Modern Restaurant Management (MRM) magazine’s Franchise Feed offers a glimpse at what’s new in the restaurant franchise  and MUFSO environment. 

Send news to Barbara Castiglia at bcastiglia@modernrestaurantmanagement.com.

CPK Brings on Franchise Veteran

California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) today announced the appointment of Giorgio Minardi as Executive Vice President of Global Development & Franchise Operations. Minardi will lead the development of CPK’s international and domestic franchise business, most immediately focusing on an aggressive growth strategy to bring the beloved California-style pizza brand to more cities and countries across the globe.

Giorgio Minardi

Under Minardi’s leadership, CPK sees significant opportunities to add to the company’s presence in Asia with a focus on Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore, Japan, and Malaysia. Expansion in the Middle East, Australia, and Europe will also be additional areas of focus starting in 2020.

“CPK is proud to welcome Giorgio to the executive team,” said Jim Hyatt, CEO of CPK. “We’re confident that his unique blend of marketing, operational, and development experience building global brands, including significant on-the-ground experience in Asia, Europe, Middle East, and the North American markets will be a great asset to CPK as we set out to meet our aggressive international and franchise growth targets for 2020 and beyond.”

Minardi brings more than 35 years of global restaurant business experience to CPK, most recently as the International President at Madrid-based Telepizza Group, leading an IPO launch for the company and entry into five new international markets. Prior, Minardi held roles as the International President for Dunkin’ Brands, where he led global growth of the Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins brands, supporting more than 8,000 stores in 40 countries, as well as international leadership roles for Burger King and McDonald’s.

Currently, CPK has 40 international franchise locations in 10 countries, as well as 16 domestic franchise locations in airports, casinos, and other non-traditional restaurant locations throughout the United States.

CPK’s franchise business has gained noteworthy momentum recently with new locations in Guam, Philadelphia International Airport, The Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., and the Grand Sierra Resort & Casino in Reno, Nev., plus new product rollouts, including the introduction of the brand’s popular, industry-first Cauliflower Pizza Crust, in its key global markets of South Korea, Mexico, and Dubai. With aggressive expansion plans, CPK is modernizing the brand’s footprint, bringing trend-forward, California creative dining to a global audience.

“If the world can agree on one thing, it’s a love for great pizza and a warm, welcoming environment to enjoy it in with friends and family,” said Minardi. “I look forward to working with CPK’s world-class franchise partners to bring the already beloved brand to even more guests around the globe.”

Rex’s Ready to Grow

Rex’s Chicken, the Tulsa.-based chicken concept first founded in 1976, is ready for growth. The chain, which once boasted 55 units, closed its last location in 1999. In 2007, it was purchased by David and Camille Rutkauskas. Since then, the couple has worked to streamline operations and build-out the menu, while also repositioning the brand for expansion. 

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“Camille and I really fell in love with the chain when we first started going there in the 1990s,” said David Rutkauskas, co-founder of Rex’s Chicken Franchise System. “We knew the product was great and stood the test of time, and we knew it had a loyal following within the nine states where it had locations in the past. So, when we had the chance to purchase it in 2007, we jumped on the opportunity.”

The plan was to patiently solidify Rex’s operational structure and in 2017 David and Camille opened the first franchise location in Bixby, Okla. The second opened in September 2019 in Broken Arrow, Okla. Both locations have experienced record-breaking success. The Bixby location has an average unit volume of $1.2M and the second location has grossed $100K per month. 

“When we opened the first franchise location in 2017, the plan was not to rush and to open a second two years later. But our goal was to get the first one established and rockin’ and rolling,” David Rutkauskas said. “Both locations are performing well above our expectations and we just feel it’s the right time to see what this baby can really do.”

“To us, a good brand starts with the quality of the product and we knew early on that the product was great. It is simply outstanding chicken,” Rutkauskas said. “It’s extremely flavorful, it’s light, and paired with the fry bread that comes with honey, it’s a combination that is irresistible. People come back for that again and again.” 

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David said the plan is to expand outside of the Midwest and also internationally. 

“While I think brand recognition in this part of the country has contributed to its success, we are not limiting growth to just the centralized market,” he said. “The restaurant appeals to consumers from all walks of life and we just see so much potential in this concept and its menu. Camille and I have spent nine years perfecting everything. Ever since I’ve known her, Camille has had her finger on the pulse of what people like to eat and her touches are all over this menu. We are truly excited to offer Rex’s Chicken as a franchise opportunity to other entrepreneurs.”

 Rex’s Chicken franchise fee is $35,000 with an estimated overall cost of between $300,000 and $1.1M. The company is looking for multi-unit franchisees and area developers who can open 3-10 locations. 

L&L Hawaiian Mixplate Launches

L&L Hawai‘i, the leading Hawaii-based restaurant franchise, is launching L&L Hawaiian Mixplate. This new restaurant concept features a hot bar with customizable plate lunch options, in addition to a selection of traditional L&L favorites. 

