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How a Former 60-Plus-Unit Burger King Franchisee Team is Leading Fosters Freeze to Renewed Growth



Fosters Freeze Making a Comeback; Eyeing Inland Empire for Future Growth

By IEBJ staff

December 3rd, 2020 — Brothers Neal and Nimesh Dahya have worked with more than 180 restaurant franchises with iconic brands like Burger King, IHOP and Pizza Hut. Now, the 36- and 34-year-old expert franchisees are taking on the franchisor role to help the beloved ice cream franchise grow again.

Brothers Neal and Nimesh Dahya built a franchisee empire with some of the biggest names in foodservice. The Dahya’s have owned, consulted for or invested in more than 180 restaurant franchise locations for brands including Applebee’s, IHOP, Burger King, Pizza Hut and TGI Fridays. It’s safe to say the career franchisees, now 36 and 34, respectively, have learned a thing or two about what makes for a successful restaurant franchise. Now, the Dahyas are applying their expertise and passion for franchising to the franchisor side, focusing on reigniting growth for the beloved but previously neglected Fosters Freeze franchise.

“You say the name ‘Fosters Freeze,’ and you see people’s faces light up — it’s like magic,” said Neal, President and CEO of Fosters Freeze. “It’s not often that you find a brand that people feel such a personal attachment to, and there’s no doubt that the demand for Fosters Freeze far exceeds its current footprint.”

To many people, the name Fosters Freeze conjures up sepia-toned memories of after-school soft-serve or post-little league celebrations. The ice cream and burger franchise, which was established in California in 1946 and grew to more than 300 locations across the west coast at its height, has been a fan favorite institution for generations, but up until recently, the brand’s corporate team had done little to encourage growth, and the franchise system languished. But Neal says the franchise’s positive brand awareness puts it in a strong position for a return to greatness.

Neal and Nimesh purchased the franchise just five years ago, and already the brand is showing impressive growth. With 66 restaurants currently open for business, sales across the system have increased every year since the brothers arrived — including a whopping 20% year-over-year jump from ‘19 to ‘20, on top of five previous years of growth — and this year, one of Foster Freeze’s most tenured franchisees, a five-unit owner whose family has been with the brand for more than 50 years, decided to take advantage of the heightened support by opening a new store in Salinas, California.

Even 2020’s unique challenges for the restaurant industry haven’t slowed Fosters Freeze’s growth under the Dahyas’ watch. Thanks to a flexible, small-footprint store model with walk-up windows perfect for low-contact take-out, Fosters Freeze stores were able to continue serving customers while other restaurants were closed for social distancing. 

Since taking over, Nimesh says he and his brother have been listening to feedback from the brand’s current franchisees, tightening up the franchise’s operational model and rolling out new design touches, including updated signage.

“This is a franchise that for many years just wasn’t treated as a franchise,” Neal said. “Every franchisee owned and managed their store pretty much independently, without any support from the corporate team, and the corporate team put virtually no investment into growing the brand.”

By reinvesting in Fosters Freeze as a franchise, and not just a chain of independent businesses, the Dahyas have already brought new life into a system that franchisees say just needed a little TLC.

“Since Sanjay Patel and Neal bought Fosters Freeze and took over corporate management, sales have been up 10–15% each year for each of my stores. That’s almost an 80% increase in sales across my stores.” said Hafed Alwajih, a Fosters Freeze franchise owner since 2012. 

It’s little wonder why Neal and Nimesh’s strategy to revive Fosters Freeze prioritizes franchisee support. Nimesh says the brothers’ long and fruitful career as franchisees taught them that the success of any franchise system depends on the success of its owners.

“We’ve worked with a lot of different brands, so we’ve seen what works and what doesn’t,” Nimesh said. “We know that the more you invest in the franchisee, the better their business is going to perform and the better the entire system is going to do as a result.”

