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BY FRANCHISE TIMES – When you’re running a business, you have a lot to think about: marketing, legal, and HR, not to mention the actual product. Tara Gilad, the founder of San Ramon, California-based Vitality Bowls, says she doesn’t need to be an expert on every ZIP code in the lower 48 as well.

“We put them in touch with a local broker,” Gilad says. “We all collaborate.”

The strategy started very early. For the first three restaurants (which she still owns with her husband), Gilad started an exhaustive search for a good broker in her own area. After several interviews, she settled on a fit. “He seemed like a standup guy,” Gilad says. “He knew the area really well. He had a lot of contacts.”

Those contacts would prove the key to the company’s whole site selection strategy. Expanding outward from their first broker’s network, the company got referrals to brokers in new areas. Those brokers in turn knew their own set of brokers. With over 40 locations nationwide, the company now has access to a lot of agents.

The brokers help select for neighborhoods with higher incomes, reasonable proximity to schools, and a good daytime population. Each potential location is then screened based on a software program that shows related statistics.

“We want to get as much information on the site as we can,” Gilad says. “Having three corporate locations ourselves we had a pretty good idea of what we thought it should be.”

But there’s no substitute for on-the-ground research. Gilad wants franchisees to go on fact-finding missions before picking a place. “We tell the franchisee, try to talk to some of the other tenants in the area. Sit there. Watch the parking lot for an hour or two a day for the next week,” Gilad says.

Meanwhile, the company does its own legwork so the franchisees will know what to expect as far as cost.