Frankly Speaking with Franchisees: Seeing Potential Everywhere

Feb 26, 2021 10:30 AM ET

Yum! Brands is a world-class family of restaurant brands with more than 2,000 franchisees who bring their own delicious flavors to the business and individual communities. Between them, they own 50,000 KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and The Habit Burger Grill restaurants in 150 countries and territories across the globe, making their voices integral to the company. Each franchisee is unique and serves as the cornerstone of a new series called Frankly Speaking With Franchisees that documents their stories.

To begin this series, Yum! reached out to three franchisees in the U.S. to get their perspectives on race, social justice and entrepreneurship in underrepresented communities. First up was President & CEO of PenGeo Inc. George Tinsley, and now, President & CEO of JJB Brands, Mike Quinn speaks about his journey from the corporate world to entrepreneurship and his hope that others will follow in his footsteps.

Here is his story.

Mike Quinn, Pizza Hut U.S.
President & CEO of JJB Brands 

Mike Quinn is always on the lookout for potential — potential business opportunities and potential in his more than 1,400 employees.

In his 11 years with Pizza Hut U.S., as an area coach, market coach, region coach, head coach of more than 250 corporate locations, and finally, as director of operations for 500 corporate-owned restaurants, and now a Pizza Hut franchisee with restaurants in four states, Quinn has spotted potential in many, including in a store manager he promoted to head coach.

“I went to her and said, ‘Hey, this is your time. You know the job backwards and forwards. We believe in you. Just believe in yourself a little bit more,’” Quinn said. “And to see her take the chance, step out on faith, she's probably one of the best we have today.”

It was that same potential Pizza Hut executives spotted in Quinn a few years ago when they approached him about an opportunity to purchase 35 restaurants in his hometown of Jackson, Mississippi, where his military family eventually settled following many state-to-state and country-to-country moves.

In a little more than three years, Quinn, a first-time business owner, has grown his company, JJB Brands, to nearly 70 locations. When asked about his work, Quinn says he’s often met with a look of disbelief or pride.

There's just the shock and awe of an African American, non-college educated guy owning 68 Pizza Huts,” he said. “It took sponsors at the brand, the chief operating officer and the chief development officer, to believe in me and keep pushing me forward towards that dream, that it could be possible,” he said.

Today, you might find Quinn behind his desk working on balance sheets, behind the wheel making deliveries or behind the counter slicing pizzas. “I think you've got to run it, you've got to touch it, you've got to make it, all those things,” he said. “Understand what each team member goes through when they're working in one of your restaurants so you can have some kind of empathy about it.”

Although Quinn is committed to inspiring and supporting others looking to follow in his footsteps, he’s aware of the challenges faced by women and small businesses owned by underrepresented groups. According to CNBC, only 50% of small businesses survive five years or more, and just one-third survive 10 years or more. Women and businesses owned by people of color face additional hurdles, with those firms tending to be smaller, less profitable and less likely to survive than their counterparts, according to the Small Business Administration.

Quinn finds hope in Yum! Brands, the world’s largest restaurant company, pledging to increase the number of underrepresented people and women in its franchise ranks through the Unlocking Opportunity Initiative, which will provide support to team members and others to advance their careers and communities.

“You've got companies like Yum! investing, putting action to their words,” he said. “If we can harness this energy the right way, it can make a huge impact on our culture and, of course, the country will be better.”