Denver-based Spicy Pickle was a homegrown sandwich chain with a small but loyal following that hit bumps when it went into rapid franchise-growth mode. The recession brought sales slumps and store closures, and last year the company hired franchising veteran Mark Laramie to turn things around. The growth strategy started with a focus on basics, including soliciting feedback from loyal fans about what had gone wrong with the brand and marketing efforts that paid off in increased sales and franchisee loyalty, Laramie says.

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