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The first store recently launched in Shelton, Wash., an hour and a half outside Seattle. The second store will open later this month in San Marcos, Calif., and the third is planned for Aurora, Colo., in December.  All L&L Hawaiian Mixplate locations will follow L&L’s franchise model and will be located in Walmart stores to provide a variety of dining options for guests.

 “Our guests will be able to see, smell and sample dishes prior to ordering, providing a more immersive dining experience,” said L&L Hawai‘i CEO Elisia Flores. “This format helps introduce guests to our fresh Hawaii-inspired flavors as we continue to expand throughout the U.S., and allows each dish to be created around individual preferences.”

L&L has been testing and developing the new dishes at its Airport Trade Center location in Honolulu, with a focus on healthier options such as brown rice, vegetable sides and seafood entrées. A selection of traditional L&L favorites, such as chicken katsu, will also be available. L&L Hawaiian Mixplate offerings will include:

  • Starch: White rice, brown rice, chow mein
  • Side: Macaroni salad, green salad, garlic edamame, salt and pepper corn, red bean salad
  • Entrée (L&L favorites): Chicken katsu, barbecue chicken, kalua pork, lau lau, garlic fish, garlic shrimp, fried shrimp
  • Entrée (New items): Garlic chicken, Korean chicken, mochiko chicken, honey shrimp, fried chicken, chili, creamy mushroom chicken

Flores was appointed chief executive officer and vice-chair of L&L Hawai‘i in August. She succeeds her father, Eddie Flores, Jr., who founded the iconic brand with Johnson Kam in 1976. The company has nearly total 200 locations throughout the U.S. and Japan, including 14 states, ranging from Alaska to North Carolina. Plate lunches date back to the 1880s, when Hawaii plantation workers from around the Pacific Rim brought rice and other leftovers for lunch in tins and bento boxes. The lunches rose to popularity in the 1930s with lunch wagons serving mixed-style food on compartmentalized paper plates. Today L&L is famous for introducing the plate lunch to the world, traditionally including two scoops of rice, macaroni salad and an entrée.

New Boneless Wing at B-Dubs

For the first time in 16 years, Buffalo Wild Wings is debuting a new boneless chicken wing, which features 30 percent less breading and a larger marinated piece of chicken with more flavor. As one of B-Dub’s most popular items – with nearly 100 million sold each year – the research and testing process took almost 16 months to complete.

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 They are also launching a brand new wing sauce, Original Buffalo, inspired by what was served when the first Buffalo Wild Wings opened its doors in 1982.

The new boneless wings and Original Buffalo sauce bookend a handful of recent announcements regarding new and refreshed food/drink items and in-restaurant enhancements at Buffalo Wild Wings – including a completely new lineup of hand-breaded chicken tenders and sandwiches, a revamped All-American Cheeseburger, updates to the salsa, queso and nacho offerings, new beverages like an Old Fashioned and a Mojito, and the introduction of new plate ware and team member uniforms.

Golden Corral Raises More than $1M for DAV

Golden Corral continued its 19-year tradition last week by serving a complimentary “thank you” meal to active duty and retired U.S. military personnel on Military Appreciation Night, in addition to raising funds through guest contributions for DAV (Disabled American Veterans) during the weeks leading up to the event. 

As a result of Golden Corral’s system-wide fundraiser, the nation’s largest grill-buffet restaurant chain raised more than $1 million for DAV, a nonprofit organization that provides a lifetime of support for veterans of all generations and their families, in positive, life-changing ways.

“It is through the generous support of our guests that Golden Corral is able to help DAV continue its important work for our country’s veterans,” said Lance Trenary, president and chief executive officer of Golden Corral. “This past year, DAV impacted the lives of over 1 million veterans. We are honored to have the opportunity to host this fundraiser for such an empowering charity, and we look forward to continuing this tradition for many years to come.”

A tradition that started 19 years ago to celebrate our nation’s heroes, Golden Corral’s Military Appreciation Night has served nearly six million complimentary meals to military personnel and generated nearly $17 million in guest contributions to support community-based service initiatives for veterans through DAV.

 American Hero Wednesdays Launches

Logan’s Roadhouse is honoring our nation’s real American heroes with the launch of American Hero Wednesdays.

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Every Wednesday, between 3-6 p.m., starting Nov. 20 and continuing through the end of the year, the leading steakhouse is treating all active duty and retired U.S. military personnel to a free American Roadhouse Meal with the purchase of an entrée of $8.99 or more.

Guests who dine in uniform or present their badge as proof of service during American Hero Wednesdays will have the opportunity to choose from a variety of hearty entrées, each served with two sides, like the 6 oz. Choice Sirloin Steak, Wood-Grilled Chicken or Southern Fried Fish. The menu may vary by location.

