MRM Franchise Feed: Boston’s Plans Major Expansion, the TaCoat and Plave Koch Turns 10

 Modern Restaurant Management magazine’s Franchise Feed offers a glimpse at what’s new in the restaurant franchise environment. Send items of interest to Executive Editor Barbara Castiglia at

Boston’s  Restaurant Plans for Major Metropolitan Area Expansion

Boston’s Restaurant & Sports Bar signed a franchise deal that will bring eight Boston’s restaurants to areas across Mexico by 2020. The new locations will join the 13 existing Boston’s in Mexico, and will be owned by seasoned hospitality group Desarrollos Juventud, which brings more than 10 years of experience in hospitality, restaurants and franchising to Boston’s.  The group is targeting areas of Torreón, Saltillo, Tijuana, Mexicali, Hermosillo, León, San Luis Potosi and Aguascalientes for restaurant development.

The new Mexico locations will offer its guests the same contemporary, sit-down family dining atmosphere with a separate sports bar as the brand does in the U.S., allowing for family and friend gatherings of all sizes. While Boston’s specializes in gourmet pizza and pasta, its menu features nearly 90 items including salads, sandwiches and a variety of sports bar favorites such as burgers, wings and ribs giving guests an offering of traditional American cuisine.

“Boston’s is a restaurant for friends and families alike, whether you are looking for a relaxing night out or a new spot to watch the game,” said a representative with Desarrollos Juventud. “The quality and diversity of the food menu goes unmatched, and we look forward to debuting the concept in new areas across Mexico. We are confident it will be a hit for many years to come.”

The Desarrollos Juventud deal is part of larger growth plans Boston’s has in Mexico to bring a total of 30 new locations to the country in the coming years. Boston’s Restaurant & Sports Bar’s U.S. operations are based in Dallas. In addition to its Mexico locations, the company currently has 28 locations operating in 22 states. The company’s sister brand, Boston Pizza, has more than 400 locations throughout Canada and is considered the No. 1 casual dining brand in the country.  

Greene Turtle Opens First Location in NJ

The Greene Turtle Sports Bar & Grille  opened its first location in New Jersey, an 8,181-square-foot franchise restaurant with a 1,456-square-foot patio, at 211 Main Street in North Brunswick. Located in front of Target and Costco in the Main Street Center in North Brunswick, the new restaurant is the first to open under a multi-unit development agreement for South and Central New Jersey signed by Imperial Restaurant Group LLC.

Greene Turtle

“We see this as a rich opportunity,” says Raj Rana, a former multi-unit QSR restaurant owner now serving as operating partner of Imperial Restaurant Group. “More families are moving here to combine suburban life with proximity to Philadelphia and New York. The highways provide great access to sites surrounded by malls, office buildings, industrial parks, neighborhoods, universities, sports arenas and other densely populated venues. The abundance of professional, college and high school sports programs will offer endless marketing opportunities for our sports-themed brand. And the tight network of cities and towns will facilitate carrying out The Greene Turtle’s tradition of community involvement.”

Now with a foothold in New Jersey, The Greene Turtle’s first Pennsylvania unit opening in April and a third signed lease in Long Island, New York, The Greene Turtle is focused on finding strategic partners to develop exclusive territories in the balance of New Jersey and in the Northeast.

“We enjoy a strong presence in the Baltimore/Washington, D.C., area, and have secured what we need to replicate that concentration up the East Coast,” says Vice President of Franchise Development Tom Finn. “We now have 45 open restaurants, and multi-unit development agreements in place for the Philadelphia area, for South and Central Jersey and for Long Island. We want to secure a similar agreement with the right partner in North Jersey, then continue into New York State, Connecticut and into New England. At the same time, with restaurants now serving Morgantown, W. Va., and Maryland’s Deep Creek resort area, plus a six-unit agreement signed for Central Pennsylvania, we’re seeking a strategic partner for Pittsburgh to continue expanding to the west. Over the next decade we expect to cover a large portion of the Eastern Seaboard with our much-loved brand.”

Plave Koch Celebrates 10th Anniversary

Plave Koch PLC,  which bills itself as practicing “franchise law with zing,”  celebrated its 10th anniversary on February 1. 

“We greatly appreciate our clients’ role in bringing to life our vision of how to operate,” wrote Lee Plave in a note to clients. “We thank you for 10 years of making possible our three founding objectives: to have more fun practicing law, to create greater balance in our lives, and to still make a decent living – all while delivering world-class legal service without pretense. Though we’ve grown, we’re still small business owners and can identify with the rewards that the entrepreneurial franchisors we work with every day also enjoy (as well as many of the same challenges!).”

To celebrate, the firm made the fun video above. 

Wahlburgers Opens Second Florida Spot

Wahlburgers officially opened its second Florida location. Wahlburgers Waterford Lakes is located in East Orlando at Waterford Lakes Town Center, Orlando’s largest open air shopping, dining and entertainment destination.

“My family has a long history in this community, and we’re honored to now be serving our new neighbors in East Orlando,” said Gina Buell, franchisee. “Waterford Lakes Town Center is located in a thriving, family-friendly neighborhood with the added bonus of the University of Central Florida a few miles away. We look forward to making memories at Wahlburgers Waterford Lakes.”

