MRM Franchise Feed: Celebrating Restaurant Management at Church’s and World’s Fastest Pizza Maker

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

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Honoring Employee Dedication

If anything has changed more drastically in the workplace in the last several decades is employee and employer loyalty. It is rare for companies to be able to retain employees longer than five or 10 years. But this is not the case with Church’s Chicken. The restaurant chain continues to celebrate long-term employees like Diane Liddell, who recently had a 40-year anniversary with the company. With her high energy, outgoing personality and a can-do attitude, Liddell has made a dramatic difference not just with guests and her employer, but also in the lives of employees through her motto: “never ask an employee to do something that you would not do.”

Diane Liddell

Church’s® proudly celebrated Liddell’s success with a surprise bash at the Vicksburg restaurant in Jackson, MS. All the Restaurant Managers in her market, family and the other Market Leaders from Baton Rouge and New Orleans joined to honor her accomplishments.

“Diane is dedicated to her job and wants her team to be the same and be the best they can be. She is always willing to learn and cascade all her learnings to her team to make each of them successful,” said Jorge Sierra, Zone Director at Church’s.“Over the course of her career Liddell has trained and developed many employees. Some of them have gone on to become surgery techs, teachers, regional managers and counselors and some even bring their kids to work at Church’s to instill work ethics in them.”

If you ask Liddell she will say that her role has not changed since she started with the company in 1978 at the age of 16, when she lived one block away from a Church’s Chicken.. Every day after school she would visit the restaurant and beg the manager for a job. The manager finally hired her, and Liddell has made history at the company since. She moved up the ranks from her first job as a Team Member to other positions including Team Trainer, Shift Leader, Assistant Manager, Restaurant Manager and Training Manager. Five years ago, she was promoted to Market Leader in charge of eight restaurants in the Jackson and Monroe area. Her philosophy remains the same: “Treat others the way you want to be treated and make a difference in someone’s life every day,” said Liddell, now a grandmother of two boys and three girls. “And don’t serve anyone anything that you would not serve to your grandkid

Liddell is a contributing member of her community. She sponsors meals twice a year with the American Red Cross and the Veteran’s Hospital and has helped build a home with Habitat for Humanity. She donates to Toys for Tots, helps families in need during Christmas and provides meals once a month to the Springhill Christian Center bible class. She has also partnered with the Jackson Fire Department to sponsor a public academy for kids.

“Liddell has been a great team player and important leader that has impacted many employees and the community over the past 40 years and we are lucky to have her,” said Sierra.

Cinco de Mayo is Record Breaker for Barberitos

Barberitos  had its two best sales days ever during this year’s Cinco de Mayo celebration. Gross sales on Saturday, May 5, broke the previous storewide sales record that was set only the day before. To help boost sales, many of the franchise’s locations chose to feature specific promotions to help commemorate the annual celebration. In addition, system-wide promotions included Double Rewards Progress and Free Small Cheese Dip for the restaurant’s app users.


The majority of the franchise’s 52 stores had positive sales growth for the week, which is a trend that will help the company realize its goal of increasing overall yearly sales by 10%, according to Downing Barber, CEO and founder of Barberitos.

“Eclipsing our company-wide sales record on back-to-back days is impressive,” says Barber. “It’s a testament to the hard work our franchisees put in every single day, and further proof that consumers appreciate fresh, healthy food options — no matter the occasion.”

Founded in 2000 by CEO Downing Barber, Barberitos has grown to 52 locations in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia. The Southwestern Grille & Cantina’s specialties include burritos, quesadillas, tacos, nachos and homemade salsas, as well as fresh cheese dip and hand-smashed guacamole. 

Pizza Inn Opens First PIE Location In Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport

Passengers flying in and out of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) now have the perfect way to satisfy their craving for exceptional pizza. Pizza Inn has just opened the first-ever location of its new kiosk prototype, PIE, in Terminal 3, next to Chili’s.

“We are absolutely thrilled to open our first PIE kiosk in the Fort Lauderdale Airport,” said President of Pizza Inn Bob Bafundo. “The PIE kiosk is a new way to serve customers the same iconic, quality pizza they have come to expect from Pizza Inn, but in a faster setting, which is why it’s perfect for the airport.”

