Mark Peterson and Krystal Peterson Burge, a brother and sister team, are the youngest franchisees to enter the Taco Bell system. They submitted an application for quick-serve restaurant Taco Bell in Kingman, Ariz. in 1982. What the duo didn’t expect was that their application would be approved so quickly.  

At the time, Desert de Oro Foods Inc. was formed when Burge and Peterson left college and their part-time jobs in the family law firm. Their new franchise location required them to relocate to Kingman and began working around the clock at their new adventure. At 19 and 20 years old, which was not much older than most of their employees, the pair worked seven days a week. Mark opened and managed the day shift while Krystal took over in the evening and worked until closing. Their kitchen table and the trunk of their car were used as their office space. They had great support from family, Taco Bell franchisees and community members. 

Mark Torchia, president and owner of The Torchia Group, spent seven years searching for the right location for his first Wendy’s restaurant in Timmins, Ontario. “We wanted to be on the main thoroughfare of Timmins or as close to it as we could,” Torchia says. 

But negotiations with large corporate big-box stores along that strip dragged on for years because of required approvals. Then, Torchia learned of a site half-a-block off the main drag. 

“It’s right in the heart of Timmins,” he says. “Customers can come from the east or west to the store.”

That store broke the opening week record for North America. “We received the Golden Spatula award from Wendy’s for highest sales,” Torchia says. “Only one other store in Japan beat us for opening sales.”

At just over a year old, RMH Franchise Corp. has rapidly become the second-largest Applebee’s franchisee in the country. It acquired its first Applebee’s locations in December 2012, and the company now has 137 Applebee’s locations in 15 states.

“This company did its homework early on to be sure it could be a solid company from the start,” COO Mario Cernadas says. “Our founders knew we needed to be with a solid brand that has a strong future. Applebee’s was that brand because it is very popular all across the country and had plenty of opportunity for the acquisition of franchises already in existence.” 

For the past 33 years, TooJay’s Gourmet Deli has been the go-to neighborhood spot for traditional New York Style Deli fare in Florida. Since opening its doors in 1981, TooJay’s has been delighting diners with an eclectic menu and a family friendly atmosphere. The award-winning concept began on the Island of Palm Beach and got its name from founders, Jay Brown and Mark Jay Katzenberg – the two Jays.  After opening three successful restaurants in Palm Beach County, TooJay’s knew it was onto something big. 

By 2007, TooJay’s had grown to 24 locations, but with the oncoming economic downturn, the restaurant group prudently decided to hold back on growth and focus on its existing portfolio.  With the roughest patches now behind them, the company once again has its eye on expansion.

So what is TooJay’s secret to success? The answer:  Working with trusted suppliers that value its business and of course, the food. Unlike most restaurants, a portion of the proprietary menu items are made in-house at its 30,000-square-foot bakery and commissary in West Palm Beach. There, it produces several favorites such as matzo balls, stuffed cabbage, signature baked goods and its famous black and white cookies, of which more than 2 million are sold each year. 

Consumers have a number of options when they are hungry for pizza, but Mazzio’s customizes its pizzas – which can be ordered with a choice of sauce and toppings – and offers irresistible extras as enticements. “Those ‘craveable’ menu options that they can’t get anywhere else are what bring people in time and time again,” President and CEO Sheri Miksa maintains. “People come in and say they are just craving a CalzoneRing® or cinnaboli, Wings of Fire® or a Ken’s Pizza®.”

Mazzio’s Calzone Ring® is formed in a ring instead of being folded over. Its cinnaboli wraps cinnamon and sugar inside a buttery crust drizzled with icing. Wings of Fire® are chicken wings with a unique hot sauce. Ken’s Pizzas date back to 1961 and comes with a signature spicy sauce on a 15-inch, extra-large thin and crispy crust. These, along with a fresh, 24-plus-item salad bar, are specialties not every fast-casual Italian pizza restaurant serves.

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