A Real Estate Developer’s Tryst with Multi-Unit A&W Franchise

A Real Estate Developer's Tryst with Multi-Unit A&W Franchise

Lee Fry, a real estate developer, has worked with some of the world’s most recognized brands, including Dunkin’, Chipotle, Panera, Wendy’s, and McDonald’s. As a result of this experience, Lee Fry and his wife Karin determined the best business model for them to pursue as a franchise buyer.

In December 2020, The Frys eventually purchased an A&W restaurant in North Aurora, Illinois. They have stressed the importance of having someone walk them through each stage of the franchise purchase process, which he did from a retiring owner.

Almost every brand that offers a drive-thru model is required to obtain a special use permit, which requires a public hearing with the city to discuss everything—parking, hours of operation, zoning, and traffic. Fry was able to apply those lessons to A&W Franchise, where he describes the drive-thru as the company’s “lifeblood.”

Having experience and dealing with all of the world’s corporate players enabled them to gain valuable insight into franchise operations. An association with a brand like A&W is associated with success—with a 100-year-old brand with over 900 locations across the United States and Asia.

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The Frys worked with Mike Covelli, the former franchisee, who spent two months introducing them to suppliers and ensuring a smooth transition. Additionally, Covelli is assisting them in converting a shuttered Burger King in Addison, Illinois—which they purchased in August—to an A&W as part of the Frys’ plan to own five restaurants.

The Frys assert that dealing with a company owned by those who operate their units favored them. It was probably one of the most critical factors in their decision to go with A&W.

The Addison restaurant is currently under construction and was scheduled to open in February but delayed by 30 to 45 days due to supply chain issues and equipment delays. However, Fry is excited about the location because it is in a busy shopping center with a Walmart Supercenter and Sam’s Club, he explained. Additionally, the restaurant’s entrance is located at a stop sign for those businesses, forcing people to pause and catch a whiff of their salty fries before driving past.

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Almost all of Covelli’s employees remained at the North Aurora restaurant following the acquisition, and Fry is training some of them to take on upper management roles at the new Addison location once it opens.

The Frys are currently negotiating the purchase of their third A&W Franchise, which they intend to build from the ground up and open by next fall. Meanwhile, Fry stated that they are looking for additional buildings in the Chicago area to convert.


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