To support franchisees and promote growth, the Dahyas have implemented a number of dramatic improvements, “everything from reducing food costs to introducing a beautiful new store design,” Neal said. 

“We’re seeing a lot of excitement from franchisees,” Neal said. “The general feeling is that we finally have an opportunity to make the most of a brand that has so much potential.”

Now, Fosters Freeze is preparing to leverage its revived franchise model for expansive growth. Currently, the brand has its sights set on expanding across the United States, particularly in Arizona and Nevada, in order to build on the loyal following and awareness that it’s established across California.

“The question we’re constantly hearing is ‘when are you coming to my state?’” Neal said. “So we know the demand is everywhere, but we’re being very careful to grow out strategically. Right now, we’re looking for qualified candidates across the United States. There’s no limit to how far we can take this.”

The initial investment to begin operation of a single, stand-alone Fosters Freeze restaurant ranges from $611,500 and $1,009,000. The total investment necessary to begin operation of a single confections restaurant is $178,000 to $331,500. The initial investment needed to open a single co-located restaurant is $329,500 to $658,500. For more information on franchising with Fosters Freeze, please visit

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Local Veteran and His Family Open New Graze Craze Charcuterie Business in Murrieta, California



Southern California wine country gets another stylish culinary option, offering beautifully designed, hand-crafted grazing boards and picnic boxes

Graze Craze® has opened a new location close to the wine country of Southern California, where its artfully arranged sweet and savory grazing boards and boxes create a perfect pairing for food lovers. Located at 24530 Village Walk Place, Suite C, in Village Walk Plaza, the 1,021-square-foot store is owned and operated by disabled veteran Chris Stout and his wife, Stephanie Stout, with assistance from their teenage children.

At Graze Craze, highly trained experts known as Grazologists™ skillfully design charcuterie arrangements that feature an assortment of fine ingredients perfect for grazing, like fresh fruits and vegetables, premium meats and cheeses, artisanal sweets, nuts, house-made jams and more.

Chris Stout enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 2001 and served several deployments before being discharged in 2012. Since then, he has worked as a field service engineer for an electronics company and in manufacturing sales. Stephanie Stout has a bachelor’s degree in business accounting from the University of Phoenix and worked for an insurance broker before the couple’s first child was born; she then devoted herself full-time to raising their three children, who are now in high school.

Graze Craze charcuterie boards offer something for every lifestyle, dietary preference or palate and are available in a variety of size options to cater to any occasion, big or small. They incorporate a medley of flavors, like the fan-favorite Gone Grazey board, a perfectly balanced mix of cured meats, premium cheeses, crackers, fresh produce, nuts and more. The Vegegrazian is impeccably designed with a plethora of fresh fruits and vegetables for anyone embracing a plant-based lifestyle. Those with an undeniable sweet tooth can enjoy the Sweet & Grazey, a hand-crafted board featuring an abundance of delectable desserts like chocolates and baked goods paired with sweet dips to accent the irresistible flavors.

New to the Graze Craze menu is the Brunch Board, a gourmet and innovative twist on any morning routine. Packed with breakfast meats, fresh fruits, eggs, pastries and more, this board is the perfect bagel-and-donut brunch alternative. Grazers can also tackle watch-party cravings with a seasonal Game Day Board, featuring a feast of

crowd-pleasing ingredients, like peppered salami, Italian prosciutto, goat cheese, cranberry walnut bread, raspberry jam and chocolate bark, to name a few.

The artisan-inspired charcuterie offerings at Graze Craze are available in different size options, from Char-Cutie-Cups and Picnic Boxes for nibbling to sharing-size boards with enough fresh food to feed a large party. The food displays are ideal for elevating work meetings, family gatherings, lavish events and more, while they also make for memorable gifts that impress.