“We’re thrilled to welcome Wahlburgers to Waterford Lakes Town Center,” said Lynda Glinski, general manager at Waterford Lakes Town Center. “This casual dining favorite is a proven hit, nationwide, and will perfectly complement our current line-up of popular restaurants, retail and entertainment options. We’re confident the community will embrace Wahlburgers signature celebrity history, creations and service-oriented style.”

Wahlburgers Waterford Lakes is located at 749 N. Alafaya Trail in Orlando, Florida. The restaurant encompasses 6,700 square feet, slightly larger than the Downtown Orlando location. The restaurant includes a full bar, outdoor seating and offers both full and quick service. The interior décor features photos and mementos celebrating the Wahlberg family’s history. The menu is created by Chef Paul, who has put his own spin on Wahlberg family food favorites.

A&W’s Urban Franchise Program

A&W Food Services of Canada, Inc. is pursuing its strategic expansion in Quebec through its Urban Franchise Program. This initiative, a proven success in major Canadian cities, enables Montrealers looking for a new career opportunity to be their own boss by becoming an A&W franchise owner.

The Urban Franchise Program is part of a bold, Canada-wide expansion strategy that aims to open 200 A&W restaurants across the country, including 70 in Québec alone, by 2020. 


“For many people, starting a new year means taking stock of their skills and assessing their options,” said Yanick Morin, National Director, Franchise Development at A&W. “This is especially true for new Quebecers that move to Montreal with the drive to succeed in a highly competitive market. The Urban Franchise Program was designed to give them the opportunity to launch their business using A&W’s proven franchise system that makes us Canada’s fastest-growing national burger chain, with a yearly sales figure of over $1 billion.” 

The Urban Franchise Program is designed for Montreal’s entrepreneurs and new Quebecers arriving in Montreal looking to be their own boss, take on new challenges and build their financial future.

“I moved to Quebec in 2008 when I was 17,” says Tim Pérez, business partner and Operations Manager for the three A&W locations he owns with his father. “Back in Normandy, I played hockey and studied finance. Once I got here, I began studying human sciences, but after working with my father, I decided to become a businessman.” 

Today, the Pérez family owns and operates two restaurants on the North Shore and a third in Montréal.

“I’m actually the reason we became A&W franchisees,” says Tim Pérez with a smile. “The great tasting A&W burger I had him try, the restaurant’s ambiance and the customer service convinced my dad that this was a great investment opportunity.” 

“If I had to convince young entrepreneurs and new Quebecers to get into business and become their own boss, I’d use hockey as an analogy,” concludes Mr. Pérez. “Running an A&W restaurant enables you to manage your team, make decisions and take up major challenges, as well as achieve financial independence. That said, such a privilege comes with great responsibility, namely making sure your team meets your fans’ expectations, which in this case are clients looking for the A&W brand’s inherent quality.” 

Stewart to Resign

Chairman and chief executive officer and interim president of the Applebee’s business unit Julia Stewart will resign from the company, effective March 1, DineEquity, Inc. parent company of Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar® and IHOP® restaurants, announced.

“I am honored to have led this extraordinary global company through significant periods of growth and transformation over the last 16 years. It has been a privilege to lead two iconic brands, both number one in their respective categories,” said Stewart. “I am also grateful for the opportunity to have worked with such talented and passionate executives, team members and franchisees. I am confident in the strong roadmap that has been set forth, and will continue to cheer for the company’s success.”

The board of directors has named its current lead director, Richard Dahl, to serve as interim chief executive officer and chairman, effective March 1, 2017, while the board of directors conducts a search for a permanent replacement.

Dahl has served on the board of directors since February 2004 and has more than 35 years of experience in senior management of public and private companies, including service as chief executive officer, chief operating officer and chief financial officer. The board appointed Caroline Nahas as DineEquity’s lead director to replace Mr. Dahl and Douglas Pasquale to succeed Mr. Dahl as chairman of the audit and finance committee.  Upon completion of the chief executive officer search, the DineEquity board of directors intends to separate the chairman and chief executive officer roles.

“For more than 16 years, Julia has been a strong and valued leader of DineEquity and the IHOP and Applebee’s brands and has made numerous and lasting contributions to the business,” said Richard Dahl. “Under Julia’s leadership, DineEquity has become one of the largest full service, fully franchised chains in the world. She led the successful turnaround of IHOP early in her tenure, drove the acquisition and re-franchising of Applebee’s and transitioned DineEquity to an asset light model.  We thank Julia for her service to DineEquity’s stockholders and her unwavering commitment to DineEquity and its franchisees.”

Applebee’s domestic system-wide comparable same-restaurant sales declined 7.2 percent for the fourth quarter of 2016. Applebee’s domestic system-wide comparable same-restaurant sales decreased 5.0 percent for fiscal 2016.

“DineEquity will continue to invest in the long term success and growth of both IHOP and Applebee’s. I will be working very closely with the Applebee’s franchisees to improve performance,” added Mr. Dahl. “While a turnaround of Applebee’s will not happen immediately, the results of a comprehensive diagnostic conducted by a world class management consulting firm has enhanced our understanding of what has driven our recent sales trends.  More importantly, we have a go forward plan to improve performance, and have worked with the same firm to validate our initiatives and identify additional creative strategies to expeditiously return Applebee’s to growth.”

