Pacific Bells Inc.: The Best on the Block

Pacific Bells Inc. (Pacific Bells) is quickly approaching the holding company’s 25-year anniversary in 2014. Based in Vancouver, Wash., the franchise owner prides itself in being a family of great people serving great food with unsurpassed customer service.

Pacific Bells, and its affiliated companies, is one of the 12 largest franchise owners of both Taco Bell and Buffalo Wild Wings in the United States. Since 1989, the franchise has grown to own and manage 106 restaurants in Washington, Oregon, Ohio and California. Pacific Bells and affiliated companies’ restaurants reside in many major cities, including Portland, Ore., and Columbus, Ohio, as well as Seattle, Cleveland and Los Angeles.

The company employs about 3,500 people depending on the time of year, and is a franchisee of YUM! Brands and Buffalo Wild Wings. According to Tom, YUM! Brands operates Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC, and recently sold Long John Silvers and A&W. It has only been in the last decade that Pacific Bells has diversified its business, introducing Buffalo Wild Wings restaurants. The brand currently operates 86 Taco Bell and 20 Buffalo Wild Wings locations. Pacific Bells is nearing a quarter-century of success thanks to the two founding partners’ understanding of what hard work entails.

Humble Beginnings

Tom Cook and Dennis January founded the company in 1989. The two businessmen joined forces after Dennis opened his first Taco Bell in Tualatin, Ore., in 1986. Witnessing the restaurant’s success made the pair eager to dive into more ventures.

“It had always been my dream to be a franchisee,” recalls Tom, president and co-founder of Pacific Bells. “Over the course of the next six years, Dennis and I became partners, buying and building 10 restaurants in the Northwest.”

Dennis started his career as an X-ray technologist in Visalia, Calif. He quickly realized that forever working for someone else was not something he wanted to do, so Dennis began opening video stores in California and grew his company, All That Video, to nearly 30 stores. Looking forward, he realized the video industry would dry up and looked for a new venture. That led him to opening his first Taco Bell in 1986 in Tualatin, Ore., and three years later joined forces with Tom.

Right around the same time, Taco Bell was looking to refranchise. Tom, being from Ohio, saw an opportunity in his home state. The pair purchased 53 restaurants.

After 10 years working for Taco Bell, Tom truly knows what it means to rise from the bottom to the top. He started out as a fry cook, working his way through various management positions to area manager, managing restaurants in six states for Taco Bell Corp. Tom’s time with Taco Bell allowed him to experience every aspect of the business. “It wasn’t foreign to me to run multiple restaurants,” adds Tom. “I love the competitive nature of the restaurant business.”

Of course, with new business challenges often follow. “For the next several years we concentrated on reducing debt,” details Tom. “About nine years later we had pretty much paid it off. That separates us from other companies; we have little to no debt.”

Paying off its debts has allowed Pacific Bells to reach one of the longest average franchise lengths in the industry. “Our average franchise length is about 14 years,” shares Tom. “We upkeep our restaurants with early remodels and offsets and we do it mostly out of cash flow.”

Beer, Wings and Sports

In 2006 Tom and Dennis shifted Pacific Bells’ focus from primarily operating and managing Taco Bell locations. The pair knew they didn’t want to have all of their eggs in one basket, so Tom, Dennis and Joe Janaszek signed a development agreement to build nine Buffalo Wild Wings in Los Angeles. Later, the three partners teamed up with Wray Hutchinson, who now runs the Buffalo Wild Wings division. Recently, the trio opened a 20-unit and plans to open three more in 2013.

“We’ve gone through big growth spurts,” reveals Tim. “By late 2016 or early 2017, we’ll have 37 Buffalo Wild Wings without doing any further acquisitions.”

Even in the midst of a recession, Pacific Bells has managed to weather the storm. “We’re fortunate to have two brands people just love,” details Tom. “People love beer, wings and sports.” The popularity and loyal following of the two restaurant brands has helped keep Pacific Bells’ business booming.

Part of the duo’s success is the extra effort the company puts into its locations. Pacific Bells is constantly updating its restaurants, not by corporate oversight, but by choice. “We will have 14 remodel projects in the works this year,” shares Tom. “It’s about doing more for the customer. We want to be the best on the block, always appealing to the consumer.”

The company also does a wide range of testing for Taco Bell. “We’re at the forefront of what we do,” describes Tom. “We like to think we go above and beyond, unlike many other people in our industry.”

Pacific Bells will have lots to celebrate in 2014 when the company reaches 25 years of successful business. “We’re going to have a big celebration,” adds Tom. “We celebrate lots of milestones because it’s a tough business. You have to always remind yourself you’re meeting goals.”

Every month, Tom, Dennis and Pacific Bells’ executives visit other chains. “We’re always searching for new opportunities; we’re pretty open,” stresses Tom. According to Tom, the Pacific Bells team looks forward to another 25 years of success to follow a rich history, which has come full circle: from fry cook to owning over 100 stores. Pacific Bells Inc. continues to be the best on the block in a competitive industry.