In less than five years, Michael Straker has become Sandwich Baron’s star franchisee. At 25 years old, this driven young businessman has turned three of the franchise group’s stores around and is intent on taking the Sandwich Baron concept global.
Determined to become a Sandwich Baron franchisee, Straker started as a cashier at Alberton Sandwich Baron in 2010 where he learnt the basics of the business. “After two years at the store, I went to the United Kingdom to try and make it as a cricketer. I returned to South Africa a year and a half later to take up a position as a junior manager at the Sandwich Baron in Germiston.”
Having not worked at Sandwich Baron for a while, Staker had to learn the basics again and acquire management skills. After a year, at only 20 years old, he was promoted to store manager at Germiston, a role he fulfilled for three years. During this time, he increased the store’s profitability and elevated it into the top five in the group.After his success at Germiston, Straker was sent to manage the Blairgowrie store. “It had been poorly managed by three different owners over a three-year period. My job was to turn it around. It was a tough job. People in the area didn’t want to know about Sandwich Baron and I had to regain their trust. This meant getting orders out quickly and correctly, making sure the quality was good and getting the right number of drivers and kitchen staff in place.”
After 18 months, the store’s turnover had increased by R110,000.00 a month, making it a profitable, and therefore more viable, operation.
“I live in Germiston, so when Boksburg began to struggle, I accepted a challenge to ‘steady the ship’. Even though there were managers at the store, it was busy and rather chaotic in terms of getting orders right and ensuring they were out in time,” says Straker.
His recipe for success is to follow the system recommended by head office, which includes ordering from the correct suppliers to ensure good quality food; assessing staff numbers and allocating resources correctly; and getting the basics right.
He says running a Sandwich Baron is not difficult, but a lot of people get it wrong. “The stuff I have to focus on may seem trivial, but ensuring success means getting a lot of small, easy jobs completed ahead of busy times, managing peoples’ expectations about how long certain orders take and then getting your orders out in the time you promised you would.
“The hardest part of running a Sandwich Baron is keeping your current customers happy and building the trust of new customers. Generally, if you do well at the basics and communicate with your customers openly and honestly, it is easier to grow your business.”
Of course, running a Sandwich Baron is also about managing the staff. “Employees need to be treated fairly and firmly. When there is an issue, I don’t beat around the bush, I handle it immediately. If I must micro-manage for a while, then that is what I do. I rotate staff so that they are excellent on all sections. I try to make sure all bases are covered,” explains Straker.
Since taking over at Boksburg in November 2016, Straker has increased the turnover by R150,000.00 a month and it is consistently the number one store in a network of 45 stores.
Perhaps this driven young man’s greatest secret to success is his hands-on approach to running the business. “I make sure I am in the store all day. I have set preparation times for various items and when the deadlines are not met, I start demanding orders. I’m not afraid to get involved. I will help prepare the food. I will sweep – whatever it takes,” he says.
Straker intends to use is experience and success at Boksburg to start a branch in the United Kingdom or United States. “I’m keen to take Sandwich Baron to the next level. I am training to be a franchisor now and I’d say I’m about 50% of the way there. The company has been operating successfully in South Africa for over 21 years. It’s a model that works and that I believe we work in other countries around the world.
“It is always exciting to see the energy and drive in youngsters and working with people who take advice makes my job a lot easier” Said Sally J’Arlette-Joy.
“Once Michael has the acquired all the necessary business skills I do not see why we cannot take the concept abroad” continued J’Arlette-Joy.
Straker still plays cricket, although not as often as he would like. “I play for Wanderers and practice once a week. I really should be practicing more, but it’s not easy given the demands of the store.”