Marco’s Promotes Libardi to COO

Marco’s Pizza, the nation’s fastest-growing pizza franchise, announced the promotion of Executive Vice President of Operations Tony Libardi to Chief Operations Officer. The move brings Marketing and Employee Engagement under Libardi’s purview, adding to the company’s corporate and franchise operations, as well as Learning and Development that he has led since joining the company in 2014, a time during which Marco’s experienced 12 consecutive quarters of same store sales growth.

Libardi said his focus will be on people, product and process to uphold the brand promise for the growing chain. Libardi and his team will fine-tune and implement several new best practices aimed at pairing the brand’s Better Pizza philosophy with an equal Better Guest Experience tenant, including a new modern work flow design, a state of the art e-learning platform and enhanced hiring and retention employee engagement practices.

“As we continue to experience rapid growth, constantly improving and perfecting our guest experience for our customers is of chief importance for our brand,” Libardi said. “We’ve been working on these new operational practices and fine-tuning them for years. Our employees and partners will appreciate the simplified and more accessible flow that our new system brings.”

Prior to joining Marco’s Pizza, Libardi spent 10 years running a $1 billion division for Burger King, leading a restaurant portfolio of 750 locations with combined sales of approximately $900 million annually as the Vice President of U.S. Company Operations. During his tenure, Burger King saw a 6.5 percent sales increase and a 35 percent restaurant profitability increase year over year in 2012.

“With over 23 years of experience in building profitable organizations within highly competitive markets, combined with a military background in the U.S. Marine Corps, Tony has a deeply rooted passion and understanding for leadership and innovation that will drive results,” said Marco’s Pizza President Bryon Stephens. “The new systems that Tony and his team will enact allow our stores to seamlessly deliver on our brand promise for every employee and customer.”

With plans to open 150 new stores in 2017, averaging at least one opening every three days, the company is on track to reach over 900 locations by year’s end.

Johnny Rocket’s International Expansion

Johnny Rockets continues to experience international growth, opening new restaurants in Latin America and Asia and signing development deals to open restaurants in the Caribbean, Singapore, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Recent openings include the brand’s first restaurants in Peru and Bangladesh, while also reaching more than 25 restaurants in both Mexico and South Korea, crediting its flexible prototypes and refreshed Diner 2.0 design for its continued growth.

As part of this strategic growth, Johnny Rockets opened new restaurants in Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay, Peru, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and South Korea. Many of these new restaurants are located in malls, as the brand has solidified itself as a leader in this niche market due to its flexible footprint and offering of better burgers, shakes and fries to shoppers.

“Johnny Rockets has grown tremendously over the last year, opening 61 restaurants in 2016, which is an exceptionally exciting feat for a brand with a 30-year history,” said James Walker, President of Global Operations and Development. “This is in large part due to our Diner 2.0 refresh and the versatility of our brand and prototypes. Our flexible footprint and corporate support team provides franchise partners both the structure and options they need to ensure Johnny Rockets succeeds in their market.”

The all-American brand started 2017 with key development agreements, partnering with groups to bring Johnny Rockets to the Caribbean, Singapore,Switzerland and the United Kingdom. The Diner 2.0 brand refresh played a key role in Johnny Rockets’ recent growth, evolving the brand from a traditional diner experience to a modern, fresh design and environment. It includes new décor and high efficiency kitchen equipment, allowing restaurants to offer the brand’s signature made-to-order burgers, shakes and crispy fries at faster speeds without sacrificing the quality.

Johnny Rockets’ franchise partners currently operate more than 170 restaurants outside the U.S., and the brand plans to continue its aggressive expansion in 2017, with plans to open in more than a dozen new countries, including Australia, Guyana, Sri Lanka and Uruguay.

Chicken Salad Chick Recognized for Fast Growth

Chicken Salad Chick was recognized as the No. 1 fastest-growing business owned or operated by a University of Georgia graduate during the 2017 Bulldog 100 Celebration on Feb. 4 at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis in downtown Atlanta. The Bulldog 100, coordinated by the UGA Alumni Association, recognizes the 100 fastest-growing businesses owned or operated by UGA graduates.

Ruth Bartlett, president of the UGA Alumni Association Board (left), and Meredith Gurley Johnson, executive director of the UGA Alumni Association (right), with Scott Deviney, Chicken Salad Chick president and CEO in the middle.

Chicken Salad Chick, led by CEO Scott Deviney, operates 65 restaurants and has sold 146 franchises in eight states, selling chicken salad in more than 12 flavor profiles. In 2016, Chicken Salad Chick landed at No. 37 on Inc. Magazine’s annual list of the 500 fastest-growing companies in the United States, with a growth rate of more than 6,000 percent in the past three years. Deviney received his degree in economics from the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business in 1995.

“It’s an honor to be recognized by the UGA Alumni Association as leading the fastest growing business owned or operated by a UGA graduate,” said Deviney. “I’m thrilled to have shared the stage with other UGA alumni who lead prosperous enterprises from several industries across the nation.”

