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40 Under 40 - Class of 2014
Business Observer Friday, Oct. 10, 2014 7 years ago

Dan Stone, 37

Vice President of Franchise Development, Front Burner Brands

Dan Stone knows what it means to strive for excellence. “A lot of who I am stems from adversity from when I was young,” Stone says. Stone lost 80% of hearing in both of his ears when he was young, impacting his speech and forcing him to start wearing hearing aids at 4 years old.

By sixth grade Stone was in the gifted program in school, and in high school was voted “most likely to succeed.” “It’s why I never settle for anything less than the best, balls to the wall,” he says.

It’s also why he decided to quit his job in hotel management after nine years in the industry. After working five years for a Marriott in Clearwater, he knew he would be transferred if he wanted to move up. But he didn’t want to leave Tampa, so he looked for a company with good growth potential. In 2006, he was hired as director of franchise sales for Front Burner Brands, the company that owns GrillSmith, Melting Pot and Burger21.

When Stone joined the company, Melting Pot had 100 locations. Today, Stone is vice president of franchise development and Melting Pot has more than 135 locations in 35 states, with 25 additional locations in development. Stone also launched the brand’s international presence, expanding to three countries. In the next six months, the brand will be in three more countries, with 11 more countries in development.

About four years ago, the company launched a concept called Burger21, which it started franchising three years ago. It’s now in six states with 14 locations, with 10 states and 24 locations in development, and $12 million in systemwide revenue. Burger21 has been more of a challenge than Melting Pot because there are so many competitors. “We are so used to having fondue; we own fondue,” Stone says.

Including revenue from the company-owned GrillSmith locations, Front Burner’s total revenue for all brands is close to $250 million. But Stone says his job isn’t done, and he continues to strive to be better. “I get bored easily, and there’s never a dull moment here.”

— Traci McMillan Beach


City of residence: Clearwater

Birthplace: Nashua, N.H.

Years on the Gulf Coast: Almost 14 years

Marital status/children: Have a partner / no kids, except for two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels

Alma mater: Penn State University

Best place to network: International Franchise Association Convention

Coolest business experience:  Visiting fivecountries in the Middle East to evaluate our potential franchise group for a multi-country Melting Pot deal in the region

The most important business lesson I’ve learned:  Focus on the 20% that yields 80% of the results

One website that makes your job easier: Google maps

One community group you’re most involved with: Blossom Montessori School for the Deaf

Favorite off-hours activity: Visiting theme parks and riding roller coasters

Two people, dead or alive, you’d like to have dinner with: Walt Disney and Bill Clinton

Best award you ever received: Employee of the Year for Front Burner Brands in 2010

Most adventurous thing you’ve ever done: Danced on my feet for 48 hours straight to raise money for children’s pediatric cancer research

What’s at the top of your bucket list: Safari in Africa

What new skill would you like to learn: Sign language

Who would play you in a movie about your life: Jake Gyllenhaal

If I had a magic wand I’d: Cure cancer

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