Q&A With Phenix President & CEO Brian Kelley

In 2019 Brian Kelley became the President and CEO of Phenix Salon Suites after working 17 years in the restaurant industry. This career shift may seem unexpected, but the transition is simpler than it seems.

We sat down with Brian to discuss how restaurant operators make good candidates for franchising with Phenix Salon Suites:  

Q: Can you tell me a bit about your journey from the restaurant industry to the salon suites business?

Brian: I would like to say it was well-calculated, but the truth is I wanted a change. After attending a restaurant finance conference in 2017, I realized there were more private equity players in the room than restaurant owners/operators. While attracting a higher level of capital interest is a good thing, I realized this would translate into a massive increase in competition as most private equity firms were targeting 100-unit operators in hopes of turning them into 200-unit operators.

My second “ah-ha” moment came shortly thereafter. When checking my 300+ emails on a Monday, I realized most of them were employee related. With 3,000 employees I went in search of an industry I could scale and one that was not heavily dependent on employees. In the salon suite business, we are liberating an army of entrepreneurs in the health, wellness, and beauty industries. They are our customers— not our employees which creates a very different dynamic. One that is mutually aligned.

In the salon suite industry, we only have one part-time employee per location. The industry is also highly fragmented with no single salon business dominating the salon suite segment or any other segment in the entire health, wellness, and beauty industries. After a little more digging, I learned that the salon suite segment was largely an American phenomenon at this point. With the world trending towards the new “gig” economy, it became evident that the salon suite industry was poised for exponential growth worldwide. The scalability is virtually endless.

Q: What do you find to be the most shocking similarity between being a restaurant operator and salon suite franchisee?

Brian: Both have the similar objective of looking to scale their business by adding new locations while leveraging their existing infrastructure. They also share common priorities when it comes to the principal elements of business with both focusing on site selection, lease negotiations, construction, and marketing for multi-unit operators.

Q: What are the significant differences between restaurant franchise and salon suite franchises like Phenix?

Brian: They differ in operations. Restaurant operations are often labor intensive with multiple moving parts including hiring, training, staffing, and troubleshooting employee dispute resolutions— all in addition to the complexity of inventory management. They are consistently faced with managing shrinkage through over-portioning and/or theft as well as spoilage on perishable items. The main comparison for the salon suite & restaurant industries is marketing for salon professionals to license suites.

However, you are typically trying to secure 30-40 salon professionals on an extended basis v. the 1,500-3,000 customers that restaurant operators need to chase daily. In the end, the salon suite franchise business model is simply much easier to operate.

Q: How do the different management styles translate?

Brian: Restaurant operators are often much more engaged in their business daily. The salon suite business model does not require the same level of hands-on oversight. The salon suite business model allows the owner/operator the luxury of more free time. The restaurant operator, unfortunately, does not have the same luxury. There are simply too many moving parts for the restaurant operator to work on a semi-absentee basis.

Our Phenix Salon Suite operators never wake up on a Sunday worried about who will show up for the morning shift. Sundays are typically the day off for salon professionals industrywide.

Q: Are you currently a franchisee with any other brand or with Phenix?

Brian: I am a partner in a few different franchise concepts but remain full-time as President & CEO of Phenix Salon Suites. Part of my responsibility includes the oversight of the 29 Phenix Salon Suites locations we own at the corporate level. I am a firm believer that a franchisor should own locations. We need to be fully aligned with the franchisees. Owning corporate locations allows us to test ideas and vendors before launching them to the franchise community.

Q: What are you most excited about for the future of Phenix Salon Suites?

Brian: I am most excited about what the future of Phenix Salon Suites means to the health, wellness, and beauty industries. For as little as a $300 deposit, we are paving the way for salon professionals to find their dream of creating their own business. Nothing is more gratifying than seeing a new salon professional and their family lugging in boxes of equipment making their Phenix suite the cornerstone of their new business.

Salon professionals today are pioneering the gig economy. They are some of the savviest businesspeople out there having come from an industry that is typically unforgiving and unsupportive. Following Phenix’s founder Gina Rivera’s vision, we are knocking walls down and opening gateways for salon professionals to be in control of their destinies.

Yes, it’s exciting to know that Phenix is pioneering the international growth of this industry, but at its core, the true blessing is to see a proud salon professional taking a bit out of the American Dream!