Approximately 490 nominations were submitted for the 2017 Bulldog 100. The class includes companies of all sizes, providing services and products in a variety of industries, including real estate, law, IT, consulting, retail and pest control. The average compounded annual growth rate for this year’s Bulldog 100 businesses was 44 percent.

Tropical Smoothie Will Expand in Texas

Tropical Smoothie Cafe signed a franchise development agreement with Glen Johnson to expand the brand’s presence throughout the state ofTexas. Johnson will be opening 20 new cafes, the first of which opened earlier this month in Lubbock, TX.

“Glen Johnson has been an integral part Tropical Smoothie’s continued success and franchise development since signing his first agreement in 2011. Over the past several years, Glen has become one of our largest operators, fueling our growth and introducing the brand to new markets nationwide,” said Mike Rotondo, CEO of Tropical Smoothie Cafe. “Glen’s passion for and belief in Tropical Smoothie is what we look for in our franchise owners, and we’re eager to see what the future brings as he continues to propel his business and the company forward.”

Glen Johnson, president of Little-Rock based company Rockland Ventures, joined the brand as a multi-unit developer in 2011 and currently has 22 open locations in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas. With deep roots in the industry and a wealth of knowledge and experience, Johnson will continue his mission of providing customers with innovative healthy food and smoothie options as he opens new restaurants throughout Texas.

“I’m incredibly proud to be part of a brand that is not only committed to the customer experience, but also to the success of its franchisees,” said Johnson. “Tropical Smoothie experienced significant franchise growth last year and I’m eager to continue that momentum with the opening of new restaurants across Texas.” 

This new agreement in Texas was fueled by Tropical Smoothie Cafe’s accelerated franchise development plans in 2017. On the heels of one of the strongest years in the company’s 20-year history, the award-winning brand successfully propelled its expansion and grew its presence in key markets nationwide, including Charleston, South Carolina; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Dallas, Texas; and Southern California. 

This year, the food and smoothie franchise plans to open 100 restaurants nationwide and currently has franchise opportunities across the U.S. in markets such as Indianapolis, Nashville, Houston, Dallas, Cincinnati and Minneapolis, among others. By 2020, Tropical Smoothie Cafe plans to have 1,000 stores open across the U.S.  Tropical Smoothie Cafe’s aggressive franchise growth is backed by the entrepreneurs at the BIP Franchise Accelerator, a division of venture capital firm BIP Capital, which invested in the brand in 2010. BIP Capital has invested more than $250 million in emerging, high-growth brands across the franchising, software, and technology and consumer products industries. BIP Capital created the BIP Franchise Accelerator to leverage its leadership team’s deep franchise experience to help emerging brands accelerate their growth. In addition to Tropical Smoothie Cafe, the BIP Franchise Accelerator’s portfolio includes Tin Drum Asian Kitchen, which has grown to 11 locations in Georgia.

Pie Five Opens in Pennsylvania

Pie Five Pizza Co. is celebrating life, liberty and the pursuit of pizza with the grand opening of its first location in the Keystone State! The fast casual restaurant, known for customizable pizzas prepared in five minutes or less complete with unlimited toppings and fresh ingredients, is located at 580 Walker Rd.

Pie Five franchisee, Peter Ballantine, is a former McDonald’s franchisee with more than 20 years of experience in the restaurant industry. TheChambersburg location marks the first installment of the development deal with Ballantine that includes up to 34 locations in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

“There’s no restaurant in Chambersburg that can deliver a hot, bubbly pie in just five minutes like we can,” said Ballantine. “Our speedy service, fresh selection of toppings and friendly atmosphere is sure to be a winning combination for hungry residents.” 

In celebration of the grand opening, Pie Five donated a percentage of proceeds from preopening events to the Four Diamonds Fund, an organization that provides superior care and support to juvenile cancer patients at Penn State Children’s Hospital. With over 100 locations nationwide, Pie Five’s fast casual concept provides guests with a fully customizable experience from start to finish. 

Delight Acquires 30 Wendy’s 

Delight Restaurant Group announced today the December 2016 acquisition of 30 Wendy’s® restaurants in the Virginia Beach – Norfolk metropolitan area. As part of the transaction, Delight Restaurant Group plans to build several new restaurants in the area and remodel certain acquired restaurants in Wendy’s new Image Activation format.

The 30 restaurants produce approximately $50 million in gross annual revenue and have over 1,000 employees. The acquisition was completed with a subsidiary of The Wendy’s Company and is part of Wendy’s previously-announced System Optimization initiative to reduce company-operated restaurant ownership to approximately five percent of the total system.

Delight Restaurant Group is a new, growth-oriented franchisee in the Wendy’s system founded by Managing Partners Andrew and Richard Krumholz in 2016. The company plans to continue expanding through acquisitions of existing Wendy’s restaurants and new unit development.

Andrew and Richard Krumholz, Managing Partners of Delight Restaurant Group: “We are excited to join the Wendy’s family. We strongly believe in Wendy’s vision for Image Activation and new restaurant development. Since inception, the Wendy’s brand has stood for quality. We look forward to making quality central to everything we do—from the food we serve to the organization we build.”