Pizza Inn is working with Delaware North on the project

“Pizza Inn has developed a platform and innovative concept that allows operators to serve a high-quality product in a small space, while also providing flexibility as needs change within an airport environment,” said Kevin Kelly, president of Delaware North’s travel division. “We are excited to be part of the PIE concept kick-off at FLL, and we know travelers will love the convenient service style as much as the fresh-made pizzas.”

 ‘Mr. Taco’ Award Winner

Jim Creel, CEO of Taco John’s, recently announced that Illinois franchisee Alex Habeeb is the winner of the 2018 “Mr. Taco” award.

Currently the owner of two Illinois Taco John’s restaurants – one in Bourbonnais and one in Bradley – Habeeb moved to the U.S. from Beirut, Lebanon when he was 17, and has been with Taco John’s since 1977. He started as a crew member, was promoted to management, and eventually became an owner. On the way, Habeeb met his wife Lisa who was also working at Taco John’s.

“Alex has a wonderful history with Taco John’s and has made huge contributions to our company,” said Creel. “He was the primary champion of our steak product which has been an overwhelming success, he invented the Meat and Potato Burrito, his Bourbonnais restaurant was featured on the Discovery Channel last year and his passion for the Taco John’s brand is unsurpassed. For these reasons and more, Alex deserves to be this year’s Mr. Taco.”

Reimplemented last year by Creel, the Mr./Ms. Taco Award identifies and recognizes stakeholders who best contribute to the growth of Taco John’s. The recipient embodies the entrepreneurial spirit responsible for making the company what it is, by contributing to the system beyond owning and/or operating a Taco John’s restaurant.

“I was really surprised when Jim announced my name for the award because there were so many people in the room who deserved it,” said Habeeb. “The best part was when my entire family walked in; my heart was full of joy. I arrived here in 1977 with $2,000 in my pocket and I met a gentleman who believed in me – Bob Steele, one of the original Taco John’s franchisees. He’s not with us anymore but he mentored me and many others. So I owe this to him, to God, and to my family. Additionally, we are backed by a great leader – Jim Creel. You can’t find a more honest man than Jim and I wouldn’t be where I am today without him and my amazing staff in Illinois. I’m humbled and honored. Thank you, Taco John’s.”

“In our small town of Bourbonnais, Taco John’s has become a staple in the community because of our Dad,” said Alex Habeeb’s daughter, Alexandra. “He is the definition of the American dream and has taught our family that with passion, integrity, faith in God, and hard work we can achieve anything. He is an inspiration to all of us. Not only is our father the best of the best in this organization but he’s also the best husband and Dad in the world.”

Stars for Heroes

CKE Restaurants Holdings, Inc.,  parent company of Carl’s Jr.® and Hardee’s® restaurants, kicked off its eighth annual Stars for Heroes™ fundraising campaign  at participating restaurants nationwide.

The program, which has raised more than $7.5 million since its inception in 2011, promotes the compassion and generosity of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s customers, franchisees and employees to support our nation’s active-duty military, veterans and their families. Funds raised during this year’s campaign will support national charity partners, Stand Up and Play Foundation and USA Cares, as well as other regional and local military-focused charities in the communities Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s serve. Franchisees have nominated local charities to benefit from up to 50% of the funds raised in their stores.

To participate, restaurant guests can donate $1 or more in support of military charities. For each donation, guests receive a commemorative, star-shaped cut-out to personalize and display on the walls in the restaurant. They will also receive restaurant coupons valued at more than $10 to use toward future purchases.

“Last year was my first Stars for Heroes campaign as CEO, and it made me incredibly proud to be a part of the entire Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s family and to continue the long-standing tradition of supporting America’s military community,” said Jason Marker, chief executive officer for CKE. “This year, we hope to surpass our annual fundraising goal and invite everyone to honor our men and women in uniform by visiting their local Carl’s Jr. or Hardee’s restaurant and making a donation to this outstanding cause.”

“As founder of the Stand Up and Play Foundation, I remain grateful that our foundation continues to be among the recipients of the funds raised by the Stars for Heroes campaign,” said Anthony Netto, founder of Stand Up and Play Foundation. “The entire CKE Restaurants family has generously supported our foundation year after year, allowing us to expand programs and touch more veterans’ lives across the country. We are excited to kick off the 2018 campaign.”

