Ray Wiley knows a thing or two about running restaurants — fast-casual restaurants, specifically.
• He was a Subway franchisee in the Dayton area for 27 years, before selling his last four locations in August 2016. He served as the Subway Advertising Board chairman from 1990 to 1996, and was named Subway Franchisee of the Year in 2002.
• He co-founded Hot Head Burritos in 2007 and serves as president of the chain’s franchising. The chain now has 70 stores open across multiple states.
RELATED: Kettering-based Rapid Fired Pizza to expand with 175 new locations (April 27, 2017)
• And Wiley is co-founder of Rapid Fired Pizza , which has certainly lived up to its name since it opened its first restaurant in Washington Twp. in September 2015. It opened its 21st location last week in Bowling Green, with about a dozen more in the works, and franchise agreements in place that will take the brand across the country.
This very busy restaurant entrepreneur is our Daytonian of the Week, and we corraled him just long enough to squeeze a few responses out of him.
What prompted you to get into the restaurant business?
I have been in and around the restaurant industry all of my life. My father was a Pizza Hut franchisee; he sold his Pizza Huts in 1975. In 1986, my father was hired to expand Skyline Chili, and we moved to Ohio to open Skyline Chili stores. I bought my first Subway in 1998, at the age of 22.
What has been the biggest challenge in opening and sustaining your restaurants, and how did you overcome that challenge?
The first challenge long ago was coming up with the money. The largest ongoing challenge is staffing. The unemployment level has become very low, making hiring very challenging. We recently slowed down our growth, due to a shortage of employees. We recently delayed opening our Troy Rapid Fired Pizza for three weeks while we looked for employees.
RELATED: Dayton-area company to open 60 restaurants in California (July 2017)
How have you been able to compete so effectively against other restaurant chains with similar concepts?
Determination, a great team of investors and employees, and effective marketing. We have a very experienced upper management team that has been with me for a long time, some 15-plus years. We do our best as an organization to take care of our team and promote from within.
RELATED: Rapid Fired Pizza to open 44 new locations in Texas (July 2017)
What’s your favorite spot in the Dayton area?
I spend a lot of time in Kettering due to my main office being located there. I enjoy the Fraze for outside concerts, the Greene for upscale dining, Oregon District for food and entertainment and then Xenia for Kil-Kare Raceway (and the fact I live in Xenia).
What do you love about life in the Dayton area?
Dayton is an easy city to get around in, with relatively light traffic, and it’s a great little city with plenty of amenities. The Dayton metro area has many options for food, entertainment and business development. We are only an hour from three airports, which is great for travel.
RELATED: Rapid Fired Pizza to open new location in Fairfield (July 15, 2017)
If you could change or bring one thing to Dayton, what would it be?
More non-stop flights out of Dayton International Airport.
What do you think Dayton will look like in 10-15 years?
I believe the Dayton metro area will continue to grow. I expect the cities of Cincinnati and Dayton will become more like one large metro area. It is nice to see many jobs coming to Dayton over the last five years or so, and I expect this will continue.