Umai Savory Hot Dogs Franchise - Interview with President, Louie Tran
Louie Tran is the youngest son of the Tranfamily. His parents, Loi and Den Tran started the family business as a hot dogcart in 1992. After working many years in the legal industry, Tran took overthe family business and focused the family business on the fast-casualrestaurant format in 2012.
Tellus about the Umai Savory Hot Dogs concept:
Umai Savory Hot Dogs is a unique spin onhot dogs, featuring fresh, healthy ingredients. Our hot dogs are all natural,gluten-free, no MSG, no by-products, or additives and colors. We also carry abroad range of sausages, sliders, desserts and unique sides. We also carrygluten-free buns and vegetarian hot dogs and sausages. My parents started fromjust a single hot dog cart in San Jose, California decades ago but I reallywanted a more unique take on the traditional hot dog.
Howand when did you become involved with Umai Savory Hot Dogs?
I never really intended to get into therestaurant industry. After my father passed away, the business stagnated due tothe lack of leadership and my mom has wanted to rekindle the business since. Iknew there was demand for good hot dogs and sausages, but I also knew rightaway that I did not want to operate hot dog carts due to the many drawbackssuch as weather, location, and operating hours. I spent several years workingon the recipes and laying out the groundwork for a fast-casual restaurantformat instead. Our first store opened in Roseville, California in 2015 to muchsuccess.
Whatwas your background prior to the Umai Savory Hot Dogs franchise?
I was a corporate paralegal with many ofCalifornia’s top law firms for almost 14 years. I started a successful companydoing importing and exporting and still remain on the Board. In 2012, I decidedto focus on the family business. My experience in the legal field helped a lotwhen I started the conversion to the fast-casual format. I learned that youmust plan everything out carefully, and then plan some more. I worked a lot ofrestaurant and kitchen jobs throughout college and I understand how hard it is.That’s one of the reasons why I never wanted to go into the restaurantindustry, but fate can has a sense of humor it seems.
Whatare some of the advantages in being a franchisee with Umai Savory Hot Dogs?
I am very passionate about the business. Itis my family business after all. A franchisee is a business partner that isthere to help you grow as a team and as a company. They’re like family and likefamily, you can never let them down. I will go out of my way to make thingsright. One of the things I learned from many of our franchisees is that, whilemany of them are skilled at business, the majority of them may know manyaspects of business in general, but may lack in other aspects. So I prefer toover-train them just to make sure they know everything. We provide supportevery step of the way through from site selection, lease negotiation,architectural planning, construction management, equipment training, kitchentraining, supplies and purchasing, inventory, marketing, and even long afterthe store is open, we continue to train on customer service and food handling.
Whois your ideal franchisee?
The ideal franchisee is someone who ispassionate about the food concept, the brand, and what it stands for. My fatherstarted the business and ran it with a passion you seldom see fromentrepreneurs. I run it with that same passion and I hope our franchisee sharesthat passion with the same food quality and customer care. I truly believe thatif you enjoy your work and what you do, it will show.
Tellus a little about the Industry/Market?
Americans love hot dogs - more than anyother country. Through sporting events, local picnics, carnivals, festivals andrestaurants, Americans consume over 20 billion hot dogs a year.
According to recent survey data obtained bythe American Hot Dog and Sausage Council, Americans purchase 350 million poundsof hot dogs at retail stores - that's 9 billion hot dogs! That works out toabout 70 hot dogs per person each year. Hot dogs are served in 95 percent of homesin the United States. 45% of hot dogs are consumed at the retail level, 15% arepurchased from street vendors, 10% are consumed through festivals and eventsand 9% are purchased at ballparks. Theremaining 21% are consumed through restaurants.
There are currently only a total of 6 hotdog restaurant franchises in the United States, serving a population of 318.9million. Of those 6, only 2 have national presence.
What Umai Savory Hot Dogs offer is a uniquespin on one of America’s favorite foods. As our ethnic backgrounds become moreand more diverse, tastes change. Umai Savory Hot Dogs is unique in that aspectand we offer regional specialties and diverse ethnic flavors.
Whatare some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned in growing this franchise?
The greatest lessons I’ve learned ingrowing this franchise is food consistency and passion. While I am not atrained chef by any means, I am very particular about my food quality andtaste. You can cook eggs 10 different ways and have 15 different results. Muchof my struggle initially was making sure our operations and food quality wasconsistent throughout every location and that we delivered a quality producteach and every time.
As I mentioned before, having passion foryour business and what you do is 90% of your success. I would spend countlesshours just talking to customers and critics to see how we could improveeverything. It is difficult to have every franchisee be passionate about thebrand and its business, but the ones that are, usually are the ones that aremore successful. Passion is infectious and it will drive your staff motivationand your customers to love your brand.
Doyou have a mentor and is there someone you use for inspiration?
I don’t have a mentor and everything Ilearned, I learned from making mistakes and admitting fault and getting back onthe horse after the fall. I have a lot of respect and draw inspiration fromSteve Ells, the founder of Chipotle. I can’t even imagine the amount of workand dedication he has put in to grow his business. If I can achieve even afraction of his success, I would be happy.
Whatadvice do you have for someone looking to acquire a franchise?
My advice would be to look at a concept andask yourself how much you like the food, the brand, and its direction andgrowth. Warren Buffett is another hero of mine. I remember in college, myprofessor said that Warren Buffett’s approach to picking stocks is to look forthings and brands you commonly used frequently. If it’s a product you love,there’s a good chance that many others will too. The same goes for mostrestaurant concepts. If the food is great, the customer service is great, andthe brand has a good following and the people operating the business has thepassion to drive the brand forward, then you’ve got a winner.
Inyour opinion, why do you think that Umai Savory Hot Dogs would be a greatopportunity for someone?
Umai Savory Hot Dogs is very unique in thatwe offer many items besides our specialty hot dogs and sausages. We have such abroad range of burgers, fries, noodles, chicken wings, desserts, and specialtydrinks and every product is as distinctive as the next. Umai Savory Hot Dogshas a strong brand following and our unique concept has multiple formatsincluding the standard restaurant, a limited-seating and service restaurant,food court kiosk, and even mobile food truck. This allows our franchisees toadapt the concept and grow rapidly by opening multiple formats in their localarea with lower investment and start-up costs.