ONE of Australia’s most successful basketball exports is achieving off-court success in franchising.
Former Olympic and NBA basketball champion Shane Heal (pictured) is planning a roll-out of 20 Urban Burger stores over the next two years.
The 41-year-old will sell-down the majority of his existing 18 franchise stores to help fund the venture. Heal is a franchisee of brands including Zarraffa’s Coffee, Subway, Baskin Robbins, Eagle Boys and Noodle Box and employs 300 staff.
Now in the driver’s seat with his own franchise, Heal first became a Queensland licensee and 50 per cent equity partner before acquiring the Urban Burger franchise outright earlier this year for an undisclosed sum.
“I came on as a (Urban Burger) franchisee in Melbourne two years ago. It was a very small operation, but I saw some really good things and also aspects where I thought we could improve the model,” says Heal.
“Being a franchisee with 30 stores I feel as though I have done an apprenticeship. Now Urban Burger is my main focus. I don’t feel like we’re going to take on the world, but we have a good system and we are getting a good following.”
Heal Group has five company-owned stores in Queensland – Wellington Point, Browns Plains, Crestwood, Pacific Pines and Ashmore as well as an express outlet at Salisbury where he developed and later sold a $4 million, 426sqm retail centre.
Heal bought the block from former test cricketer and embattled property developer Craig McDermott for $1 million in 2005. Heal Group launched its own building arm Creative Constructions to fit-out its stores while keeping a lid on costs.
While the expansion will present challenges, Heal says negotiating leasing terms is favourable in the current market.
“There are some good opportunities around but our theory has always been about targeted locations where we get smaller pieces of the bigger pie,” he says.
“The biggest importance for Urban Burger is training and constantly assessing staff. Preparation and training is integral to any business. It’s like a team in sport and I have to employ the right people. If the
customer service is not there you can kiss it all goodbye. I know that if I don’t get good service, I don’t go back.”
Heal says Urban Burger franchises start at $200,000 for turn-key express outlets, suited to ‘mum and dad’ operators.
The former Gold Coast Blaze player and Sydney Kings NBL-winning captain’s group has annual franchise turnover of $10 million in FY09. He is reluctant to give current figures due to the infancy of the Urban Burger franchise.
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