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Lessons Learned in my First Year as a PJ's Coffee Franchise Owner

By: PJ's Coffee
Category:PJ's Coffee Franchisees

While no one expected to experience a global pandemic in 2020, businesses were forced to make some of the most challenging decisions in the process of opening. Dalton Dodich, franchise owner and managing partner at PJ's Coffee in Spanish Fort, Alabama, was determined to continue building his store when the world was beginning to shut down.

One year later, Dalton continues to build up his team, focus on the guest experience and navigate industry-wide challenges. One thing he knows for sure is– making short-term sacrifices has proven to show long-term success.

Dalton highlights his experience as a new franchisee, who opened during one of the toughest economic times, and his lessons along the way.

PJ's Coffee checkout and menu

Expect the Unexpected – Skills Learned Outside the Franchise Industry

Before becoming a franchisee, Dalton worked in the fitness industry, where he managed Planet Fitness gyms for about four years until he took ownership for another three years. With a background in management and human resources, he applied his skills and experience in the customer service side of the industry to strengthen his team and build relationships with his customers.

Dalton understood that to move forward with each business endeavor, it's crucial to form a team of people you can trust to operate your business. He learned the importance of prioritizing recruiting, training and coaching processes to provide his employees with the proper guidance along the way.

During the first few months of opening his businesses, Dalton relied on overstaffing to ensure proper coverage and assistance in each operation.

Create an Exemplary Team

Dalton aims to create teams made up of only the best people. When hiring employees, he looks for individuals who want to grow and succeed with the company and assists in creating each goal and seeing them through.

PJ's employee wearing mask and holding a pastry bag and iced coffee

Attitude, diversity and ambition are qualities Dalton looks for in each person during the hiring process. Although hiring experienced baristas is important for creating delicious beverages, Dalton has learned that allowing an inexperienced barista to join the team gives them a window of opportunity to be set up for success.

"There are multiple factors that go into creating a constructive work culture for all employees, including proper compensation and checking in on your workers as often as possible," Dalton said. "When positively interacting with your employees becomes routine, it creates a positive atmosphere that customers pick up within moments of walking through the door."

Dalton was hyper-focused on building an optimistic work culture within his first few months as a franchisee. He believes individuals only grow interested in employment if they've had a positive experience or interaction as a customer.

"As a barista, if you're funny and engaging, customers walk out the door feeling happy and eager to come back," he explained.

How to Overcome First-Year Challenges

The ultimate lesson learned in Dalton's first year was– the best marketing for your business is the customer's in-store experience and whether they feel welcomed enough to want to come back.

"In turn, it generates more value and revenue for your brand and keeps the staff motivated to work hard and be welcoming to every customer that walks through the door," Dalton said. "Although it's important to increase your pool of people to choose from when hiring, it's necessary to find individuals that are willing to make short-term sacrifices to see long-term growth. Someone dedicated and passionate about the job they're doing is inspirational to each person they come across daily."

Looking ahead, Dalton understands the importance of what it takes to run a business, and he appreciates that he doesn't have to do it all on his own.

"Choose a location you want to be long-term, and with the help of the PJ's franchise development team, you'll find a passion for creating a positive experience for every customer," he added.

Interested in PJ's Coffee franchise opportunities? Contact us today for more information!

  • $839,513*

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  • 12.1%

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Investment Tiers
  • Traditional Model

    A larger scaled PJ's with a full service menu offering located within a strip mall or free-standing building likely featuring a drive-thru.

    • Size: 550sqft - 1,850sqft
    • Initial Franchise Fee: $35K
    • Initial Investment: $200,775 - $584,000
  • Non-Traditional Model

    A smaller scaled PJ's possibly with a limited menu offering located within another business - College/University Campuses, Healthcare Facilities, Hotels, Government Facilities, Military Bases, Airports, Shopping Malls, Etc.

    • Size: 250sqft - 1,000sqft
    • Initial Franchise Fee: $25K
    • Initial Investment: $190,775 - $393,000
  • Multi-Unit Option Agreements

    PJ's offers opportunities to enter into a Multi-Unit Option Agreement to develop multiple PJ's over a specified development schedule in a designated market. The initial franchise fee for the first PJ’s location is $35,000. Subsequent PJ’s Units receive a reduced franchise fee. The fee for each PJ’s Unit numbered two or greater is $10,000.

  • Master Franchise Agreements

    PJ's offers opportunities to International Franchisees to enter into a Master Franchise Agreement to develop multiple PJ's over a specified development schedule in a designated country or countries.

    • Initial Master Franchise Fee: $250k minimum (Varies depending on size of country or countries)
    • Total Investment: Varies depending on the number of PJ's developed
A Few More...
  • PJs has provided me with the flexibility to prioritize my day-to-day responsibilities. While demanding, the work/life balance I have been able to obtain while owning my locations is invaluable. PJ’s is a family-oriented brand and that is evident every day - we have great working, as well as personal, relationships with many folks at corporate. It truly is a family centered culture that I am excited to grow with! - Andrew Jones
  • We loved the products and the business model, and it all worked out so well. The ability to work with them is what sets them apart. They are very reasonable people and it’s a solid company. When we went to meet the team, everyone was super kind, and it was very apparent that they provide a ton of support to their franchisees. It’s important to feel like you can always reach out to somebody when needed. - Angela Harmon
  • I think if someone is looking for a franchise opportunity they should find something that fits their lifestyle. If you're a morning person, a coffee business might be good for you. I'm a morning person so waking up at 4 A.M. is fine, the whole 'wake up and smell the coffee' thing - that's me. - Anthony Satterlee
  • I decided to look into coffee and probably spent about 3 years doing the investigation. I decided on PJ's because the quality of the product is just head and shoulders above everybody else. - Tom Lewis
  • It's easy to be successful. You can become part of your community in a way you can't otherwise in a lot of other businesses. I would highly recommend it. - Polly Fisher
  • The best part of being a franchisee is the freedom. It gives you the opportunity to provide for your family, but also be a part of your family. It gives you time to play with your children or take a vacation, but still have a fantastic business. - Kelly Songy
  • The biggest lesson I've learned with PJ's Coffee is that you're going to get out of it, what you put into it. Buying a franchise doesn't necessarily mean you're going to reach instant success. The more work you put into it, the more successful you'll be. - Aubry Miller
  • I decided owning a PJ's Coffee shop was the way to go. From start to finish, corporate was there for me when I selected a location, ordered equipment and furniture. - Mateusz Dabrowski
  • I fell in love with PJs Coffee and the brand, years before I ever owned a location and now I own two! I wanted a business that, with the right staff, would be able to operate successfully without me having to be there all day every day. PJs coffee gives you that flexibility and freedom. I also love the family atmosphere that corporate provides and the camaraderie between franchisees is wonderful! You are in business for yourself, but not by yourself, and that is a great sense of comfort and security. I love this business!

    - Roxanne DeNicola
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