Halal Guys Opens in Newark

The  nationwide brick-and-mortar expansion of New York City’s halal food cart concept continues with the opening of The Halal Guys Gyro and Chicken at 72 Halsey Street in Newark, NJ. 

Located in the heart of the Teachers’ Village neighborhood and close to area landmarks NJPAC, Prudential Center and the Newark Museum, The Halal Guys at Halsey Street promises to be as immensely popular among families, students and business people as the team’s recent East Brunswick, NJ opening, delighting each and every one with unparalleled hospitality and mouthwatering food at great prices. Delivery and catering will also be available.

The Halal Guys began in 1990, when the three founding partners opened up a hot dog cart on West 53rd & 6th Avenue in New York City. As business grew, they recognized a huge demand from Muslim cab drivers looking for a halal food meal. That is when the famous platter of chicken and gyro over rice was born. And let’s not forget about the famous white and red sauces!

Pollo Campero Strong Results

Pollo Campero, posted a strong performance for 2016, marking the fifth consecutive year the Latin chicken chain has posted positive sales growth, and the first time the company surpassed $100 million in sales in the United States. The news comes as Campero looks to continue its sales momentum in 2017, while enhancing its Latin menu and expanding its restaurant footprint.

“We couldn’t be more excited to have seen another year of solid growth,” said Tim Pulido, president and CEO of Pollo Campero International. “To see growth at a time when the restaurant industry is struggling is already a positive, but to experience 20 straight quarters with an average 8 percent growth rate is hard to do — we are extremely proud of the work we have done.”

“Besides the challenging state of the industry, we knew we were rolling over double digit comparable growth from 2015, so it was important to us to remain focused on our strategic growth avenues to maintain our momentum,” shared Pulido. In 2015, the brand posted 10 percent same-store sales growth, the brand has averaged an eight percent comparable sales growth since 2012. “Growing our existing stores at an 8 percent rate, while growing our restaurant units by 16 percent and total sales by 24 percent, is a feat we are extremely proud of—especially when we opened new stores in existing markets.”

Pollo Campero has focused on strengthening its Latin positioning and attention on millennials to maintain its brand momentum. From menu and new product innovation, technology and new brand image, Campero continues to fuel its growth by growing its millennial customer base.

“We focused on enhancing the Campero experience, providing unique Latin meals at a good value, combined with investments in technology and innovation—everything played an important role in Campero’s growing popularity among millennials,” said Federico Valiente, Pollo Campero International brand lead. “Right now, millennials make up 64 percent of Campero’s customer base and as we look ahead, we remain focused on understanding their evolving needs to deliver an attractive and relevant value proposition.”

“We are in the midst of a very exciting time in this company’s growth,” said Pulido. “Our goal is to double the size of the business in the next three years. It’s an ambitious plan, but we feel we have the pieces and people in place to reach that goal.” 

Campero’s growth plan includes expansion via company-owned restaurants and franchising. As the brand sets out to double the size of its U.S. footprint, it will remain focused on select markets across the country. One of the company’s biggest initiatives for 2017 is to build its franchise pipeline as it looks to aggressively expand its franchise network in California, South Texas,New Jersey and Atlanta. “We have developed an attractive value proposition for prospective franchisees. As we build our franchise network, we place special emphasis on making sure new franchisees are a good fit for our brand beyond financials, to ensure we deliver the right experience for our guests, to fuel our momentum and achieve our ambitious goals,” finished Pulido.  

MOD Adds Franchise Partner

MOD Super Fast Pizza Holdings added its ninth franchise partner – Southern Pie, LLC – who will develop MOD stores in Georgia and Alabama. Southern Pie, LLC, led by Robbie Hill and Kimberly Hill Hayden, plan to open their first MOD stores in 2017. The father-daughter team are multi-industry entrepreneurs who have built and operated successful construction and healthcare companies, and also operate the Bojangles’ business in the same region. 

“What appealed to us about MOD is their progressive approach to hiring along with their strong focus on a people-first culture. We are excited to make MOD the employer of choice for the region, knowing that if we attract and develop an outstanding team, we can deliver an incredible in-store experience,” said Kimberly Hayden, CEO and Partner of Southern Pie, LLC. 

MOD was founded in 2008 by entrepreneurs Scott and Ally Svenson, and was inspired by the couple’s love of Italian street style pizza, their desire for authentic, affordable and fast dining options for their busy family and the idea that a great company could be built around people. The Svensons bring their experience from building two highly successful retail concepts in the United Kingdom – Seattle Coffee Company and Carluccio’s. MOD’s team of executives and advisors bring experience from iconic brands such as Starbucks, Disney and Dunkin Donuts.

“We are pleased to have Southern Pie, LLC join our group of talented and passionate multi-unit operators. As we continue our expansion across the U.S., we are confident that our development strategy of company-owned stores coupled with select franchise partners will be key to maintaining consistent execution while sustaining our purpose-driven culture,” said Scott Svenson, co-founder and CEO of MOD. “Most importantly, Robbie and Kimberly share our commitment to growing a business that is focused on making a positive social impact.” 

MOD has over 195 locations in 20 states including Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin, as well as five locations in the UK.

