The Parallels Between the MH and Fast Food Industries By Frank Rolfe

Nearly 4,000,000 Americans work in the fast-food industry. It’s a $200 billion revenue sector, which has grown from only $6 billion in revenue in 1970. It’s the fastest growing
industry in the U.S. And it’s a dominant force in our everyday lives. That’s why I find it interesting that the manufactured housing and fast-food industries have so much in common.

A focus on delivering a great product at a low price
One of the largest similarities between fast-food and manufactured housing communities is our dedication to delivering a great product at a low price. We both do what seems impossible, whether it’s delivering a $1 burger or a 3/2 home with yard for $600 per month. This is the result of a concerted focus on cost containment, understanding the power of volume, and being realistic about what our customers
can afford to spend.

Endless – and stable – demand
Our average manufactured home community gets around 20 calls per week from customers looking for an affordable place to live, whether we advertise or not. Some of our properties get several walk-in customers per day, even when we have no homes to rent or sell. That insatiable demand is also true at fast food restaurants across America, where drive-thru lines never dissipate – even when open 24 hours per day. Of course, the reason both fast-food and manufactured housing enjoy such demand is that a huge amount of the U.S. population is focused on value and on not wasting money, and these are goals that never go out of style.

A huge part of any property’s employment – and a great partner
While there are no available statistics on this statement, I would suggest that fast-food is the most dominant employer of manufactured home community residents. You can see the proof of this declaration if you watch your residents stream out to their cars in the morning wearing the various uniforms of the main fast-food companies. And this is a great industry to hold such a concentration of your customers. These jobs are
stable and pay decent wages with an average base pay of over $26,000 per year, or $52,000 on a two-income household. We have helped many a fast-food worker obtain home ownership in a brand-new 3/2 home through lending programs such as
21st Mortgage.

Frequent (and respectful) neighbors
Perhaps it’s because there are so many fast-food companies, or maybe because so many of our properties are located on busy thoroughfares, but our most common community neighbor is a fast-food establishment (for some reason it’s normally McDonalds). We respect the fact that they keep their property up to a decent standard, properly mowed and well-painted. We are always excited when we pull up to a potential acquisition and see that there’s a fast-food restaurant nearby. To us, it’s an affirmation that the location is solid and the area will be well maintained.

Always finding ways to update and perfect the business model
Before I was in the manufactured home community business, I owned a large billboard company. And I had every fast-food emporium as advertisers, from McDonalds to Arby’s to Dairy Queen. These franchisees would proudly show me their latest developments to increase the rate of speed of food delivery by a couple seconds, or the reduction in the cost of lettuce by a couple pennies. McDonald’s even has “Hamburger U” to focus on how to take the business model to the next level. In the same vein, manufactured home community owners are constantly trying to improve operations despite just a handful
of variables to work with. Such new improvements as Metron high-tech water meters (that read water usage every 20 minutes and report leaks) and “cable bundling” (in which you buy cable TV, phone and internet for your residents at a greatly reduced
package price) are the result of a tight focus on improving operations and costs.

A happy feeling
Let’s face it, fast-food is comfort food. Eating a Big Mac is as much fun today as it was when you were 10. Anyone who can eat Jack-in-the-Box tacos and not be excited must have never gone to college. And manufactured home communities also offer a degree of nostalgia, whether it’s seeing a pink flamingo in the yard or a football team flag in a window. Fast-food and manufactured home communities are strictly American institutions and steeped in culture all their own. I want in a Cracker Barrell recently and they had T-shirts that proclaimed “Home Is Where You Park It” and RV Christmas Tree ornaments.

The fast-food and manufactured home community industries have a huge amount in common, both as business models as well as sharing employees and customers. It’s great company to keep, and we look forward to a long relationship together.

Frank Rolfe has been a manufactured home community owner for almost two decades,
and currently ranks as part of the 5th largest community owner in the United States, with more than 23,000 lots in 28 states in the Great Plains and Midwest. His books and courses on community acquisitions and management are the top-selling ones in the industry. To learn more about Frank’s views on the manufactured home community
industry visit