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 https://www.fostersfreeze.com/franchise/.