FOXBORO, Mass. — In addition to his primary job as an NFL player, Ricky Jean Francois also is the owner of a growing Dunkin’ Donuts empire. So it makes sense that Jean Francois’ football career eventually would take him to the region that birthed the coffee-and-donut goliath.
On Tuesday, the veteran defensive lineman signed with the New England Patriots, whose home stadium is located just a few miles away from Dunkin’ Donuts’ world headquarters in Canton, Mass. It didn’t take him long to realize how popular the brand is around these parts.
“As soon as I got off the airplane,” Jean Francois said Wednesday, “it was like every block I hit I saw a Dunkin’ Donuts. I was like, ‘I must be in Dunkin’ Donut heaven up here.’ ”
Jean Francois, who is in his ninth NFL season, currently owns 30 Dunkin’ Donuts franchises in South Carolina and Georgia and plans to open 20 more in the near future. Those locations likely won’t be in Massachusetts, though.
“I think they’ve got enough already,” the 30-year-old said. “I’d be shocked if I could get any type of territory up here. Somebody probably already got me beat. I just have to figure out who it is and just learn their strategies, how they can get so many in just this one location.”
Why Dunkin’? Jean Francois hatched the idea in 2014 after signing his first big-money contract (four years, $22 million from the Indianapolis Colts). Some of his older teammates advised him to pursue business opportunities outside of football in order to set himself and his family up life after retirement.
“Dunkin’ Donuts was that,” said Jean Francois, who noted that he’s a big glazed donut fan. “And plus, everybody drinks coffee.”
He added: “Have you seen the sales numbers? See who’s No. 1, then you’ll see why.”
At least one of Jean Francois’ new teammates already has approached him about his off-the-field endeavor: tight end Rob Gronkowski. Gronkowski is one of Dunkin’s top celebrity pitchmen, appearing in commercials with the likes of David Ortiz and Odell Beckham Jr.
“I love (Gronkowski), because he’s got business booming now,” Jean Francois said. “Every time I look at that commercial, I smile now. I see Gronk, and I’m like, he’s making us a whole lot of money this year just for seeing his pretty face.”
Gronkowski called Jean Francois’ status as a Dunkin’ owner “super cool.”
“Maybe I’ll bring in some coffees for him,” Gronk said Thursday.
Other players are interested, too, and Jean Francois said he’s looking forward to talking business during the team’s upcoming road trip. The Patriots will spend a week in Colorado Springs between Sunday night’s game against the Denver Broncos and next Sunday’s matchup with the Oakland Raiders in Mexico City.
“I get to learn my teammates,” said Jean Francois, who played in seven games with the Green Bay Packers before being released last week. “I get to sit down and talk to other guys, different guys, and I know some guys want to me about Dunkin’ Donuts, how I first started.
“So it’s going to be an interesting trip when I get to sit down, and they get to pick my mind and I get to pick theirs. They may have strategies to help me get the business booming more.”
Thumbnail photo via Zack Cox/NESN.com