How to Beat the Recession: Jim Treliving

Tried and true strategies from entrepreneurs who've been there, fought back and won

Written by Chris Atchison and Susanne Ruder


Chairman of Richmond, B.C.-based restaurant chain Boston Pizza International Inc.



The early 1980s recession dealt Treliving’s plans to buy restaurant franchisor Boston Pizza a significant blow in two ways. First, 15% interest rates crimped his ability to fund the acquisition through debt. Second, revenue in his own business (he was already a Boston Pizza franchisee) was down by 25%. In the end, Treliving had to raise angel investment to take over the parent company and subsequently expand it. Still, Boston Pizza’s growth slowed to about six to eight new stores a year during the throes of the downturn, about half the company’s pre-recession expansion rate.

But from those financing difficulties emerged an opportunity that even Treliving failed to recognize at first. “The franchisees we were getting were not just singles, they were doubles or triples because you needed more than one person to raise capital to buy a store. Eventually, they split off, which helped us down the road a bit.” Noticing the trend and the rising unemployment rate, Treliving began approaching downsized middle managers and professionals from unrelated industries to open their own Boston Pizza franchises.

The result: Boston Pizza not only built a steady core of reliable partners to help propel the company’s growth, but it managed to turn the chain’s individual stores into family businesses. Many of these are now run by the children of those early franchisees.

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