It happens in every growth business at some point, the realization that what got you here won’t get you to the next phase of the business.
President Mel Knight said they got pretty lucky, the concept was making money, the franchisees were growing and everything was working pretty well.
“We just had years of very fortunate success with our current franchisee base, that we never really marketed franchising and really had a great base of franchisees,” said Knight. “But in a lot of cases, those guys have run out of territory.”
He said to get beyond the 150 locations that the concept currently has, “it was time to get the infrastructure in place to grow.”
Fresh on the heels of an acquisition by NRD Capital in 2016, there was a lot of updating and polishing of the brand and more recently a fresh, development-minded executive.
Michael Mabry, who was most recently COO at Mooyah, joined a few months ago as chief development officer to help get the franchise program to the next phase.
“We’re right at 150 restaurants open right now. We hope to get to 200 in the next 24 months or so,” said Mabry. “We’re not the cute new thing on the block anymore, so you’ve got to have some substance and meat behind you. So just maturing our processes I think is part of the game.”
He said since joining, the process has been formalized with a broker network to speed up the real estate process, an architect and construction leader to help get builds started faster and an attorney to help with lease negotiations. He said the new group of outside vendors would help expand the pipeline and be more enticing for the next set of franchisees.
“We want to be just a little more strategic in that growth, so really targeting specific areas and specific types of folks to fill out where we already have some penetration,” said Mabry.
He’s also spent a lot of time analyzing who those people might be so his small development team can waste less time on unqualified leads.
“I had a boss who once told me don’t mistake activity for progress,” said Mabry. “I want my team to be busy, but productive. I don’t want to flood my team with 1,000 leads and one is real, I’d rather give them 50 leads and 10 are real, that takes discipline.”
Knight said they had to do a little work on the actual franchise operations to make that possible. One key was the purchasing and distribution and local-store marketing pumped up for the next phase.
“We had a great partner for years, but we were a little it limited so we have just recently partnered with a new distribution company that is going to help with our growth,” said Knight.
Knight said NRD has been instrumental in getting the brand ready to “go big;” which was always in the cards, but not quiet shuffled right.
“That’s always been the plan, I think that we’ve been blessed with this incredible internal growth with our current franchisees which speaks to a healthy system, now that we’ve got a new VP of marketing, a new VP of development new VP of purchasing. A lot of that has come from NRD,” said Knight. “Now were looking forward to just having all the system in place to do this correct. I think that sometimes people get in a hurry and we’re proud that we have that infrastructure in place.”
Knight and Mabry said they’re on track for 200 by the end of 2020.