After 35 years as a corporate project manager, Chuck Boswell had moved through 10 states and five companies.
He decided at age 61 he was ready to take his career – and retirement – into his own hands. In November 2007, Boswell bought a franchise. And he still plans on retiring within five years – more or less.
“I’d like to get big enough to have enough employees and enough trucks to have a manager in place that can do what I’m doing today, so I can just manage the business,” Boswell said.
He researched franchise opportunities on the Internet until he found one that was a good fit: FiltaFry.
With 140 franchise owners in the U.S. and about 300 worldwide, FiltaFry provides mobile, on-site maintenance of commercial fryers. Typically, cooking oil lasts three or four days in a commercial establishment. FiltaFry can make the oil last twice that long. The process involves micro-filtering cooking oil through a specialized machine.
“It’s very much like the dialysis they do in hospitals on blood,” Boswell said.
With a U.S. base in Orlando, FiltaFry originated in Europe and is the only service provider of its kind in this country.
Boswell owns three of the four franchise territories in New Mexico, encompassing the northern part of the state. Boswell, his wife Cheryl, and one recently hired employee make up the work force.
Every week, Boswell visits the kitchens of each of his 27 clients — including Applebee’s, the Hilton Garden Inn Hotel, Lovelace Hospital and Isotopes Park. Cheryl, 60, mostly handles the bookkeeping.
One recent morning, he opened the double doors of his yellow cargo van and wheeled the 500-pound oil-filtering machine down a ramp. Heading for the kitchen, Boswell pulled the machine through the door of a Fuddruckers. Approaching the fryer, he checked the temperature of the oil to ensure it was at the optimal setting for filtering, between 340 and 350 degrees. Then, he checked the clarity of the oil with a ladle, rating it between one and five. If the oil is nearly black, it rates a five, and must be thrown out. Old oil will burn and ruin the flavor of food.
This oil, a honey brown color, scored a two. Next, Boswell pulled a hose off the oil-filtering machine, and with the flip of a switch, it began pumping the liquid grease out of the fryer and into its refinery filter. He then scraped, scrubbed and degreased the interior and exterior of the metal fryer using a putty knife and steel wool.
After the oil has been filtered, it is lighter in color and clearer. While most fryers have pre-installed filters built in, those generally catch only floating debris. FiltaFry’s machine filters the oil down to three microns. The process takes about half an hour. Most fryers have a 50-pound capacity. Boswell charges $45 for filtering 100 pounds, and every pound after is 30 cents.
“The cost of refilling two fryers is one-and-a-half times the cost of [Boswell] showing up,” said Joey Wimner, Fuddruckers’ area supervisor.
The total initial investment for a FiltaFry franchise ranges from $73,050 to $80,800. It includes the $28,500 franchise fee and a $29,950 opening package that covers equipment, uniforms, marketing materials, training, sales support and painting and equipping a van provided by the franchisee.
The Boswells trained for 40 hours in Orlando and with an already-established FiltaFry owner in the southern part of New Mexico. Then, a business development manager helped the new owner establish a base of regular customers. A fixed royalty fee of $450 a month is paid for each operational FiltaFry machine, in addition to a corporate marketing fee of $110 a month.
The FritaFry franchisee said while it has been somewhat challenging to make the transition to his new business, he finds the change exciting.
“Suddenly, I’m on the front lines, doing the work myself and then also involved in the management side of it and the sales side of it,” Boswell said.