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NewYorkCoronaGrandopeningmarch212024-169.jpg Little Caesars
The grand opening of Lollobrigida's Little Caesars in New York City.

This Little Caesars franchisee is taking over her father’s business in New York City

Joumana Lollobrigida grew up around restaurants with her stepfather’s New York City-based franchise business, and now she is taking over for him

If founders, chefs and other creatives are the beating heart of the restaurant industry, then franchisees are the veins delivering their ideas to all corners of the globe. Franchising is critical to the success of the industry, allowing brands to quickly scale their big ideas using other people’s capital. And whether it’s a mom-and-pop restaurant owner with one or two franchised restaurants or a seasoned veteran whose influence in the industry is well-known, franchisees — with all their individual attributes, styles and personalities — make a huge impact on the success of a business.

In this week’s installment of Franchisee Spotlight, we spoke with Joumana Lollobrigida about growing up around her stepfather Rod Valencia’s restaurant franchise business, how she’s starting to take over for the company and how she will be expanding Little Caesars’ development in the New York City area.

Store Count: 45 Dunkin’/Baskin Robbins, Little Caesars, Jimmy John’s, Checkers and Popeyes restaurants in New York and Tampa


When we moved to New York, my parents were the ones to start the franchise and I was in second grade. I've done every job there is to do as I've grown up, and I've always been a silent investor. Back in 2012, I came to the forefront and took over for my sister who moved out of New York. So, I took her role in the company and then a few years later, I took over my mom's role in the company. Most recently, my dad has started going to radiation therapy, so I started learning the construction aspects of the business because that was the only one thing that I wasn't very familiar with…. If you asked me to take a customer today, I don't know how, but if you had asked me way back when things were simpler, I could have definitely done so….The business has been around for 40-plus years, but with my mom and my stepdad, it has been 25 or more.

How they became multi-brand operators

We started before Dunkin’ was an acquired brand and before it acquired Baskin’ Robbins even…We branched out from the New York market because it had been so saturated down to Tampa. Then when we were in Tampa, we then acquired nine Checkers down there, though unfortunately, they did not do the sales that we had anticipated. Instead of closing them, we basically cut our losses and sold them. Our two Checkers up in New York are doing well so they're still open…. So, how do we determine what to what to acquire next? Just different opportunities come our way, reviewing the numbers and assessing the market and then of course, seeing where we could grow where we already have infrastructure.

How she became involved

When we first opened, it was on Roosevelt Avenue in Queens right by Queens Central Mall. All the stores used to have kitchens in the back, so when my parents moved here from London, my parents slept on flour bags, because when you first open your stores, you kind of need to be there 24/7. Because of that, my sister and I were so little so we were sent to Vancouver. We came back when they were all set up. My parents opened up the first ever Dunkin’ satellite in Queens Central Mall. I remember I used to fill jelly munchkins because I thought it was so cool. My sister and I both went to Dunkin’ [Brands] University. All of our friends were in awe of us owning Dunkin’.

I am super appreciative of Dunkin’ because both of us came out with no student loans and we had a great childhood because of it, but it wasn’t something I actually wanted to pursue and be a part of, but it happened after my divorce…In order to be there for my daughter and gibe her a better lifestyle than I had and be able to be successful, the timing worked out. In 2012, I took over my sister’s role in the company and then I took over my mother’s role and then my stepfather’s role. It’s been a really great experience and business for our family.

Biggest challenges

We opened Little Caesars in December 2023, and it started off as a really great store and I think that it still can be a great store. We’re on a corner of Roosevelt Avenue in a prime location. However, the city had started doing construction when we leased the spot, and ever since then, the construction has grown. Our store in unfortunately covered by scaffolding on both sides. They started doing construction on the subway stop at the foot of our doors… despite all of this, the store has actually been doing decently well, despite not having any exposure, and not being able to easily access it.

Making marketing efforts

I do a lot of sampling and then I also have my manager proactively walk about the neighborhood to see if anybody's interested in ordering lunch. I'm looking into influencers. Direct mail coupons don’t really seem to be working in that area very well… I'm about to start our second round of influencers. I've also changed the lighting in our store because I felt like it needed to be a little brighter, so that it pops behind the scaffolding.

Little Caesars deal

We signed a deal with Little Caesars for eight stores to open in the next five years. We have our second store opening in July and I just signed another for our third store. I'm continually working with brokers on finding more locations.

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