Entrepreneurs are a notoriously diverse group, and Pita Pit franchisees are as varied as they come, ranging from 20-somethings to seniors, from MBAs to college dropouts and everything in between. Some made a beeline for Pita Pit right after leaving school. Others took their time—and a more circuitous route.
Like Scott Baird, owner-operator of the Pita Pit in Ajax, Ontario, who took business studies at college for two years, trained as a firefighter for another two and then ended up working at GM. In 2008, a chance encounter with Pita Pit’s founder took him in a new direction.
“My dad’s in real estate and I just happened to be with him one day when his client was Nelson Lang. I’d often eaten at the Pita Pit when I was a student in Peterborough so it was interesting to meet him and discover he’s a great guy.”
But it wasn’t just interesting. It was a life-changing experience. Nelson’s passion for the business and his vision for the future resulted in Scott opening a Pita Pit in June of 2009.
It was an A1 location, so he thought it would take off right away. But it didn’t. Not at first. Not only was it surrounded by every major burger, sub and pizza chain, it was also within two blocks of four other pita places.
So Scott started promoting Pita Pit’s school lunch program, beginning with a customer’s 7th grade class. Soon he was doing lunches for grades 6-8, and then for the whole school. By the end of his first year, he was handling three schools. Now he has 15. “School lunches are a lot of work but they bring in good money and introduce kids to pitas, which aren’t usually top-of-mind. The kids then influence their families and soon everyone’s thinking pitas.”
In late 2010, Scott took part in a new Pita Pit initiative designed for franchisees who are operationally sound and have the right staff, but need help on the marketing front.
The marketing materials Scott needed were already available to him, but like the others in the program, he needed guidance on which ones to choose, and exactly how to use them. After the first month: “My January sales were up 46% over the previous year, and every month since, they’ve been up 30-40%.”
And by following the game plan laid out for him to build his catering business, “Suddenly I was turning a profit. The program was a real game-changer.” In fact, the newly marketing-savvy Scott invented a new promotion that consistently brings in an extra $100 to $150 a day.
“As soon as you spend money on the right marketing materials, you see results.” As for the people at head office, he has nothing but praise. “They’re accessible. You can email or call them and they’ll get right back to you. And because they’ve all had stores, if you call them about a problem or about an idea, they know what you’re talking about, and don’t hesitate to dig in. Nelson himself helped me out during a couple of lunch rushes when I first opened.”
What would he say to potential Pita Pit franchisees? “The product’s terrific and the company has momentum. Get excited about your business, then get out there and promote it. Head office will see to it that you get all the help you need.”
And for an entrepreneur like Scott, being your own boss beats working for GM.