From Holiday Party 2014 To Holiday Party 2015: Despite Promises, Not Much Has Changed


The holidays are usually a time of happiness, excitement and enthusiasm for what the New Year will bring. This was certainly the case last year, in December 2014, when the Franchise Owners Association of Chicagoland (FOAC) hosted its annual holiday party and invited our CEO, Joe DePinto, to be part of the festivities. Not only did we invite Joe to our holiday party and trade show, but we also asked him to be part of the FOAC’s Board of Directors meeting, and he graciously accepted.

A few weeks before our holiday event and Board meeting, Joe requested that the FOAC leadership submit our five most critical issues—items that we wanted Joe to address during our Board meeting. Our president, Ken Patel, reached out to our Board of Directors for their feedback and our list was submitted immediately. During the meeting, Joe addressed all of our issues and assured us that he and his team would look into everything we presented. He said that things would be moving in a positive direction and he asked that franchisees attend the SEI Experience, as there would be a big announcement related to resolving franchisee’s problems including concerns over low-volume stores.

When they heard this, most of the franchisees (except for me and a few others) were very hopeful. In fact, most were so hopeful that they decided to call off the previously planned protest march that would have taken place during the 7-Eleven Experience. They were told to trust SEI and give them more time to resolve the issues at hand. A majority of the franchisees agreed and went along with the decision not to protest. But not me. I, along with some other franchisees who believed as I did, decided to protest as planned. We knew that SEI was just telling us what we wanted to hear, and we were right.

So, here we are a year later. The FOAC has once again hosted its annual holiday event and once again the leaders from SEI were invited. Only this time, Joe DePinto didn’t come. He sent others to represent him. And, just like a year ago, franchisees have been asked to attend and participate in the SEI Experience, with a promise that a “good news” announcement would be made. Well, folks, I wouldn’t hold my breath. And, I certainly wouldn’t take my time to attend SEI’s event.

In the last year, things have not gotten better for franchises. In fact, things have become even more challenging, in part because of the increase in minimum wage. SEI claims that the introduction of the new Hot Foods and Fresh Foods programs would increase income to offset the additional labor costs, but this is definitely not the case. Wishful thinking is not a reality! A more realistic approach would be to make the required basic changes to the current model so hot foods and fresh foods can be successful. It will require unselfish vision on SEI’s part, and frankly, I don’t see it happening.

Once again, our franchisees are looking to the National Coalition to help make things right. They are looking to the NCASEF’s newly elected leadership to force SEI to resolve the long-standing issues and help turn things around. There isn’t much time left, especially for those with low-volume stores. They are in urgent need of some financial assistance, and something needs to be done now. Not in three months, not in six months, and certainly not in a year!

We’ve already wasted a year believing in SEI. We gave them the benefit of the doubt, only to be disappointed time and time again. Something needs to change. I hope and pray that I’m not writing a similar story after next year’s FOAC holiday event.