VetFran highlights franchising at military conference

As the nation prepares for the return of tens of thousands of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, IFA is gearing up to assist veterans with its recognized VetFran program, including participation in a military food service leaders and managers conference in San Antonio, Texas last week.

The annual Armed Forces Food and Beverage Workshop drew food service leaders from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard for training and career development.  IFA brought VetFran to the conference to make service leaders aware of the program and opportunities in franchising.

Master Sergeant Roberta Kithcart of the Air Force’s Force Support Combat Training unit based at Dobbins Air Force Base in Georgia spoke of her desire to open a franchise coffee shop. She explored franchising opportunities years ago before redeploying due to increased U.S. Air Force needs. “I would like to look into the opportunities of franchising again,” she said.

Kithcart was joined by Lockheed Martin Security & Emergency Services representative Kristen Maloney, an Air Force reservist. “I think this program is very relevant, and I would like to learn more,” she said.

They were met at IFA’s VetFran booth by Dick Crawford, former IFA Board Member and McDonald’s and National Restaurant Association government relations chief, who helped organize mentoring and career development aspects of the conference.

“People coming out of the military are ideal candidates to be franchisees or senior management within a franchise structure,” Crawford said. “Also, with expected force reductions, there will be increased outflow of good candidates.”

(From left, U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant Roberta Kithcart, former IFA Board Member Dick Crawford, and Lockheed Martin Security & Emergency Services representative and U.S. Air Force Reservist Kristen Maloney)

He added, “One of the challenges is to raise the level of awareness of franchising, what it is and how do you get into it.”

“I’m thinking about what to do after I leave,” said Technical Sergeant David S. Baker, an instructor at Dobbins AFB. As he picked up issues of Franchising World and VetFran promotional materials, Baker said he would be looking to the IFA for more information.

USAF Foodservice manager Aaron Aulner said he sees a strong connection between military training and franchising. “We have specific ways of doing things, specific rules, like ‘if you’re on time, you’re late.’ Sometimes on the outside, it’s hard because there is less structure. So the format of franchising could be very helpful to vets. I have a few airmen who work for me who I will tell about this program.”

(U.S. Air Force food service manager Aaron Aulner said VetFran could be “huge” for veterans as they transition to the civilian economy)

Aulner knows from experience. He worked at Burger King starting at age 16 before joining the Air Force two years later. At Burger King, he started out in the kitchen and was promoted to manager.

He added, “I think [VetFran] could be huge” as a way to help veterans transition into the civilian economy.

Jim Krueger, Chief of the Air Force’s Food & Beverage Business Development & Analysis Branch, thanked the IFA for participating in the Workshop. “We very much appreciate that the IFA is taking the time to support and educate our troops. We heard nothing but positive reaction from attendees.”

Fred McKenney, Air Force Services Agency Chief of the Air Force Food & Beverage Division, Col. Sandy Adams, Commander of the Air Force Services Agency, Col. Patrick Dunn, Director, Services Operations based at Lackland Air Force Base, and International Military Community Executives Association President Louis Van De Mark, Deputy of the 10th Force Support Squadron, also attended the conference.

(Petty Officer and Officers Club Manager Wallace Haggins, U.S. Coast Guard)