Fran and Chris Kirley
From healthcare to donuts, building a family legacy through multiple generations
Francis Kirley is a serial entrepreneur and the founder of Nexion Health, one of the largest nursing home chains in the United States. Fran’s son, Chris Kirley, is the director of operations for Kirley Management. Now, the father and son team are working together to launch the first Rise Biscuits & Donuts franchise in the Greater Baltimore area.
Chris and Fran sat down with citybizlist to talk about bringing the popular North Carolina breakfast spot up north, navigating roles in the family business, and working alongside Rise CEO and founder Tom Ferguson. (For more information about Fran, be sure to watch our interview with him recorded earlier this year).
EDWIN WARFIELD: What made you believe in this business? What questions did you need answered before you felt certain this would be a success?
FRAN KIRLEY: When we had the opportunity to sit down with Tom Ferguson, who’s the CEO and a graduate of American Culinary Institute, we wanted to understand what his concept was, And his concept was “I want to produce a quality food product in the location, every day.” Biscuits are made every 15 to 30 minutes, donuts are made that morning. [It was] Tom’s commitment of “I want to control the quality, I want to control the production, and I want to be able to serve something that people walk away going, ‘Wow, that was a great donut, that was a great donut sandwich, that was a great biscuit sandwich,’” et cetera.
Q. What locations in Baltimore are you looking at for Rise?
CHRIS KIRLEY: The locations that we’re looking at right now are York Road, north of Towson; Columbia, in the Dobbin Square area; we’re also looking at Owings Mills, Reisterstown Road; and then more in Montgomery County, which would be Gaithersburg and Rockville. That would be our prime five locations. Those things can adjust based on the leases and the locations that we are presented with. But those are probably our ideal locations at the moment.
Q. What challenges do you foresee in launching a Rise franchise? Are there directives from corporate?
FRAN KIRLEY: Again, to talk a little bit about Tom. Tom is a gentleman who started a couple of other restaurant products and models, and one of the things he’s recognized is you’ve got to reward the people that make the difference. Somewhat my personal philosophy in my own company—and he wanted to put a program together that expects all the franchisees to implement this—is that you reward the shop manager who is responsible for production, quality, sales, and outcome. And so all of the chefs will get a percentage of sale as an incentive on a month by month basis, and that will be in addition to a regular compensation. Their model has worked extremely well for them—it’s replicated by other companies like Outback—but Tom wants the ownership and the accountability of the success of each store to be with that individual that makes a difference every day, and that’s the head baker.
CHRIS KIRLEY: The build-out cost is going to be probably our biggest expense. We’re budgeting that to be about half a million dollars per location, so that’s where most of our capital is going to go right off the bat. In terms of ongoing costs, you have your normal overhead and making sure that the quality is there with the overhead that you have, so trying to bring in as much revenue as possible to keep that going.
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