Greg Flynn Owns 1,245 Restaurants and Makes $2 Billion A Year. Here's How He Did It.

He bought his first Applebee's 20 years ago, and since then has redefined what's possible in the franchise industry. His philosophy: Be different, then go big.

Crunchy tacos? Four-cheese soufflé? A house salad with a side of double-crunch bone-in wings? How about a beef-and-cheddar sandwich served with zesty Red Ranch dressing on an onion roll?

Lunchtime for Greg Flynn means more than 1,245 restaurants to choose from. Conveniently, they’re all his: 283 Taco Bell units, 135 Panera Bread, 458 Applebee’s, and -- his latest addition as of December -- 369 Arby’s. Sitting in his skyscraper office in San Francisco’s financial district, the founder and CEO of the Flynn Restaurant Group (FRG) picks at a salad from none of the above.

“My goal was to finish this bite before you finished your question,” Flynn jokes as we talk about how he got to here.

There are multi-unit franchisees, mega-franchisees, and then there’s Greg Flynn -- a category all his own. Trim with gray-flecked hair, the Marin county native has built an alimentary archipelago that employs nearly 50,000 people across 33 states. Along the way, he has defined a whole new stratosphere of franchise ownership and remains its highest-­grossing player. (Competitor NPC International owns 1,599 Pizza Hut and Wendy’s units, but FRG’s yearly sales of $2.3 billion was more than double NPC’s most recently reported revenue.) According to the FRG is the first privately held franchise company to surpass the $2 billion mark. To put it mildly, Flynn is the guy who broke the mold.

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