“For seven years, CKE and USA Cares have joined forces to change the lives of post-9/11 veterans and their families,” said Hank Patton, President/CEO for USA Cares. “With the help of the CKE Stars for Heroes program, USA Cares is able to provide families facing the threat of hunger, eviction, foreclosure and other hardships with relief and an opportunity to recover. We look forward to this year’s campaign and are moved by the generosity of the entire CKE family.”

Since 2011, the Stars for Heroes program has supported more than 200 U.S. military charities nationwide. Stars for Heroes is made possible through generous contributions by CKE’s franchise community—The Independent Hardee’s Franchise Association (IHFA) and Star Franchise Association (SFA)—along with company employees and loyal customers. Private donations and in-kind support are provided by CKE partners and suppliers, including KDM POP Solutions Group.

World’s Fastest Pizza Maker

Domino’s Pizza crowned Werner Lomker the 2018 World’s Fastest Pizza Maker among 9,000 cheering spectators at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas on May 15, top photo. Lomker, a franchise owner in Canada, made three large pizzas in an impressive 57 seconds – that’s equal to making each pizza in roughly 19 seconds. Lomker won $3,000 in prize money, a trophy and the coveted title of World’s Fastest Pizza Maker, presented by Domino’s President and CEO Patrick Doyle.

“Winning the World’s Fastest Pizza Maker competition is absolutely amazing,” said Lomker. “I feel very fortunate to bring an honor like this home to Canada for the first time. It is such a blessing that I get to share this joy with my family, team members, coaches and all of team Canada. They have continuously stood by me for over a decade and provided me with unconditional encouragement and support.”

World’s Fastest Pizza Maker finalists came from Domino’s stores all around the world to compete. They had to hand-stretch fresh dough, sauce and top three large pizzas – one pepperoni, one mushroom and one cheese – as quickly as possible. While speed was important, it was not the only part of the equation in determining the World’s Fastest Pizza Maker. This year, participants were graded on three criteria: dough/sauce, portioning of toppings and placement. Quality was scrutinized as two judges, highly qualified in Domino’s standard pizza-making practices, inspected the stretching of the dough, application of the sauce and portioning of toppings during the competition. If the pizza was not perfect, time penalties were added to the final time or the pizza was disqualified.  

Lomker has been a part of the Domino’s brand his entire life, as his father is also a franchise owner. Lomker’s earliest memories are of time spent passing out flyers and helping his parents at special events. His first in-store experience came assisting his parents in the stores during rush hour. Lomker now owns 10 Domino’s locations throughout Canada.

“Winning the title this year was especially important, because my father, who is battling pancreatic cancer, was able to be there as well,” Lomker said. “While I received this award, he was inducted in the Canadian’s Chairman’s Circle, a prestigious award given to exemplary franchise owners. I’m so proud of our accomplishments and thrilled we could share in each other’s joys.”

Domino’s began the World’s Fastest Pizza Maker competition in 1982 to honor pizza makers who best exemplify the company’s philosophy of keeping efficiency in the store to allow sufficient time for safe, timely pizza delivery.

“We are thrilled to award the title of Domino’s 2018 World’s Fastest Pizza Maker to Werner Lomker,” said Doyle. “Domino’s and its franchise owners employ some of the greatest pizza makers in the world. The emphasis is on the quality of the pizza, while also using expertise to get them made quickly. We are known as the ‘delivery experts’ and our goal for everyone in Domino’s stores is to get hot, great-tasting pizzas to customers’ doors safely and efficiently. The World’s Fastest Pizza Maker competition recognizes the champions that take pizza-making to an entirely different level.”

Manna Development Group Completes Acquisition 

Manna Development Group acquired 38 Panera Bread cafés in Colorado, expanding Manna’s operating footprint to over 130 Panera Bread cafés across 7 states. CapitalSpring, a leading private investment firm focused exclusively on the branded restaurant industry, structured and led the acquisition financing and recapitalization. Owl Rock Capital served as co‐lender and lead arranger.

Manna has grown continually from its inception in 2003 when Paul Saber and Patrick Rogers opened their first Panera café in San Diego. Through aggressive new store development and the successful integration of 6 additional acquisitions, Manna has grown to become one of the largest Panera Bread franchisees. Manna’s mission statement is built on the Golden Rule, to treat others as we ourselves would want to be treated, and a heart of service and a desire for excellence, all deeply rooted in everything Manna does.

