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Business Observer Friday, Jun. 9, 2017 5 years ago

Eat (Lots) More Chicken

A police detective-turned-entrepreneur ditched bad guys to run a fast-food joint. Now his business instincts are taking over.
by: Elizabeth Morrisey Contributing Writer

Although Justin Kranitz was in law enforcement for 10 years, he always had the itch to own a business.

He explored opportunities and decided on a Chick-fil-A franchise in Polk County. First, he was operator of the Lakeland Square Mall location, and then, more recently, he bought the new Davenport restaurant.

Kranitz declined to disclose what he paid for the store, though Chick-fil-A is known in the fast-food sector for its unique approach to franchising: A low cost to entry, usually a $10,000 franchise fee, is balanced with higher recurring costs later in the process. Also, Chick-fil-A, according to its franchise documents, “requires that the individual be free of any other active business ventures and operate the restaurant on a full-time, hands-on basis.”

Kranitz is hands on at the Davenport location, off U.S. 27. It opened at the end of April and sales are already exceeding expectations. Kranitz declined to disclose projections or sales.

“We like Chick-fil-A and their family aspect, and the initial capital was lower than some others,” he says. “They also support the community.”

Kranitz is now planning for the future and partnering with schools for spirit nights, giving teacher discounts and working with the Citrus Center Boys and Girls Club.

Kranitz always had a passion for law enforcement growing up in South Florida. His father and uncle were policemen, and he wanted to pursue that career, too. Kranitz worked his way up in law enforcement, starting in patrol. He handled street crimes, then he worked as a school resource officer at George Jenkins High School in Lakeland and Daniel Jenkins Academy in Haines City. Eventually, he moved up to detective sergeant.

“It was fun and demanding,” he says. “I was on call a lot, but it was very rewarding.”

Now he sees policemen, sheriff's deputies and Florida Highway Patrol officers eating at his restaurant every day. Does he miss law enforcement? Not really. Says Kranitz: “The work itself was fun and putting the bad guys in jail, but now I have more freedom and flexibility.”

In addition to freedom and flexibility, Kranitz has another reason to like being his own boss: finances. His wife is a teacher at Lakeland Christian School, so money can be tight. “There's an entrepreneur spirit there,” he says, “it just took awhile to figure it out.”

Kranitz loves the Chick-fil-A brand, and the food, so he researched the company and applied in 2013 to be the operator at Lakeland Square. When the Davenport opportunity opened up, he went for that spot. The income opportunity was greater than the mall location and it provided more professional growth development, he says. He is no longer involved in the mall restaurant.

“It's a competitive process,” he says, adding that Chick-Fil-A receives about 30,000 franchise applications per year and a mere 80 are chosen. “They look at character, chemistry and competency.”

Kranitz says owning a Chick-Fil-A franchise is as much about forming relationships as it is about chicken. “Chick-Fil-A is in the chicken business,” he says, “but they are more in the people business.”

He also says law enforcement and Chick-Fil-A are closer together than it might seem. “I have a unique ability to interact with people, so it wasn't too hard of a transition from law enforcement,” he says. “The work is different, but it's about relationships. There was camaraderie working as a team.”

The biggest challenges, so far, have been day-to-day operations, including order accuracy. He's learned it's more complex at the new restaurant compared to the mall. And he's received an overwhelming amount of job applications - 1,000 — many from young people. “Hiring is always a challenge,” he says. “We have a youthful workforce, and I think the fact that I was a school resource officer helps.”

Kranitz hopes to own more Chick-fil-A franchises in the future. “It gives us the opportunity to impact a greater number of people,” he says. “God ordained this perfectly for me.”

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