Captain D’s Eyes Florida

Captain D’s plans for continued development in Florida, targeting Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota and Bradenton to expand its presence through franchise growth. Captain D’s currently has 30 restaurants located throughout the state, opening three locations in North Florida last year and signing a multi-unit develop agreement to bring additional locations to Orlando. 

Captain D’s aggressive growth plans for Florida are part of the brand’s overall franchise development plans for this year. This expansion is further driving Captain D’s ongoing success, achieving its fourth successive year of record high system-wide AUV in 2016. Captain D’s also saw a fourth-quarter system-wide same-store sales increase of 1.3 percent and a 2.3 percent system-wide same-store sales increase for the entire fiscal year, marking the company’s 21st consecutive quarter and sixth consecutive year of positive growth. 

“Captain D’s experienced tremendous growth last year and as we ride that momentum in 2017, we’ve made Florida a priority market for franchise expansion,” said Michael Arrowsmith, chief development officer of Captain D’s. “With existing restaurants in the area consistently performing well, we’re eager to catapult our presence even more in the region, and encourage qualified and experienced franchise candidates interested in joining a nationally recognized brand with a proven record of success to visit us during the upcoming Tampa Franchise Expo.”

Those interested in developing Captain D’s restaurants in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota and Bradenton are encouraged to contact Mark Levis, senior director of franchise development at (615) 603-8373 or (615) 231-2006 to discuss opportunities. Levis will be at booth 301 at the Tampa Franchise Expo on Saturday, Feb. 18 and Sunday, Feb. 19 from 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. at the Tampa Convention Center, located at 333 S. Franklin Street.

Captain D’s success in 2016 was further driven by its seafood expertise and product innovation, with the introduction of new menu items including Nashville Hot Fish, Home-Style Flounder, Coconut Shrimp and Salmon Cakes. Coupled with its menu diversification and expanded array of offerings, Captain D’s credits its new restaurant beach design with contributing to the brand’s compounding success. To date, nearly 60 percent of all restaurants have been reimaged to the brand’s new vibrant, coastal design, with another 50 locations to be remodeled by the end of this year. With these efforts, Captain D’s has remained true to what it does best — serving high-quality seafood with warm hospitality at an affordable price in a welcoming atmosphere.

With 518 restaurants in 21 states, Captain D’s is the fast-casual seafood leader and number one seafood franchise in America ranked by average unit volume. The company is currently seeking single- and multi-unit operators to join in the brand’s rapid expansion.

Newk’s 2016 Results

Newk’s Eatery experienced continued growth in 2016, including six new area development agreements that will add more than 40 new restaurants to the brand’s regional footprint.

The company’s rapid expansion in 2016, with 16 new restaurant openings and three new market entries, has created 48 percent new store growth in two years. In December 2016 and January 2017 alone, the company signed three new development agreements with retail and restaurant franchise industry veterans CTM Hospitality, C&P Retail Investments and Eagle Dining LLC.    

CTM Hospitality is expanding Newk’s presence in North Texas, coveringTexarkana, Greenville and Rockwall, while C&P Retail Investments will further develop the state of Georgia in Albany, Warner-Robbins and Valdosta. Eagle Dining LLC has inked a deal to open four restaurants in the Fort Myers/Naples, Florida, DMA. Large area development agreements for Indianapolis and Northern Virginia rounded out the new market penetration for 2016.

“When we founded Newk’s in 2004, we committed to a rate of growth that allowed us to maintain our high standards for food, service quality and thoughtful development,” said Newk’s CEO and co-founder Chris Newcomb. “The Newk’s Eatery concept has been developed and refined to meet the needs of consumers and franchise operators alike, truly carving out a unique point of difference.”

In addition to franchise-based expansion, the chain will continue corporate growth in Jacksonville and Gainesville, Florida.

DOCASA Expands Brand

DOCASA, Inc., through its award winning subsidiary, Department of Coffee and Social Affairs Limited, opened its newest coffee shop in Bristol, UK, as part of its continuing national expansion plan.

The launch of the Bristol outlet brings the total number of the Company’s coffee shops in UK to 13 operating, 3 under construction, and 6 in advanced negotiations, totalling 22 sites – which would indicate expansion of greater than 100 percent in a one year period, with all of the shops in prime locations or destination sites, attracting increasing foot traffic. “We are tapping into the ever-growing demand in the UK for quality, specialty coffee, and our national roll-out plans are proceeding as expected,” said DOCASA Chairman, Stefan Allesch-Taylor.

Department of Coffee and Social Affairs’ Bristol coffee shop, which provides both indoor and outdoor seating, is located in the destination Cabot Circus Shopping Centre.

DOCASA’s President & CEO, Ashley Lopez, commented, “Bristol is a city on the rise, welcoming more and more people, and it consistently performs highly on the intake of tourists and commuters from other parts of the UK, making it an ideal location for our newest Department of Coffee and Social Affairs coffee shop.”

Classic Rock Plots Expansion

Classic Rock Coffee Company awarded the Area Franchise Development Rights for Florida and Georgia to Area Developers Jerry Cohn, David Tannen and Tom Herter who include in their track record helping develop franchised brands like Pak Mail Centers of America and Century 21 Real Estate over the past three decades.  They plan on expanding Classic Rock Coffee rapidly by offering single and multi-unit development opportunities.