“At Logan’s Roadhouse, we are proud to serve the U.S. military personnel who bravely serve us,” said Brad Jacobus, Chief Marketing Officer of Logan’s Roadhouse. “Every American Hero Wednesday, we invite these deserving men and women to visit Logan’s Roadhouse so that we can honor them with a free meal and a genuine ‘thank you.’”

Additionally, Logan’s Roadhouse recently announced a major partnership with Folds of Honor. Now through Dec. 31, guests have the opportunity to give back to the families of the less than 1% who wear our nation’s uniforms. Logan’s Roadhouse is asking guests to give a little to help those who gave all by rounding up their check. All of the proceeds made from the roundup campaign will benefit Folds of Honor and its mission to provide educational scholarships to spouses and children of America’s fallen and disabled service-members. Logan’s Roadhouse pledges to raise $1 million with the help of their communities to provide 200 local scholarships. Logan’s Roadhouse continues its support of veterans and active duty military with free meal offers throughout the year and a 10 percent discount every day. 

McDonald’s Establishes APIA Scholarship

McDonald’s committed $500,000 to establish the first-ever McDonald’s/APIA Scholarship program in partnership with APIA Scholars. Fifty-five Asian and Pacific Islander American (APIA) college students will benefit from the program, furthering McDonald’s longtime support of providing educational and career resources to bright future leaders.  

The McDonald’s/APIA Scholarship program will award 15 four-year scholarships and 40 one-year scholarships to rising college freshmen through APIA Scholars, which will be awarded in Spring 2020. According to APIA Scholars, half of all APIAs have a college degree, compared to a third of all Americans, but there are tremendous disparities within the APIA community, economically and educationally. Only 25% of Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, and Southeast Asian Americans have college degrees and the top 10% of APIAs earn more than ten times the bottom 10% of APIAs, which is why scholarship programs like the McDonald’s/APIA Scholarship program are so crucial to the community. Emphasis will be placed on students who are first generation college attendees and demonstrate high financial need. 

“McDonald’s is very excited to launch the McDonald’s APIA Scholarship program to give a platform for APIA students to achieve their higher education dreams,” said William Cho, a Seattle McDonald’s Owner/Operator. “We believe everyone deserves the chance to go to college, regardless of finances, and McDonald’s is committed to making that happen.”

Founded in 2003, McDonald’s partner, APIA Scholars, is the nation’s largest non-profit organization that provides college scholarships to APIAs with financial need and has distributed more than $150 million in scholarships with the support of partners.

“We are grateful to McDonald’s for their longstanding support and partnership in our mission to make a difference in the lives of APIA students,” said Noël S. Harmon, President and Executive Director, APIA Scholars. “There are tremendous disparities within the APIA community, both economically and educationally, that are often overlooked. As a founding sponsor of APIA Scholars, McDonald’s has supported our efforts to address these disparities. We are grateful to McDonald’s for recognizing the need and working with us to make a difference.”

APIA Scholars is currently accepting online applications for the McDonald’s/APIA Scholarship at www.apiascholars.org/. The application will be available for the 2020-2021 academic year until January 22, 2020 at 5:00 PM EST. Applicants must meet the requirements below in order to be eligible:

  • Be of Asian and/or Pacific Islander ethnicity as defined by the U.S. Census
  • Be a citizen, national, or legal permanent resident of the United States. Citizens of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of Palau are also eligible to apply 
  • Be enrolling as an undergraduate student in a U.S. accredited college or university in the Fall 2020
  • Have a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.7 on a 4.0 scale (unweighted) or have earned a GED
  • Must apply for federal financial aid for the 2020-2021 academic year using the Free Application for the Federal Student Aid (FASFA) by early April 2020
  • Submit one letter of recommendation online

McDonald’s also offers the HACER® National Scholarship for Hispanic students and the McDonald’s Black and Positively Golden Scholarships to students attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities. In addition to the scholarships offered, McDonald’s Archways to Opportunity program provides eligible employees at participating U.S. restaurants an opportunity to earn a high school diploma, receive upfront college tuition assistance, access free education/career advising services and learn English as a second language. 

Nathan’s Focuses on Franchise

Nathan’s Famous, Inc., the American tradition serving New York favorites for more than 100 years, announced today its partnerships with Goji Creative and Trevelino/Keller.

“It’s truly an exciting time for the Nathan’s Famous brand as we look toward 2020,” stated James Walker, Senior Vice President, Restaurants. “It’s been roughly six months since I joined this incredible team, and the headway we’ve made since gives me great excitement. We expect these two agencies will not only help position Nathan’s for success in 2020 but for many years to come. We are excited to show the franchise world all the great things we’ve been working on recently.”

Goji Creative, a Laguna Beach, CA creative agency is tapped by the brand to cover many new initiatives, including new product creative offerings and menu design, branding and identity, and new store design and development.

