Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2007

Off-beat sandwich shop joins franchise bandwagon

Roy’s Place of Gaithersburg may open in other areas within six months

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Gazette file photo
‘‘We have already done a lot of pre-work on this,” Roy Passin says of plans to sell franchises of Roy’s Place, a Gaithersburg sandwich shop he owns with his wife, Melinda.
Roy’s Place, a fixture on the Gaithersburg and Rockville culinary scene for more than five decades, may soon pop up in other areas.

Melinda and Roy Passin, the husband-and-wife co-owners of the dimly lit, tavern-like restaurant with 209 different kinds of colorfully named sandwiches, plan to offer franchises within six months.

‘‘Customers have asked us why we don’t have a Roy’s in their neighborhoods,” Melinda Passin said. ‘‘Other restaurants franchise out, and they don’t have the track record we do.”

Roy Passin, who is in his mid-80s, said he is leaving the bulk of the franchising details to his spouse. ‘‘It’s a feasible idea,” he said. ‘‘We have already done a lot of pre-work on this.”

Some 900 new franchising concepts started in the United States during the past three years, according to the International Franchise Association, a Washington, D.C., trade group. The U.S. franchising sector generates more than $1.5 trillion in economic activity and provides 18 million jobs, association officials say.

Among the Maryland companies that have built extensive franchise systems are Choice Hotels International of Silver Spring and Plamondon Cos.⁄Roy Rogers Restaurants of Frederick.

Choice started franchising in 1940 and has more than 5,300 hotels under its system. Startup costs begin at $600,000 for a franchise, according to the association.

Choice works closely with its franchisees to drive business to their hotels and provide them with targeted services, training and support, Charles A. Ledsinger Jr., Choice CEO, said in a statement. ‘‘This operating philosophy has proven successful for Choice,” he said.

Plamondon has more than 35 Roy Rogers restaurants under its franchising system. Startup costs are about $250,000.

Jabberü LLC, a Bethesda foreign language learning center for children that opened its second site this week in Gaithersburg, is also exploring the concept.

‘‘We are looking at franchising as a potential way to expand into other markets,” said Rob Anderson, president of Jabberü. ‘‘However, we will also consider organic growth and strategic partnerships.”

As for Roy’s, Passin said she has seen other restaurants begin franchising in the area not long after opening. ‘‘We hope to be like the Colonel Sanders of sandwiches,” she said.

The restaurant dates to a saloon that opened in 1955 for working people in the heart of downtown Rockville that featured a 75-cent buffet. Five years later, Roy’s moved across the street and became a sit-down restaurant, offering a handful of sandwiches such as the ‘‘Watzit” — beef brisket on bread.

In 1971, Roy’s moved to its present location on the edge of Gaithersburg’s Olde Towne.

Recreating Roy’s ambience, which includes vintage movie posters, calendars, photographs, old bottles and red-and-white checkered tablecloths, in other sites will not be too difficult, Passin said. Most paintings and photos can be scanned and duplicated, she said.

‘‘They could be very close to the original,” Passin said.

This report originally appeared in The Business Gazette.