Cohn said, “This is the most exciting and rewarding franchise opportunity that I have seen in the past 20 years. It has huge upside potential. Customers ‘love’ all of the coffee choices, the classic rock themed menu, plus the classic rock ambiance. And the proof is the customers keep coming back for more!” 

Classic Rock Coffee Company is pre- approved for SBA loans. They are looking for franchise owners with a minimum net worth of $400,000 and $50-100,000 in cash, who appreciate their “cool factor” comfy sofas and chairs, guitars hanging on the walls, plus classic rock music piped in from their very own radio station.

East Coast Wings + Grill Refresh

East Coast Wings + Grill, closed out 2016 complete with a brand reinvention. Dubbed East Coast Wings + Grill 2.0, the refresh has provided a modern comfort dining experience including a new logo, menu items and revamped interior. Delivering two units implementing the new interior and décor in the fourth quarter of 2016 alone, the brand currently has four locations in construction for 2017.

East Coast Wings + Grill

With 44 units open or in construction nationwide, the refresh is the next step to elevate the brand to the 100+-unit mark. To be implemented in all locations moving forward, the first restaurants debuted in Atlanta, Ga. and Harrisburg, NC. In construction for Q1 and Q2 2017 openings, locations in Burlington & Greensboro, NC, Memphis, Tenn. and Lynchburg, Va. will also implement the new interior. Additionally, all existing locations will eventually convert to adopt the new look. Upon entering new locations, guests can expect a more rustic and industrial styled space appealing to both the brand’s current customer base, as well as younger millennials.

With the evolved look, East Coast Wings + Grill revamped the food and drink experience as well. The food enhancement began with the 2016 fall menu debut and will conclude the transition with the 2017 spring menu. Further, East Coast Wings + Grill will be converting the beer offerings to Craft style beer with more than 65 options from local, regional and national breweries.

“Developed after analyzing the brand and new growth strategies, East Coast Wings + Grill 2.0 has helped to elevate every platform of the brand while decreasing costs,” stated Sam Ballas, CEO of East Coast Wings + Grill. “By securing national contracts, exclusive FF&E dealers and changes to our materials and development processes, we’ve decreased an average cost approximately 18 percent.”

The 2.0 look has taken the new markets by storm—elevating Harrisburg, NC to potentially unseat the brands 10 year running number one location in the country in gross sales and at 1,000 square feet smaller footprint. “It takes the community, the brand and the on-the-ground operator to produce this style of trajectory. If they sustain current sale trajectory this month, it would be record numbers for any casual dining measurement at their capacity in the last 15 years. These franchisees execute by the book, always embracing the brand’s initiatives and caring for the community,” added Ballas.

“The new look has been incredibly well-received,” stated multi-unit franchisee JD Penland. “East Coast Wings + Grill’s vision in assuring we stay relevant is evident with what they asked us to develop. We are already planning for our fourth location in 2018.”

2016 was also a banner year for the brand’s unit economics. As reported by the franchise system, the average unit level EBITDA was 18.3 percent. “Given the casual dining sector’s overall growth numbers, I am very pleased with this number – we had an extremely small drop, approximately 70 basis points over 2015 with our owner-operator units. This strong performance is a direct result of our franchisees sticking to what the system’s historical data offers them for operations, and a positive mark on my Unit Level Economics Division,” stated Ballas.

With more than 60 locations currently operating or in various stages of development, East Coast Wings + Grill plans to open two additional locations by year-end. Specifically, the franchise is looking to expand its national footprint in Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

Sub Zero Likes Texas

Sub Zero Ice Cream plans to significantly expand its presence in the Lone Star State over the next 10 years, with the goal of opening at least 75 new franchised locations in Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston. The brand is currently seeking qualified franchisees to bring the concept to these metro markets and surrounding areas.

Sub Zero area developer Ally Lakhpaty, CPA, has identified Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston for franchise expansion due to the brand’s 10 successful stores across the state, including six in Houston. In fact, three of the current Texas stores consistently rank among the top-performing stores in the system. Additional factors for development include the growth of the metropolitan population, strong economic activity, availability of prime real estate and an overall friendly environment for entrepreneurs and small businesses.

“We are the largest supplier of liquid nitrogen ice cream in Texas and residents have come to know and love Sub Zero for our ultra-smooth, custom-made product,” said Lakhpaty. “I look forward to spreading that brand recognition and excitement across the entire state, as we’re currently looking for people who are eager and ready to get started with our unique brand. We have a lot of the legwork done for new franchisees in terms of distribution and a liquid nitrogen supplier.”

Sub Zero currently has more than 50 domestic stores, as well as locations in China and the United Arab Emirates. The company plans to open 50 additional stores over the next 18 months.

Wendy’s Goes for Smaller Birds

Wendy’s is further enhancing the flavor and tenderness of its chicken by partnering with its suppliers to use 20 percent smaller birds—far surpassing the standards of other restaurant brands. While chicken-quality issues around toughness have been reported across the industry, this change will significantly and immediately improve the tenderness and juiciness of chicken for Wendy’s U.S.-based customers.*

Over the past year, Wendy’s has improved cooking procedures, launched a better-tasting and better-for-you Grilled Chicken Sandwich, and is now making a nearly $30 million system-wide investment to implement the change to smaller birds across all U.S. Wendy’s restaurants. While the size of its sandwiches will remain the same, the chicken Wendy’s serves will become more delicious and tender.