“As a New York native, this win was especially sweet for me, having grown up with Nathan’s Famous,” stated Ken Stetter, Founder of Goji Creative. “As their business embarks on an increased focus on growing franchise sales, we’ve been tasked with establishing Nathan’s Famous as the Flavor of New York with an updated menu, and new store design that we hope to launch in 2020. It’s an incredible time to work with this brand.”

Trevelino/Keller, a full service digital public relations and marketing firm based in Atlanta, has joined the team to help with marketing design and strategy, executive visibility, and public relations for the brand’s franchise sales efforts.

“Nathan’s Famous is a classic in every sense of the word, and we believe it has the brand reputation and name recognition to expand its hot dog phenomenon into other competitive menu segments,” stated Dean Trevelino, Principal, Trevelino/Keller. “For the prospective franchisee, they will be excited to understand the AUV potential of a brand that’s been a part of New York for more than 100 years, the most visible city in the world.”

Shaw Named President and CEO at Blaze Pizza

Blaze Pizza, the recognized world leader in fast artisanal pizza, today announced the promotion of Mandy Shaw to President and Chief Executive Officer. Shaw has been with Los Angeles-based Blaze Pizza since 2018 as its Chief Financial Officer, and has also served as Interim CEO since August 2019. 

Mandy Shaw

“Mandy is stepping into the CEO role with a unique understanding of the brand,” Blaze Pizza co-founder Rick Wetzel said in a statement. “Since joining just under two years ago, she has demonstrated a blend of entrepreneurial spirit, brand vision and operational expertise that make her the perfect fit to lead this company.”

Shaw takes over as Blaze is showing significant momentum due to recent product launches including new specialty crusts and a clean-ingredient 14” large pizza, garnering significant national media attention. Blaze Pizza currently operates 340 restaurants across 41 states and 6 countries, and the Company has established itself as the premier destination for fast artisanal pizza.

“I am thrilled to be stepping into this new role with Blaze and I am excited to hit the ground running,” Shaw said. “This Company was built on partnering with exceptional franchisees to provide world-class guest experiences, and I look forward to helping Blaze continue to deliver on that promise.”

Blaze Pizza gave Shaw considerable credit for driving growth, fostering strong relationships with franchisees and spearheading the Company’s focus on digital innovation, technology and systems. A seasoned executive, Shaw previously worked in a number of roles at Bloomin’ Brands for over 12 years, including serving as Chief Information Officer and Chief Accounting Officer before making her move to Los Angeles to join Blaze.

Krystal Eyes Revitalization

The Krystal Company has hired two senior executives with extensive QSR experience to lead its ongoing revitalization plan. Tim Ward fills the newly created position of president and chief operating officer, and Bruce Vermilyea joins the brand as chief financial officer. Ward and Vermilyea are both seasoned restaurant executives who bring a breadth of experience and results. Following these additions, President & CEO Paul Macaluso and CFO Berry Epley are leaving the company to pursue other opportunities.

L-R: Bruce Vermilyea, Krystal chief financial officer and Tim Ward, Krystal president and chief operating officer.

Ward joins Krystal from Captain D’s where he served as chief operating officer. During his tenure with Captain D’s, the company enjoyed eight straight years of positive same-store sales and developed a pipeline of over 100 new restaurant locations. Ward held previous roles at Arby’s/RTM and NPC International/Pizza Hut.  

“Krystal is a brand that I have long admired, and I could not be more excited about the opportunity to lead this organization,” Ward said. “I have long felt that Krystal had so much more potential as an iconic, 87-year old brand, and I’m looking forward to making that happen.”  

Vermilyea has similarly worked in multiple industry leadership roles, notably serving 18 years with Qdoba Restaurant Corporation including three years as chief financial officer.

“We’re adding Tim and Bruce to the team because of the operational excellence they have driven at brands that have a lot in common with Krystal,” said Michael A. Klump, founder and CEO of Argonne Capital Group, which owns Krystal and other multi-unit concepts. “We look forward to working with Tim, Bruce and the rest of the Krystal team to build upon some of our recent wins including facility improvements, improved food quality, a recently announced refranchising initiative and the signing of our first franchise development agreement in over a decade.”  

The Krystal Company worked with Chris Wunder at Leap Hospitality on these executive placements.

CKE Adds CBO

CKE Restaurant Holdings, Inc.,  parent company of Carl’s Jr.® and Hardee’s®, today announced that Chad Crawford has joined the company as Chief Brand Officer. As one of his first orders of business, Crawford has re-engaged 72andSunny as the Creative Agency of Record for both brands.

“We are thrilled to welcome Chad to CKE, and I look forward to partnering with him as we propel the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s brands forward as industry-leading innovators that serve the highest quality, best tasting food in our category,” said Ned Lyerly, Chief Executive Officer at CKE Restaurants. “Chad is a brand builder with a tremendous track record of performance, and we are confident in his ability to reignite our marketing efforts, build relevancy with our customers and partner with our franchise community.”

