Meet California HOODZ Franchise Owner Clay Pollitt
A decade in, the ability to target new business while maximizing repeat business has created a franchise that’s stronger than ever and still growing
Before he became a HOODZ exhaust cleaning franchise owner, Clay Pollitt knew a thing or two about commercial kitchens, and fire safety. That’s because he worked as an inspector of commercial kitchen hoods’ fire-extinguishing setups. That experience showed him just how valuable, and finally rewarding, owning a HOODZ franchise could be. More than a decade ago, he took those insights and became the Team Leader and Owner at HOODZ of the Beach Cities in Garden Grove, Calif. Here’s his story.
What were you doing before you opened your HOODZ franchise?
I was in the fire-inspection industry. Until the early 2000s, the extinguishing systems worked like hand-held fire extinguishers, where you’d pull a pin, squeeze the throttle and get dry powder. On the grill, you’d go to the pull station if there was a fire, and about 30 to 50 pounds of microfine powder got dumped all over. It would take two weeks to clean up. Then they switched over to a wet chemical, and that meant every hood in an American stove had to change their piping size down from one inch to a half-inch opening.
I would go in and tell them what it would cost, plus what certifications they would need. I’d also point out in a lot of cases that they’d need to get their hood clean. They would ask me who to use and, after a while, my entrepreneurial spirit took over. I told my wife that nobody was in the hood-cleaning business, or at least nobody who was doing it well, so I looked into this kind of business.
What happened next?
I got into the business as an operations manager for a company, and after seven years the owner passed away and his daughter decided to close the business. I started looking around and found a HOODZ franchise in southern Orange County, a new one, and the owner was happy to hire me as his operations and sales manager. We worked to build the business up, and when he left the BELFOR team called me and asked if I would like to become the general manager of Southern California, and to take over HOODZ down here. My wife and I talked about it, I agreed, and we’ve been going like gangbusters ever since.
Has attracting and keeping good employees been an issue?
Not at all. I think of these guys as my own children. They’re like the ones who won’t leave home! I did lose one, to another HOODZ franchise in Michigan. One of the beautiful things about this business is the opportunity to build some beautiful relationships. We are a seven-figure business because of our facility managers and the relationships they’ve built, and all the rest of our team. That’s why we’re up to seven techs, and four trucks.
How strong is your repeat and referral business?
Repeat business is the best-kept secret of this business. Think about it: every kitchen hood needs to be cleaned every 30, 60 or 90 days, depending on the type of commercial kitchen it is. We average more than 100 monthly cleans on that alone.
How have the last 18 months or so been for you?
It’s been a struggle, certainly. We’ve had to push out some sales and marketing, and we’re still only at about 80% of where we were pre-COVID, but it’s getting better. The business built up organically from the start, and that is how it has been coming back. We also took the time to make sure the trucks were in good shape, and that the shop got a thorough cleaning.
We’ve really focused on our monthly cleans, making sure those are at 100% and that we’re not leaving anyone out. We always try to make every job perfect, and our clients know that we’ll be back in three or four weeks, so we can always stay on top of what they need done.
How has BELFOR Franchise Group been as a partner?
They are fantastic. They really know what they are doing. We’ve had some changes in senior leadership there and they haven’t missed a beat. The marketing, training and support could not be better. I can fly a guy to Ann Arbor [BELFOR headquarters] and get him trained and certified in a number of different disciplines very quickly. The training I would single out as just top notch.
When a potential owner calls you, what do you tell them about owning and operating a HOODZ franchise?
You need to have some hustle. This business requires following a number of details, and you can’t come in and just expect to be an armchair quarterback right away. You need to be ready to go out on that truck and be a tech for 90 days at least and learn how that job works. If you don’t, you’re just going to make the people you hire angry. Understanding what we ask of our employees, how many jobs a night is a workable number, is vital. I always say you need to walk a mile in their shoes. That way you don’t demand too much, and they know you understand them.
I also tell them that I really don’t like cleaning hoods, but because I did that I am super good at it, and I can teach it. That’s because for the first year of this business, I was a tech as well as an owner.
Are you glad you became a HOODZ franchise owner?
I sure am. I don’t have to go into the shop every day, I can monitor it remotely from my home office. That’s because I have a good operations manager, another important lesson I learned.
And speaking of which — never stop learning. COVID taught me where the overages are in my life, and so we did things in our life like consolidate cars and cut those payments. For the business, we opted to move to a smaller space. We are focusing on what we do well, and what is the most profitable for our business. That’s how we’ll keep growing.
Owning a successful restaurant hood cleaning business doesn’t have to break the bank. HOODZ is one of the most affordable franchise opportunities in the booming $838 billion restaurant industry. The total investment to begin operations for a new HOODZ franchise ranges from $74,221 to $179,840. Not only do we offer in-house financing for 50% of the franchise fee, but we also have third-party relationships to help you finance any additional business needs. We also proudly offer veterans who are interested in joining our franchise family a discount.