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RMH Franchise Corp.

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At just over a year old, RMH Franchise Corp. has rapidly become the second-largest Applebee’s franchisee in the country. It acquired its first Applebee’s locations in December 2012, and the company now has 137 Applebee’s locations in 15 states.

“This company did its homework early on to be sure it could be a solid company from the start,” COO Mario Cernadas says. “Our founders knew we needed to be with a solid brand that has a strong future. Applebee’s was that brand because it is very popular all across the country and had plenty of opportunity for the acquisition of franchises already in existence.” 

The path to becoming one of the largest franchisees in the Applebee’s system began with the acquisition of Concord Neighborhood Corp. and its 45 Applebee’s locations in late December 2012. 

The company followed that up with the addition of 15 Applebee’s locations in June 2013. Those restaurants were located in the Chicago area, both within Chicago itself and also in Bradley, Calumet City, Country Club Hills, Crestwood, DeKalb, Elgin, Evergreen Park, Hodgkins, Joliet, Joliet South, McHenry, Peru and Zion.

The most recent acquisition for RMH Franchise Corp. came with the addition of Thomas & King Inc.’s 78 Applebee’s locations in December 2013. Those restaurants are located in Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Arizona.  

“Choosing the three acquisition targets was like constructing a building – it needed to have a strong foundation,” Cernadas says. “Concord was a strong company, and its acquisition was a good first step. We then looked at Illinois because it was a large territory with the potential to grow. And then Thomas & King had been in business for many years and had a great support staff. Overall, our approach has been to follow a strategy based on finding acquisitions at the right price and that have opportunities to grow.”

RMH Franchise Corp. now has support offices headquartered in Lincoln, Neb., and Lexington, Ky. The company has plans to revitalize some existing restaurant locations, build new Applebee’s restaurants within its existing markets and continue to pursue additional Applebee’s acquisitions. 

Ensuring a strong relationship with Applebee’s has been of primary importance for RMH. “We’ve already built a lot of the critical relationships and bridges,” he says. “Applebee’s is really inclusive and [that it] seeks feedback from franchise partners is important. Now that we are the second-largest Applebee’s franchise group, we have strong ties with their leadership and are taking part in a number of initiatives.” 

The Next Steps

In the years ahead, RMH will take advantage of the brand strength of Applebee’s. It will look to grow over time, mostly focusing on the geographic areas where it already has a presence. 

The company will make sure that its restaurants appeal to all ages and demographics, ensuring common themes in all of its locations while also retaining certain regional elements.

The plan now is to invest back into the company. The company is working to improve and integrate systems in the back and front of the house so its team members have the best tools.

“Each company we acquired had different systems, and we needed a platform to absorb all of them,” Cernadas says. “Our teams in Lexington and Lincoln have looked at system integration opportunities to be sure we are providing the best systems to support our people at the restaurants.”

RMH Franchise Corp. is already ahead of its initial timetable. The plan was to become one of the largest Applebee’s franchisees over a five-year period. Instead, the company accomplished that goal in slightly less than a year. Now the company is working to stabilize what it has put together so it can grow. 

“We have the restaurants, and the systems integration is underway,” Cernadas says. “Next, we will align all of our people into one culture with a single direction. Integrating three companies with locations in 15 states is a big challenge and takes a lot of hours. Getting everyone under one umbrella is a lot of work, and our people deserve kudos for their efforts thus far.”

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