Crawford spent more than 20 years working in the QSR space. He started his journey at KFC, Burger King and Denny’s before landing at Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, where he held a number of leadership roles over the last eight years, including Calendar Strategy, Marketing Impact, Guest Experience, Chief Marketing Officer and, most recently, President, North America.

As Chief Brand Officer, Crawford will be responsible for leading brand marketing vision and strategy to deliver memorable campaigns, compelling menus and sustainable and profitable growth for the entire system. First on his list of priorities was identifying the right agency partner to develop highly memorable creative campaigns for both brands. Former Creative Agency of Record 72andSunny fit the bill.

“72andSunny helped make Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s ‘impossible to ignore’ for six years,” said Crawford. “I’m confident they can make both brands ’impossible to ignore’ again, but in a fresh, new way that reflects the ever-changing marketplace, and I’m excited about the insight and positioning that we have unlocked as a foundation for our new creative expression and look forward to seeing that come to life.”

As Creative Agency of Record, 72andSunny will be responsible for brand-specific creative as well as dual-brand creative, as needed. “Here’s the opportunity for 72andSunny to work with two iconic brands with massive potential, and incredible partners who share our ambition to shoot for the moon,” said Jess Monsey, President of 72andSunny, New York. “And of course, we’re talking about delicious burgers and biscuits! As you can probably imagine, we’re feeling very excited about what’s to come.”

Potbelly Debuts New Store Design and Inks Deals

Potbelly Sandwich Shop signed a franchise agreement for the development of 13 new shops across North and South Carolina. The deal with entrepreneurs Brent and Michele Brouse includes opening shops along the eastern section of the states, as well as in nearby inland markets. The first of these locations will be at 2515 S. 17th St. Unit A in Wilmington.  The brand also opened their newly redesigned store in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago (2739 N. Elston Avenue), top photo. The prototype debuts a streamlined ordering experience for customers and a new overall modern look and feel.

The deal marks the brand’s entry into South Carolina and its continued expansion in North Carolina, where it has five total locations. There are four in Charlotte and another in Morrisville, with a shop set to open soon in Durham.   

“Brent and Michele are perfect examples of the type of highly qualified entrepreneurs with restaurant industry experience that Potbelly is attracting,” said Alan Johnson, CEO of Potbelly and the architect behind the brand’s growth. “They are an impressive couple and a fantastic fit to expand Potbelly in the Carolinas. Both are extremely passionate about developing the brand.” 

As part of their agreement, the Brouses will develop shops in Fayetteville, Jacksonville and Wilmington, North Carolina. Likewise, they will open shops in Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head, South Carolina. 

“We’ve been die-hard supporters of the brand for many years. This is an opportunity that we’re well prepared for and we know the markets that we’re expanding into are clamoring for Potbelly,” said Brent, a Chapel Hill native, military veteran and experienced restaurant industry executive, spending several years at highly regarded Lettuce Entertain You, Inc. “Ever since living in Chicago and working in the restaurant sector, we have been eyeing the Potbelly franchise opportunity. With the brand’s increased focus on multi-unit franchise expansion, now was the right time to become franchisees.” 

The Brouses reside in Wilmington and together have strong professional backgrounds that suit them well for the Potbelly franchise investment. In addition to his restaurant industry experience with Lettuce Entertain You, Inc., Brent has spent several years in finance. Michele’s professional experience includes planning large-scale tradeshows and conventions. 

Beyond the 13-unit deal in the Carolinas, Potbelly is generating widespread interest in its franchising initiative. The brand has recently signed agreements for new development in the Tampa and Las Vegas markets. These agreements, when fully built out, will amount to 38 new shops, and will nearly double its franchise footprint. 

“Skilled entrepreneurs like Brent and Michele are attracted to Potbelly because of the remarkable loyalty of our customers, the high-quality and fresh ingredients, flexible footprints and attractive markets available across the United States,” said Peter Ortiz, Vice President of Franchise Development for Potbelly. “We have a fantastic opportunity to collaborate on expanding into new markets and to build off of this momentum in the months ahead.” 

As Potbelly grows throughout the United States, the brand is awarding franchise opportunities to qualified multi-unit groups who are looking to add another potent concept to their portfolios. Currently, there are more than 450 corporate and franchise Potbelly shops in the United States. 

“Potbelly Sandwich Shops have been an integral part of our Chicago neighborhoods for more than forty years and many of our most loyal and dedicated fans are based here,” said Alan Johnson, CEO, Potbelly Sandwich Shop. “That’s why we’re debuting our newly redesigned store right here in our hometown. After months of research and testing, we’re eager to hear the feedback from our top customers here in Logan Square.”