Besides sharing the flavorful menu with the area, the Stouts are actively involved in numerous local school, business and community organizations. The pair supports the Murrieta Valley High School Marching Band Boosters and California High School Rodeo Association District 8, in addition to the Boy Scouts of America California Inland Empire Council and Friends of Temecula Troop 309, where Christopher Stout is a part of the adult leadership team. The couple has also worked with Homes For Our Troops, an impactful nonprofit organization that builds specially adapted homes for post-9/11 disabled veterans.

Graze Craze Murrieta is open for pick-up, catering and free local delivery Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, call 951-942-7293.

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Partners in Action: How CalOSBA is bridging the gap in funding and resources for Inland Empire small businesses



By Josaline Cuesta, California Program Director, Small Business Majority & IEBJ Content Contributor

For Tara Lynn Gray, Director of the California Office of the Small Business Advocate (CalOSBA), entrepreneurship has always been a core principle of her life. Her journey as an advocate for small businesses wasn’t built on textbooks, but on her family’s roots in small business ownership. As a young girl, she watched her grandmother empower and elevate Black women’s presences by styling their hair and instilling confidence in their personhood. She witnessed the direct impact of small businesses on community members in real time, and that’s always stayed with Tara.

As a key partner of Small Business Majority, she stands as a champion for the dreamers and risk-takers; the pillars of the communities across California and in the Inland Empire. I chatted with her to share more about her work at CalOSBA, what entrepreneurs can expect when they meet with a CalOSBA advisor, and the resources and community support available to help boost entrepreneurship in the Golden State.

Tell us about CalOSBA’s role in the small business community.

“California has the biggest small business community in the country, accounting for 4.1 million small businesses in 2023 alone. The overwhelming majority have no employees at all, except themselves, which means they don’t have a Board of Directors, expensive consultants, and they definitely don’t have lobbyists. I take my role as their advocate seriously, talking with and listening to small business owners from up and down the state. During the pandemic, we were under a very bright spotlight, administering nearly $5 billion in direct relief funding and we’re proud of the grant programs we still oversee. But that’s only a small part of what we do at CalOSBA.

My team connects small business owners to information and resources to help them get started, manage their business and, most importantly, to grow. If they’re looking for help, we want to be the first door they knock on. In addition, we offer Outsmart Disaster training, which focuses on how to mitigate risks associated with natural disasters and recovery avenues available to them. I always say the flagship of our office is our support for the statewide network of Small Business Centers, providing 1:1 business assistance and training for small business owners of all industries and in dozens of languages. In addition, supporting partners that deliver these services–all the federally funded centers like the Small Business Development Centers and the Women’s Business Centers but also Chambers of Commerce and other nonprofits—is a core function of my office. And a big source of pride because we know what a difference they make for their clients.”

What can small business owners expect from meeting with a California Small Business Center advisor?

“Small business owners can expect to meet someone who is fully invested in them. Our Centers cover the full spectrum of business needs, from writing a business plan and obtaining the right permits and licenses, to finding capital, planning a succession strategy and marketing to e-commerce. Our business advisors provide the experience and the objective perspective to help business owners optimize their best assets: ideas, energy, and ability to keep adapting and learning. And they do it because they love helping other people succeed. What’s more, business ownership can become isolating and it may be challenging for entrepreneurs to find assistance. But they don’t have to go at it alone–and they shouldn’t, when these no-cost and low-cost services are available to them.”

What’s the most rewarding part of your role at CalOSBA?

“I always say I have the best job in the state. And it’s because I frequently have the honor to watch someone’s dream come true. I love a ribbon-cutting ceremony–Every time, big or small. It means someone dreamed of accomplishing something and worked hard for it: They opened the doors to their business, they made a sale, and hopefully they will hire their first employee and then it’s off to the races. But no matter what happens to that business, that ribbon-cutting is a milestone they made happen for themselves. There are many other events I get invited to, where you can just see the hope and pride, and even fear in their faces. I’m often overwhelmed by the sheer emotion of it, and I’m always humbled that I get to participate in that person’s big milestone.”

What are some new programs that can benefit small business owners in the Inland Empire?

