D. said. “But, there’s a learning curve, and you’ll make mistakes, but you learn through it. Part of the benefit of a franchise system is that you have that extra support and guidance helping you navigate through some of the mistakes other business owners make.”

Hard Work and a Hands-On Approach

The Penlands have never been the type to shy away from hard work, and, unlike typical multi-unit owners who are absentee or semi-absentee, they have been closely involved with their businesses since Day One.

“It’s important to be very hands-on and show your staff that you have a strong work ethic,” J.D. said. “You need to show people you’re willing to do anything to improve your business. It motivates others to see you working. As a business owner, there’s no room for entitlement.”

While J.D. and Jeff handle all the high-level oversight, they’re also active in the daily operations of their restaurants.

east coast wings + grill restaurant interior

“You have to always be prepared,” J.D. said. “A manager can quit and you’ll have to go in and take over right away. We can fill in that space seamlessly because we’re so involved, and we understand exactly what goes into working each position every day.”

Today, each of the Penland’s locations bring in roughly $2 million annually, and the partners are in perfect shape to open up a new East Coast Wings + Grill franchise this fall. They have plans to open more locations within the next few years, and are excited to continue expanding alongside the brand they launched their careers with.

To learn more about franchise opportunities with East Coast Wings + Grill, get started here.

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