Johnson continued, “We’ve spent the last few months actively engaging with our loyal customers, and through this research, have uncovered a number of opportunities to make their experience even more enjoyable. One of those areas was the ordering process and we believe our new shop will simplify and enhance this critical first step in the Potbelly experience. We will continue to strive to create a relaxed, comfortable environment where customers feel confident in the choices they make, whether they come to Potbelly every week or are trying us for the first time.”

A new streamlined ordering process, designed to provide a more effortless experience for consumers, will make its debut at the new store. This includes a cohesive menu board that presents all of Potbelly’s delicious menu items including hot sandwiches, soups, shakes and cookies in one area, and glass counters that allow customers to follow along and see their food being made. Customers will also complete their order and payment first, so they can relax and watch as their hot, toasty sandwich comes out of the oven and is carefully topped with fresh ingredients (like sliced avocado) before their eyes.

“Potbelly was founded in an antique shop and we’ve often kept antique décor in our shops to keep that spirit alive,” commented Johnson. “The new design maintains the warm, established feel Potbelly is known for, but with less clutter for a cleaner, more modern take on comfort.”

Guests will find that the new store design maintains Potbelly’s hallmark comfortable booth seating, but pairs it with wood and natural elements to create a more modern aesthetic. Additionally, the new design separates the ordering process from the dining room, so once guests get their food, they have a cozy spot that’s uninterrupted by others waiting to order, while enjoying their delicious meal.

In addition to working on the customer experience and overall look of Potbelly stores, the brand has also been focused offering nationwide delivery through several partners, including Grubhub and DoorDash, in addition to Potbelly.com, and introducing a Pick-your-Pair menu. This new menu feature allows consumers to pair a toasty Potbelly signature sandwich with soup or salad.

More Walk-On’s in Florida

Walk-On’s Bistreaux & Bar signed a new multi-unit signed franchise agreement in Florida. The six-unit deal will bring Walk-On’s locations to the greater Tampa area over the next five years. The brand has gained a loyal following for employing the go-getter spirit of a walk-on athlete while providing superior service and mouthwatering All-American menu items with a taste of Louisiana.

Behind this development deal is owner and operator, Mike Lester. As a veteran in the restaurant industry, Lester started his career quite humbly as a dishwasher when he was just 14 years-old. He worked his way through high school and college in nearly every position in various restaurants. Today, Lester is a dynamic leader and accomplished restaurant operations executive with more than 30 years of experience, most recently serving as the CEO and co-owner of Walking Tall Brands, LLC and formerly as the President of The Melting Pot Restaurants, Inc. Ready to give into his entrepreneurial spirit, Lester was determined to transition to the role of an owner and developer with a quality brand like Walk-On’s. He’s currently in site selection and aims to debut the first of his six restaurants to the community in 2020. 

“As a Tampa resident and restaurant industry veteran, I immediately became a fan of Walk-On’s and wanted to find a way to bring more locations to serve our area,” said Lester. “In the past, I’ve worked with some outstanding restaurant companies and leaders. But now, I will be giving into my previously repressed entrepreneurial spirit and transition to become a franchise owner and developer of Walk-On’s, and I couldn’t be more excited. With my experience as a franchisor, I knew exactly what I was looking for as a franchisee. With Walk-On’s, I found an organization with a strong culture, solid systems, and a strong business model with a talented support team.”

This development push along the Gulf Coast of Central Florida further ignites Walk-On’s aggressive expansion throughout the state. There are currently 25 restaurants sold and in development that will open over the next five years, two currently open in Fort Lauderdale and Wesley Chapel, and four under construction in Orlando, Tallahassee, Kendall, and Kissimmee. Additional target markets throughout the state include Daytona Beach, Gainesville, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Melbourne, Miami, Naples, Pensacola, Sarasota, and West Palm Beach. 

“Growing our presence in Florida is an exciting chapter for our growth story as we break into untapped markets with new franchise partners,” said Walk-On’s President & COO, Scott Taylor. “Our development team is poised for success and our initial locations throughout the state will no doubt bring success to enthusiastic entrepreneurs ready to join our team. With a proven business model, positive business environment, and open real estate market, Florida is an obvious and attractive area for Walk-On’s continued growth.”

Waitr Expands Partnership with Dickey’s 

Waitr announced an expanded partnership with Dickey’s Barbecue Pit. Together with recently acquired food delivery company, Bite Squad, Waitr will bring Texas-style barbecue to its customers across the country.

“We’re thrilled to continue our partnership with Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, offering their menu items to more customers in a growing list of locations,” said Zach Morgan, National Accounts Executive at Waitr. “Through this expansion, we’ve increased the number of cities in which Dickey’s is available to our Waitr customers, and added the restaurant to our Bite Squad platform in a number of markets as well.”