“The number one question my office gets asked is how to access small business financing. To help address this key need, we’re launching the Technical Assistance for Capital Readiness program this February. The program is part of a bigger effort to fill well-known funding gaps in the state to benefit very small businesses and Socially and Economically Disadvantaged Individuals (SEDI). Through investments from the U.S. Treasury, the State Treasurer’s Office and IBank, the program is going to support lenders to facilitate “high risk” loans that they normally would not approve.

In addition to supporting lenders, my office also received $25.3 million in U.S. Treasury funding to start the new Capital Readiness network. The Capital Readiness Coaches in this network will help business owners get ready for the lending marketplace, help them make the best choices in a high interest-rate environment, and optimize the use of the capital once they receive it. The network is also designed to help spread the word about this opportunity to these SEDI-owned businesses, and some of those partners will be focused on supporting the Inland Empire small business ecosystem.”

How can business owners get in touch with CalOSBA?

“That’s simple! Check out and sign up for our monthly newsletter, where I write a column and showcase success stories from our network, along with deadlines and updates on grant and workforce support programs. We’re also on social media, so I would encourage business owners to check out all of our channels.”

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2024 Banking & Financial Industry Outlook: Where Knowledge Meets Opportunity in California’s Financial Landscape



In an age where financial trends rapidly evolve and economic landscapes shift with increasing unpredictability, the Inland Empire Regional Chamber of Commerce stands as a beacon of knowledge and opportunity. It proudly announces its sold-out annual event, the Financial Industry Update, an exclusive gathering tailor-made for California and the Inland Empire region. This prestigious event is set to unfold on January 18, 2024, at the Ontario International Airport Authority Conference Center, promising an enriching experience for attendees.

A Gathering of Minds in the Financial Sphere

The Financial Industry Update is more than just an event; it’s a crucial nexus for professionals, businesses, and community leaders keen on gaining a deeper understanding of the financial nuances specific to California and the Inland Empire. This year’s event is particularly significant, given the rapid changes and challenges facing the financial sector in the region.

Keynote Speaker: A Treasury of Knowledge

Leading the charge is none other than California State Treasurer Fiona Ma, a figure renowned for her acumen in public finance, economic development, and responsible fiscal management. Her role as the keynote speaker underscores the event’s stature, offering invaluable insights into the financial future of California and the Inland Empire.

Featured Speakers: A Diverse Spectrum of Expertise

Joining Treasurer Ma is a lineup of distinguished speakers, each bringing unique perspectives and expertise:

  • Ivo Tjan: As the Chairman, President, and CEO of CommerceWest Bank, Tjan’s journey from founding the company to leading it through an IPO is nothing short of inspirational. His leadership and insights are eagerly anticipated.
  • Hilda Kennedy: The Founder/President of AmPac CDC and a trailblazer in local government and economic development, Kennedy’s impact on small businesses and community financing is profound.
  • Edward Ornelas, Jr.: The visionary force behind the Inland Empire Regional Chamber of Commerce, Ornelas’s innovative approaches to business and economic development have redefined the region’s business narrative.

Event Highlights: More Than Just Talks

The event promises more than just insightful presentations. It’s a unique opportunity for networking, where professionals can connect, collaborate, and engage with potential partners and influential community figures. The interactive Q&A sessions will allow attendees to delve deeper into subjects, clarifying doubts and gaining more profound knowledge.

A Confluence of Opportunity and Expertise

This event symbolizes the intersection of knowledge and opportunity in California’s dynamic financial landscape. It’s a platform where insights are shared, connections are made, and the future of the financial industry in the Inland Empire is contemplated and shaped.

As January 18 approaches, the anticipation among California’s financial community continues to build. This event is not just a meeting of minds; it’s a forge where the future of financial industry trends and strategies will be hammered out, shaping the economic future of the Inland Empire and beyond.

For more information about the event and the Inland Empire Regional Chamber of Commerce, visit

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