“The quality of our food sets us apart from everyone else,” said Todd Penegor, president and CEO at Wendy’s.  “We’re making this change because we’ve seen that smaller birds provide a big benefit for our customers who deserve to eat the most tender and juicy chicken.”

Wendy’s journey to improve the chicken that it serves every day has included:

  • Recrafting the Grilled Chicken Sandwich with a better-for-you option that tastes great. Wendy’s thaws the chicken prior to cooking, creating a delicious sear and a more flavorful chicken breast. The chicken is served on a new multi-grain bun with a fresh cut tomato and spring mix. 
  • While Wendy’s chicken has always been MSG free, Wendy’s also removed artificial flavors, preservatives and colors from artificial sources.
  • Wendy’s created one of the industry’s first Animal Welfare Advisory Councils in 2001 to review and strengthen animal care standards by suppliers. Many of these standards were later adopted industry-wide.
  • On chicken, Wendy’s employs a team of in-house animal welfare experts who strictly audit chicken welfare from hatchery to broiler house to processing facility, ensuring suppliers provide carefully formulated and nutritional feed, access to clean water, adequate room to grow, veterinary oversight and proper handling. Wendy’s auditors will work closely with suppliers to ensure implementation of the new bird size specifications.

In 2016, Wendy’s committed to eliminate the use of all antibiotics important to human medicine in its chicken by the end of 2017.

Wendy’s suppliers are working hand-in-hand with the brand’s supply chain co-op, quality assurance and animal welfare experts to implement the changes across the entire U.S. supply of Wendy’s premium chicken breasts through the second quarter of 2017 and all suppliers are already raising birds to the new specification.

* Wendy’s restaurants in Canada have long sourced from smaller birds and have enjoyed consistently high levels of customer satisfaction.

Introducing the TaCoat

To keep Canadians warm this winter, Taco Bell partners with celebrity Toronto designer Hayley Elsaesser to launch an exclusive TaCoat – the first ever winter coat inspired by Taco Bell’s iconic Crunchy Taco. The one of a kind TaCoat is a convertible jacket and the perfect choice to keep the Taco Bell super fan warm this winter. Hayley Elsaesser is known for her vibrant patterns and imaginative designs, and she maintains the same passion for fun, bold choices as Taco Bell – the TaCoat exemplifies that.

What is the TaCoat? Along with Taco Bell and its fans, Hayley has been working hard to design the perfect coat that highlights Taco Bell’s appreciation for fashion and art, while delivering to fans something they can truly be proud of. It features special insulated utility pockets, and although they might be the perfect shape to stash a Taco or Fire Sauce, they’ll easily fit all the essentials from your mobile phone and ID to keys, pens, gum – you name it! For extra warmth, the TaCoat is made up of two layers including an outer shell featuring an illustrated taco print on a wavy background in the iconic Taco Bell purple. The detachable inner layer features shades of teal green and aqua, offering both an extra boost of warmth and vibrant pop of colour.

“The love that our fans have for Taco Bell, as well as the arts, inspired us to do something special and unlike anything we’ve done before. We set out to create a uniquely Taco Bell Canada coat to help keep one lucky super fan warm this winter. It was an easy decision to partner with Hayley Elsaesser to bring our vision to life,” said Katelyn Zborowski, Associate Marketing Manager for Taco Bell Canada. “We’re very excited to unveil the finished design and give our fans the chance to win the TaCoat for themselves.”

Not only did Taco Bell create the TaCoat, but they’ve engaged their fans to help along the way.  On February 6, the brand hosted a live sketch session on their Facebook page where fans could interact with a sketch artist in real-time and help add features, contribute design ideas, and have their say on what the TaCoat should be. 

McDonalds Gets Crabby

McDonald’s restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area are currently testing a new menu item: the McDonald’s Crab Sandwich. Made with Snow Crab meat on a sliced sourdough bun, this local favorite is being served in four restaurants in San Jose.

The Crab Sandwich features crab meat mixed with diced celery and seasoned mayo dressing, served on a bed of romaine lettuce and tomato slices on a toasted sourdough bun, brushed with herbed butter. The McDonald’s Crab Sandwich is part of a continuing trend to experiment with regional flavors and local Bay Area tastes. McDonald’s of the Greater Bay Area worked with chef and TV personality Ryan Scott to develop the Crab Sandwich.

“After the overwhelming success of our local favorite, McDonald’s Gilroy Garlic Fries, we wanted to test our own take on the beloved crab sandwich,” said Nick Vergis, McDonald’s Co-op President, San Francisco Bay Area. “We’re excited for our customers to try it and share their feedback.”

“McDonald’s is committed to creating quality food with quality ingredients,” Chef Michael Haracz, Manager of Culinary Innovation at McDonald’s USA. “We’re very proud of the work done by local franchisees to innovate and create a new regional menu item that is so iconic in the Bay Area.”

Pending positive customer feedback, the Crab Sandwich will be available at nearly 250 McDonald’s restaurants across the San Francisco Bay Area later this year.