Bite Squad and Waitr will soon deliver from nearly 100 Dickey’s Barbecue Pit locations, across 15 states, including Louisiana, Texas and Florida.

“Since partnering with Waitr in 2016, we’ve seen a steady rise in our off-premise sales and believe our expanded partnership will allow us to bring our authentic, Texas-style barbecue to more guests,” says Laura Rea Dickey, Chief Executive Officer for Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants, Inc.

Garbanzo at CEO’s Alma Mater

CEO James Park  introduced Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh to his alma mater. The  Mediterranean cuisine brand recently opened in SLU’s Fusz Hall, located at 3700 West Pine Mall in St. Louis. This marks the third GARBANZO in St. Louis and Missouri, and 29th system-wide. 

“GARBANZO is a popular option on college campuses because students of all ages and nationalities are more conscious of what they’re eating and want food that is healthier, less processed and more sustainable,” Park said. “At GARBANZO, we serve delicious AND nutritious preservative-free meals in a convenient and affordable format that not only make our guests feel better but helps them perform better as well. I’m proud to bring GARBANZO to my alma mater.”

“This marks the 10th GARBANZO restaurant to open on a university campus,” said Chief Development Officer Larry Sidoti. “GARBANZO is an attractive option for students of all ages because it offers fresh, nutritious and great tasting food served in a contemporary and welcoming environment. Plus, GARBANZO is dedicated to satisfying every palate – including vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free diners – and we believe that if you eat better, you’ll feel brighter. So, the combination of high traffic with a diverse demographic makes college campuses a successful option for GARBANZO as we continue to expand.”  

Stoner’s Pizza Lands in South Florida

 Stoner’s Pizza Joint  is accelerating its franchise development efforts with the opening of its newest franchisee-owned location in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Located at 1509 E. Los Olas Boulevard, the new restaurant marks the brand’s first south Florida location. The new location will soft open to the public on Monday, November 11th from 11am until 11pm.

Stoner’s Pizza Joint considers itself to be a delivery-focused concept, with delivery and off-premises dining accounting for approximately 50 percent of total sales. Committed to providing customers with a best in class experience, the brand has invested its resources into developing and incorporating state-of-the-art technology, which helps to streamline operational efficiency and provides customers with the best product, faster. The new Fort Lauderdale location has been equipped with this technology and will be launching the brand-new Stoners app this month for convenient ordering and rewards.

“2019 has been an exciting year for Stoner’s Pizza Joint with the launch of our new branding and accelerating our franchise program with the addition of strong multi-unit franchisees. It’s been a wonderful journey introducing the brand to Florida and insulating it with everything it needs to be the leader in this space, and the Ft. Lauderdale market is no exception,” said Nick Bergelt, Chief Concept Officer of Stoner’s Pizza Joint, “we’re extremely excited to bring Stoner’s to this area with our fresh, new look and customer experience. We look forward to growing quickly in this market.”

Captain D’s Signs Development Deal

 Captain D’s signed a new franchise development agreement with MH & Sons Enterprises, led by Maqsood Merchant, a seasoned multi-unit operator with more than 15 years of industry experience. As part of the agreement, Merchant will develop three new restaurants in the Salt Lake City market, which will mark Captain D’s entry into Utah for the very first time and expand the brand’s footprint to its westernmost point in the company’s history.

“We’re at a significant point in Captain D’s history, with this agreement marking a very special milestone for our brand as we break into our 23rd state and begin work on developing the first Captain D’s restaurants in the Salt Lake City area – all within our 50th year in business. Throughout 2019 and over the past several years, we’ve continued to attract best-in-class multi-unit operators with our unique proposition in seafood, strong unit economics and proven record of success, and this deal is a testimony to that,” said Brad Reed, chief development officer of Captain D’s. “Maqsood has been a well-established operator of several successful brands and we’re thrilled to welcome him and his team to Captain D’s and have him spearhead our growth in Utah.”

Based in Salt Lake City, Merchant’s has owned and operated several Quiznos and Popeyes restaurants, as well as 7-Eleven convenience stores and gas stations throughout the market. This new agreement marks his first with Captain D’s, and his first location is slated to open in Pleasant Grove late next summer.

“Aside from the tremendous opportunity to bring the brand to Utah for the first time, what attracted me most to Captain D’s was its substantial growth over the past several years with much of that growth being fueled by existing operators. Operator reinvestment in a brand showcases its strength and, ultimately, trust in the franchisor of the direction the brand is going in, which motivated me to jump on the opportunity quickly,” said Merchant. “I’m so excited to bring the brand to Salt Lake City, and share Captain D’s delicious, high-quality and affordable seafood with the communities here.”

In its 50th year, Captain D’s has continued to experience a surge in franchise development, opening more than a dozen new restaurants year to date, and signing numerous agreements to expand its presence in new and existing markets like Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Mississippi, North Carolina, Michigan and Oklahoma over the next several years.

