Wok This Way to Great Franchising
Serving fresh, healthy, Asian inspired dishes, Wok Box is currently offering tasty franchise opportunities throughout the United States.
Wok Box dishes out made-to-order stir-fries, including noodle and rice dishes that combine high quality ingredients and flavors from all over Asia, such as China, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand and Korea. “We have a variety of menu items from many different Asian countries, so it’s a big factor that we can service a lot of different people their preferences,” Lawrence Eade, Chief Executive Officer of Wok Box says.
Truly an Asian experience, Wok Box resonates to a variety of customers. In addition to a unique menu, Wok Box also offers wheat-free, vegetarian, and vegan options. “Wok Box’s menu features guilty pleasure items to treat customers, while also catering to the everyday person who wants to enjoy a healthy meal,” Eade says. “All dishes are cooked in front of the customer’s eyes in our open concept kitchens. The entire process is high energy.” A step above the typical quick service restaurant, Wok Box restaurants include comfortable seating and a lively atmosphere. “Wok Box offers the quick dining experience people want and takes it to a whole new level.”
Launching in 2004 in Edmonton, AB, Wok Box began as a one off idea founded by Blair Stevens and two former partners. Investing his sweat, equity, and muscle into the restaurant, Stevens’ ambition and idea paid off. With Scott Bender joining the company in 2005, Wok Box began franchising throughout Canada. In 2007, Lawrence Eade jumped on board, and for the next five years, the focus of the company was expanding throughout the country.
With 54 Canadian locations up and running, three years ago Wok Box ventured into the U.S. The executive team invested the extra time it took to learn the market, research demographics, and finalize legal issues before moving forward. “We took a lot of time to learn the successes and failures of other franchise restaurants that moved into the U.S. so we could ensure our success,” Eade says. “Now that we have nailed it down, we’re able to push key market penetration.” Zeroing in on the Pacific Northwest, Wok Box’s first American location opened in Portland, OR, last year. Quickly following suit, Phoenix hosts two Wok Box locations with a third opening in Spring 2014. By this summer, the Dallas area will also be home to five locations. Wok Box has also expanded across the globe and has an operating location in Qatar with two more planned to open soon. With 53 franchise partners and a handful of multi-unit owners, the company is aiming to have 100 signed stores by the end of 2014.
Today, Wok Box is seeking franchise partners throughout the U.S. who have an entrepreneurial spark, positive energy and are problem solvers. “To be a successful Wok Box owner/operator, franchisees need to have a ‘can-do’ attitude,” Eade says, explaining that despite a perfect business plan operating a business is never going to run smoothly 100 percent of the time. “We can teach people about the brand and its system, but if they don’t know how to overcome human challenges and basic obstacles that arise in business, then they are not going to succeed in the business,” he adds. While prior experience working in the restaurant industry or operating a business would be helpful, it is not necessary. “Wok Box is an entry-level franchise. We can teach our owners everything they need to know to be successful, and at the end of the day all a candidate needs is a positive attitude,” he says. The cost to purchase a Wok Box restaurant ranges from $275,000 to $350,000 depending on unit size, which typically model between 1,200 and 1,800 sq ft.
Wok Box’s franchising process begins with contacting head office, filling out an application and attending an interview. During the interview process, the candidate learns more about the company while also sharing their experience, goals, and expectations of the business. After reviewing the candidate’s financial ability, if the individual is approved, the next step is visiting a Wok Box store to taste the product, meet franchisees, and chat with head office staff. Next, the candidate will attend a Discovery Day, where they will learn in-depth about the operations and opportunities within the brand. The final step involves picking a market, negotiating the franchise agreement and signing the paperwork before moving onto training.
Wok Box’s training is comprehensive and consists of several steps. The first step involves the franchisee visiting the corporate office and training facility in Vancouver, BC. They undergo three weeks of in-store training at the corporate store. During this time, they cover everything from preparing menu items to learning Wok Box’s management systems. Bringing the franchisee into the store allows them to see the theory and methodology of the brand in action. “A unique aspect to Wok Box’s training process is the business systems we teach our franchisees,” Eade says. “Teaching them the theory behind food and labor costs, the two biggest controllable costs in any restaurant, is crucial.” Finally, there are five days of training with staff and management before opening day, to ensure the team and store are ready. “Once the store is opened, our team stays at the new location for at least 10 days to make sure things run smoothly. Ongoing support is available from there on out” Eade says.
Looking to expand throughout the Midwest and stick to its “East Meets West” slogan, Wok Box brings authentic tastes from across the Asian landscape to people who have never been exposed to these wonderful flavors. Particularly focused on places such as Kansas and Missouri, Wok Box is now ready to bring their product to anywhere in the U.S. “We will talk to everyone and anyone. We’ll learn about them and what’s going on in their markets,” Eade says, adding, “Our doors are always open to learn about new possibilities and opportunities.”
Wok Box is proud of its impressive track record and infrastructure, strong marketing, design, sales and operational staff. “A lot of people think of Wok Box as a start up company, but we’ve been doing this for a long time and bringing the concept into the U.S. has been extremely successful,” Eade says. “Franchisees joining the Wok Box team have the opportunity to be involved in a ground level start up in the U.S., but with all the benefits of an established business behind it. We have a unique and strong head office support network, and that’s going to take us a long way in the States.”
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