With Swiss Chalet, Milestones, Montana’s, Harvey’s and Kelsey’s all members of its franchise empire, Cara Operations Ltd. has hundreds of franchise operators across the country. Kevin Proctor is one of the best. Proctor, 51, is owner-operator and general manager of the Kelsey’s location in Stoney Creek, near Hamilton, Ontario. Proctor (with three others owners) has two Kelsey’s franchises in the region. Both rank in the top five Kelsey’s in the country in terms of performance.
How does he do it?
Modestly, Proctor tips his chef’s hat first to location and timing. His restaurant is located in a new Power Centre mall at the conjunction of two major thoroughfares in the heart of a growing community he explains. “A lot of our customers walk to the restaurant.” His Kelsey’s was the first restaurant “on the pad” he says, so he had a head start on his competitors. “The theatre went in, Home Depot Best Buy, then us. We’re right beside the Cineplex,” he notes, “and that can’t hurt.”
Engaging the local community is very important for Kevin Proctor (second from left) and his team at Kelsey's. (Photo: SUPPLIED)
Proctor’s own experience can’t hurt either. He was born for the job, he says. He got his start at age 15 washing pots in the kitchen of a nearby seniors’ residence. “My supervisor saw some potential,” he says. “He made me a server, then a cook, then second cook. I loved it. I’ve always loved cooking to please people.” Proctor studied the hotel restaurant side of food preparation at college, then worked for a series of chains before settling on Kelsey’s. He operated one Kelsey’s in Hamilton for 12 years before stepping up to franchise owner. With that background Proctor has picked up a few tricks. One is to put himself in his customers’ place on a regular basis. “I try to eat everything on the menu, try something different every once in a while to make sure they’re all on spec and tasty,” he says. “I have a steak one night, a stir fry another night. I really like the wings because they’re quick and convenient.”
There’s more experience to tap into at the corporate level, Proctor says. “I have a very good relationship with our business development manager, so if ever there’s a time we do need help there are resources available to us. The accounting department at Cara, or our operations team that will come in and sit with us and show ways we can improve, citing other franchises that have had the same problem and resolved it.”
Although Kelsey’s is a national brand, requiring consistency from one franchise to the next, individual locations do have some autonomy, says Proctor. “We follow the rules and regulations, follow the specs for food and service, the core package. But we’re allowed a little latitude, especially in the way we engage the community.” Engaging the community is another Proctor strength according to Cara management. Proctor was aware of the importance of being seen to be a good corporate citizen right from the get-go. “When we opened we hired a lot of local people, a lot of local kids, so there was a connection to the neighbourhood. Now we’re up and running, we do a lot of local store marketing, and we’re involved in community fund raising.” For two years Proctor’s franchise has participated in the Movember campaign for prostate cancer, he says. “We’ve also done a ‘kickback night’ for a local elementary school,” he says. “From 5 until closing they got a percentage of sales, so the kids in that school brought their families and friends and raised $1500 for their music department.” Good will, Proctor advises, can be worth its weight in gold.