Nelson Lang | Crain's

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Nelson Lang


Founded in Kingston, Ont. n 1995, Pita Pit is a fast-casual restaurant franchise that prides itself on serving high-quality, healthy pita sandwiches. The company began franchising across Canada in 1997, expanded to the U.S. in 1999, and today has 650 stores across North America and internationally across 13 countries.

The Mistake:

Not including the franchisees in our decision-making.

Nobody complains when times are good, but that changes when things take a turn. We found this to be true around 2008, when the economy went into a tailspin and some of our franchisees were having a tougher time staying open.

While the franchise was cutting back on things like traveling to keep the head office healthy, there were still rumblings from the franchisees. At our annual Pita Pit franchise conference, it was clear that we were becoming divided and that the franchisees weren’t happy with the direction the company was going – it was like head office versus the franchisees.

At that point, we knew we had to make a better effort to include them in our decision-making.

To do that, we put together a Franchise Advisory Council for franchisees to weigh-in on the company’s direction. While they don’t make the final decision, they are very involved in the decision-making process. They’ve been a lot happier because of it.

When you’re transparent and give people a say, they’re more likely to be on board.

The Lesson:

When you’re transparent and give people a say, they’re more likely to be on board. Otherwise, they’ll get skeptical and might start to think all those rebates and royalties are going toward you buying a new boat.

More than that, franchisees have a lot tied up in the business, as well. A lot of them have invested their whole net worth to open up a store, and are terrified of failure. They want to succeed, too.

Since we started our Franchise Advisory Council, people have been more engaged and willing to participate in our programs and franchise shows, and we’ve really started to work with each other on growing the brand. The franchisees understand what goes into our decisions and feel included in our decision-making process. That makes a big difference.

Follow Pita Pit on Twitter at: @PitaPitCanada

Pictured: Nelson Lang | Photo courtesy of Pita Pit

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