I Heart Long Island

I Heart Mac & Cheese signed a franchise agreement with Orison and Casandra Wiggins, who will open a North Babylon, New York location in September 2020.

“I Heart Mac & Cheese is a fun, attractive concept and an affordable franchise model that is easy to operate, with support systems in place to help our partners be successful,” said Stephen Giordanella, I Heart Mac & Cheese chief executive officer and chairman. “We are thrilled to bring our popular concept into North Babylon to expand our presence throughout the state of New York.  We’re also excited to introduce our new vegan menu with more choices for varying ages, lifestyles and cravings.”

Husband and wife team Orison and Casandra Wiggins will manage operations for the brand’s newest location. Most recently, Orison is a technology entrepreneur and Cassandra is a teacher who works directly with ENL students. “My wife and I are excited to join the I Heart Mac & Cheese brand and continue spreading the word about this incredible restaurant throughout Long Island and beyond,” said Wiggins. “We have two young sons – ages 3 and 7, and mac and cheese has been a staple in our household. We were originally attracted to the brand due to the uniqueness of the concept and the opportunity to operate a turn-key franchise business model that provides great food.”

Airport Bojangles

Bojangles’ fans who need a chicken and biscuits fix at Charlotte Douglas International Airport now have two convenient options to satisfy their cravings. Longtime Bojangles’ franchisee FDY, Inc. opened a second location in The Plaza at East Terminal between Concourses D and E at the airport.

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“We’re excited to add another Bojangles’ to Charlotte Douglas International, which is one of the busiest airports in the nation,” said Keith Haywood, interim CEO of FDY, Inc. “Our first Bojangles’ in Concourse B has been a huge success, and we think this one will be equally well-received by airline travelers and Bojangles’ fans who love our delicious food.”

The 1,300-square-foot location will be open from 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily and will feature in-store dining beginning with breakfast served all day, every day through dinner. It will employ 50 people.

“We’re pleased to work with FDY in bringing another Bojangles’ franchise to the airport,” said Brian Little, head of corporate communications for Bojangles’. “We’ve heard stories of passengers almost missing their flights to get a taste of our real deal Southern flavor, and now there’s one on both sides of the airport. This opening reflects our goal to bring our delicious chicken, biscuits and Legendary Iced Tea® to even more people.”

FDY, Inc. opened its first Bojangles’ franchise at the Charlotte airport during the Spring of 2008 and another Bojangles’ franchise in Washington, DC in 2011.

Water’s Edge Coming to Florida

Waters Edge Wineries®signed a franchise agreement to open a Waters Edge Winery & Bistro in Sarasota, Florida. This new location will join 11 others already operating throughout California, Colorado, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas. Local entrepreneurs Michael Hayja, Dr. Sean Castellucci and Christopher McKenna of Artisan Vinification, LLC, will own and manage the location in Sarasota, which is expected to open in Spring 2020.

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“We are excited to debut our brand in the sunshine state, and with the support of Michael Hayja and his two business partners, we will cultivate a new wine experience for locals – as well as for the many tourists who travel to Florida in search of unique, memorable experiences,” said Ken Lineberger, president and CEO of Waters Edge Wineries. 

Hayja’s 25-year career began in the hospitality sector, eventually transitioning to finance in U.S. and Australian markets, working with esteemed companies such as Merrill Lynch. In a quest to find an outlet to incorporate his love of hospitality, wine and quality customer service, he and his most trusted friends discovered Waters Edge Wineries, venturing into research around the winemaking industry and ultimately deciding to open their own winery. The group will take over the space at 1219 1st Street, which was formerly Social Eatery & Bar, and will work to continue the legacy built at that well-known community staple. For almost a decade, the prior concept provided guests with a unique establishment that offered locally-sourced meals, in-the-know craft alcohol and an opportunity to connect with their loved ones in a comfortable, convenient spot. Waters Edge Winery & Bistro at Social will continue celebrating the importance of intimate conversation with the added benefit of the chance to explore new wines and experiences.

“We are thrilled to become part of something that allows us to bring such a fun and interesting experience to the Sarasota community in a personalized and intimate venue,” said Hayja. “I look forward to sharing my passion for hospitality and the winemaking industry to make our winery a one-of-a kind experience. I truly cannot wait to share this hidden secret with the public!”

Earlier this year, Waters Edge Wineries announced three new franchise agreements to introduce its concept in Madera, California; Toledo, Ohio; and Richmond, Texas. In August, a new location opened in Davidson, North Carolina, a suburb of Charlotte, and a new flagship location showcasing an updated design footprint opened in Long Beach, California this month. Waters Edge Wineries® currently operates 11 locations in California, Colorado, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas with expansion in North Carolina, Kentucky and Montana. Each Waters Edge Winery & Bistro location is individually owned and operated by local entrepreneurs in their communities.

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