Franchising a Brand with 70 Years of History
Neil Newcomb is the CEO of Kelly’s Roast Beef Franchising and is spearheading the franchise opportunity of the iconic Boston brand. As a nearly 30-year veteran of the franchise industry, Neil started his franchise career with McAlister’s Deli as one of the founding members.
Tell us about your background in franchising.
My family and I founded McAlister’s Deli nearly three decades ago and I spent 15 years on both the franchisor and franchisee side of the business. After co-founding the franchise, I opened four restaurants on my own as a franchisee. I was on the Board of Directors at McAlister’s and after we sold it to Roark Capital Group, I then decided to switch gears and join Brixx Wood Fired Pizza, where I served as head of franchising for the brand before I joined Kelly’s Roast Beef.
What did you learn from being both a franchisor and franchisee?
Before making a decision, franchises need to ask two questions: “Does this please the consumer?” and “Would this be profitable at the unit level?” Neither question is concerned with whether it impacts a corporate unit or a franchise unit. It is so important to never lose sight of the consumer. Bad decisions are made when the customer experience is diminished in any way, or if the franchisor is focused on short-term profitability. Examples like accepting a poor performing franchisee into the system, or buying a lower quality product because of rebates may benefit the franchisor in the moment but can ultimately harm the entire system long-term.
I also learned than an “us” versus “them” mentality on either side is unproductive. Any disrespect a franchisor shows towards a franchisee will be noticed by the whole system, including other franchisees and corporate staff. This begins a hard tumbling fall downhill that is painful. The leader of a franchise should always remember that their franchisees have everything on the line, and treat them with a level of respect that meets the franchisees’ level of commitment. We are all on one team, whether you are a ‘zor or ‘zee.
Why did you decide to launch Kelly’s Roast Beef Franchising? What makes Kelly’s Roast Beef’s franchise opportunity unique?
I was drawn to Kelly’s Roast Beef because it is a brand with a long history and strong presence in Boston, where it was founded. The founders of Kelly’s are actually the creators of Boston’s classic North Shore roast beef sandwich. They invented the famous sandwich on a whim one night in 1951 and it has become a local legend ever since. After being around for almost 70 years, the Kelly’s Roast Beef sandwich is commonly associated with Boston the way people associate In-N-Out with California. It has been mentioned in movies like Good Will Hunting and TV shows like 30 Rock because of how famous it is here in New England. You do not get the opportunity to franchise a historic brand like Kelly’s often, and knowing how passionate people are for the brand, I was excited at the chance to help grow it as a franchise.
The opportunity itself is one-of-a-kind because of the history and proven track record that Kelly’s has. Our current locations operate like a well-oiled machine, with beef roasting in-house all day and every single sandwich being carved to order. A busy location during its peak season can sell upwards of 20,000 roast beef sandwiches a month. Of our four restaurants and one express location in Boston Logan Airport, we sell about one million sandwiches a year. The demand that has fueled this tremendous volume will poise our franchisees for success as they bring the famous brand to new communities.
The brand recognition also makes the franchise opportunity incredibly unique. If you know of Kelly’s, you are more than likely a diehard fan. When we announced the franchise opportunity and word got out that we are expanding, we got tons of messages from people begging us to open up in their local communities. The thought of the brand - that has for so long existed exclusively in Boston - opening up in surrounding areas has been exciting for many people.
Where do you see Kelly’s Roast Beef in the next five years?
We are looking to expand across New England, and one thing that surprised us was the amount of franchise interest we have gotten in Florida. There are a lot of Boston natives who have relocated to South Florida, so we have gotten a lot of great feedback there. With those two regions in mind, we expect to become the leading chain of choice in the next five years. We have such a passionate cult following right now and we will continue to turn more people into Kelly’s fans. Our franchisees will be profitable, strong operators, with AUV’s above $5 million. Our ultimate goal is to have as many as 50 total locations open and operating in the next five years.
About Kelly’s Roast Beef
Founded in 1951 and franchising since 2020, Kelly’s Roast Beef is the inventor of the modern roast beef sandwich. Kelly’s roasts its beef in-house all through the day, serves everything fresh and made-to-order, and estimates serving a staggering one million sandwiches a year. Today, there are five locations open in the Boston metropolitan area. For more information, visit https://kellysroastbeeffranchise.com/