Multi-Unit Franchise Ownership Takes Off in Paint and SipPinot's Palette
Franchise Owners Lisa Riley and Stephanie Sewell Expand Their Businesses
Lisa Riley’s third Pinot’s Palette location was a dream come true.
Riley – a meticulous planner and self-described “Type-A” personality – says the decision to open a second location was easy: Classes at her original Tulsa, Oklahoma studio were filling up every night, and she was inundated with calls about private parties and corporate events. A second location – conveniently located about 20 minutes away from the first one – made perfect sense.
That was a year ago. Today, both of Riley’s Pinot’s Palette locations are thriving – and she’s gearing up to start build-out on her third Tulsa studio.
What made Riley think to open a third location? Customer demand, plain and simple.
A few months after she opened her second studio, Riley found that classes in both locations were selling out regularly. Inquiries for special events didn’t show any signs of slowing down. Riley still had her doubts, but she began to wonder if perhaps Tulsa could sustain a third Pinot’s Palette. She started doing some research and running some numbers. She talked to her customers. She looked at sales at both of her locations.
And then, she made a decision.
“Once I started doing more research, I decided that three would be the magic number,” says Riley.
Riley says Ceccanti and Willis subjected her to a bit of good-natured teasing when she approached them about opening a third location. “They laughed,” she recalls. “They said, ‘We thought you said there was no way you could do three studios in Tulsa.’ But they also know that I do my research and make very calculated decisions. They knew I’d done my homework, so they welcomed the idea with open arms.”
Staying Ahead of the Competition
Riley isn’t the only Pinot’s Palette franchisee taking advantage of multi-unit franchise agreements. Franchisees from Connecticut to California see the value in expanding their business to keep up with growing customer demand – and to stay ahead of potential competitors.
California franchisee Stephanie Sewell says both of these factors influenced her decision to open two additional locations. Sewell opened her first Pinot’s Palette studio – located about 30 miles north of Los Angeles – in November of 2013. She owns the business with her mother, Kathy Guccione.
Sewell and Guccione intended from the start to open a second location – but the original plan was to wait until their original studio had been open for at least a year. After they’d been open a few months, though, they decided that a year might be too long to wait.
When their studio first opened, competition wasn’t really a concern, says Sewell. “We were the first paint and sip in Southern California,” she says. “There was no Pinot’s Palette here. The concept wasn’t even on the radar.”
But things have changed a bit since Sewell’s Pinot’s Palette location opened: The response to her studio has been overwhelmingly positive. Her location is doing a steady business, and the paint and sip concept is starting to catch on in Southern California. And although her studio is still the only one in the immediate area, there are now a few competing businesses opening up in nearby cities.
To stay ahead of current and future competition, Sewell decided to move her expansion up by several months. She’s also decided that two Pinot’s Palette locations simply won’t be enough for the expansive Los Angeles market.
“We decided that if we were serious about expanding, we needed to jump on it,” says Sewell. “And then we decided that if we were going to spend the time and money opening a second location, we might as well open a third and have locations on each side of the San Fernando Valley – one on the east and one on the west.”
Sewell and Guccione are currently scouting locations for their west San Fernando Valley location. Finding just the right location in Los Angeles can be challenging, Sewell says, due to things like traffic and parking restrictions. Once they find the perfect site and begin build-out, they’ll start looking for a home for their third studio on the eastern side of the city.
It did take some work– but Sewell, who left a corporate human resources job to open her studio – says it’s worth it.
“Being a franchise owner, you can control the destiny of your business and you reap the rewards directly,” she says. “You see the results of all the hard work you put in. Plus, you get to have fun and work with really cool people, and that makes it even better.”
Making Multiple Studios Work: The PTS System
Most franchisees who own multi-unit Pinot’s Palette franchise studios find themselves in an ownership role: In other words, they leave much of the day-to-day studio management in the capable hands of their studio managers, while they handle the big-picture details.
But handling the “big picture” isn’t letting go of all the details, and both Lisa Riley and Stephane Sewell say the real key to managing multiple studios is the Pinot’s Technology Suite (PTS), the company’s proprietary software system. The PTS system was custom designed by company co-founder (and former software developer) Craig Ceccanti. The system allows franchise owners to stay connected to all of their locations – and it also makes it easy for studio managers to communicate with each other instantly.
“I can run the system from home, and I can even run it from an iPhone or a tablet,” says Riley. “The technology is so advanced, and it makes all of our jobs so much easier. If we didn’t have the technology suite, I would never have opened a second or third location.”
Sewell agrees. “I don’t think we could do any of what we do without the PTS system. Having the ability to manage multiple locations from a single application is a huge plus.”
With PTS, much of the day-to-day administrative tasks are automated, and franchise owners have easy-access to real-time information on sales, private party reservations, calendar planning data, marketing ROI and staff schedules, just to name a few functions. It is also a platform that can send push notifications to the Pinot’s Palette iphone app and has a blog capabilities. All of these tools save time and streamline operations for the business owner.