Escape enterprises Inc.

Look for Escape Enterprises Inc. to up the ante in development this year through franchise incentives and forays into new venues at home and abroad.

The company sweetened the pot in September 1998 when Franchise Mortgage Acceptance Co. of East Brunswick, N.J., agreed to offer a $35 million preferred finance program to Steak Escape franchisees.

This agreement has encouraged more franchisees to sign with Escape, says Robert Bruff, vice president of franchise development, because it allows them to concentrate on finding good locations and opening restaurants more quickly because they’re not spending time securing financing. Six franchisees took advantage of the opportunity within a month of the announcement.

Bruff expected the company to have 156 stores open by the end of 1998. He’s estimating another 60 in 1999—twice the openings of last year—and 80 more in the year 2000. The company will back up its expansion with more corporate staff for franchise support.

Escape Enterprises will continue to build on the success its found diversifying from mall stores to sports venues, strip centers, travel plazas and college campuses. A first attempt at a free-standing unit, opened by a franchisee late last year in Charleston, W.Va., has the potential of netting twice the annual sales of mall locations, Bruff says. Two more are planned this year and deals with international developers—sealed in the Middle East and pending in France and Malaysia—will open even more avenues for growth.

Also watch for the introduction—likely in the first quarter of this year—of an improved cheesesteak sandwich.

All these investments, Bruff says, should lead to system-wide sales increases in excess of 35 percent in each of the next four years.

If Escape Enterprises continues reinvesting to support this growth, expect it to exceed those projections.

Escape Enterprises Inc.
222 Neilston St., Columbus
Top local officer: Ken Smith, chairman
Founded 1982
Employees: 29 corporate, plus 200 store
1997 revenues: $55.8 million
Estimated 1998 revenues: $66.7 million
Revenue growth, ’96 to ’97: 9.5%
Ownership: Private