“Paul and Patrick have built an amazing culture and tremendous operational discipline throughout their organization,” said Chad Spaulding, a Managing Director at CapitalSpring, and “we are thrilled with the opportunity to invest in one of the best franchise operators in an industry‐leading fast casual restaurant brand.” Jason Ruiz, a Vice President at CapitalSpring, added “We have grown to admire and respect the entire leadership team and look forward to supporting Manna’s continued expansion.”

“CapitalSpring delivered a unique financing solution that allowed us to achieve our strategic goals, while maintaining ownership and control of our company,” said Paul Saber, President & CEO of Manna. “We have enjoyed building our relationship with CapitalSpring in recent years and have been impressed not only by their ability to deliver on promises, but also their tremendous restaurant perspective and resources. We look forward to a long relationship with CapitalSpring and appreciate their support to date.”

Trinity Capital LLC served as financial advisor, and Snell & Wilmer L.L.P. served as legal advisor to Manna in connection with the transaction. CapitalSpring was represented by Chapman & Cutler L.L.P.

Trinity Capital Completes Burgerbusters Transaction

Trinity Capital, a boutique investment banking firm specializing in the restaurant and food service segments, today announced the firm assisted Burgerbusters, Inc., a large operator of 117 Taco Bell restaurants in Virginia, in the completion of a 25-unit Taco Bell acquisition.

In representing Virginia Beach, Virginia- based Burgerbusters, Trinity advised the longtime Taco Bell franchisee on various aspects of the overall acquisition including the sale-leaseback of units, the sale of other properties, obtaining a credit facility and franchisor approval for the transaction. The units were acquired from Tacoma Inc., which have been Taco Bell franchisees for more than 25 years.

As a result of the acquisition Burgerbusters now operates approximately 142 locations and owns the majority of the Taco Bell locations in Virginia.

“Burgerbusters planned to grow in a contiguous model, and this acquisition enables the company to leverage its operational, financial and development skills with a broader store base,” said Kevin Burke, managing director of Trinity Capital. “This addition to their overall restaurant count makes Burgerbusters one of the larger Taco Bell operators in the U.S.”

“My relationship with Trinity dates back many years and includes several prior transactions. This latest transaction not only increased our unit count by more than 20% and expanded our footprint in Virginia, it also provided access to additional capital for continued growth, “ said Tassos Paphites, chairman and CEO of Burgerbusters, Inc. “Trinity’s sound advice and seamless execution helped us complete a complicated deal on the best possible terms. I look forward to working with them again and highly recommend Trinity to anyone considering a transaction.”

Vitality Bowls Growth

Vitality Bowls announced the opening of the brand’s 50thlocation in Mountain View, California and the signing of its 100thfranchise agreement in Healdsburg, California. The superfood café brand has almost quadrupled in size since launching franchising efforts in 2014

“This growth is amazing because it means we are able to offer nutritious and allergy-conscious food to even more people,” said Tara Gilad, chief operating officer of Vitality Bowls. “Our loyal customers are the reason we are able to celebrate this outstanding achievement. We are proud to be a part of our customers’ personal health journeys and hope we can continue making healthy lifestyles easier to achieve.”

Originating in Northern California, Vitality Bowls has solidified itself as America’s superfood café – combining a dynamic café vibe with a unique collection of menu items containing high nutritional values and extraordinary tastes. Vitality Bowls, which specializes in açaí bowls – athick blend of the Amazon’s antioxidant-rich berry topped with a variety of superfoods – offers breakfast, lunch and dinner items made to order for each customer. All of the brand’s bowls and smoothies are free of ingredient fillers such as ice, frozen yogurt, added sugar or artificial preservatives, giving the purest taste possible.

Many Vitality Bowls locations also include a full-service coffee bar, complete with espresso and superfood drinks that are packed with antioxidant-rich açaí, pitaya and matcha – for example, the Açaí Latte (espresso, açaí, coconut sugar, steamed almond milk) or the Superfood Mocha (espresso, CaCoCo superfood chocolate blend, steamed milk). Most cafes offer organic cold brew nitrogen-poured coffee and organic kombucha on-tap.

Long John Silver’s Acquisition

Long John Silver’s acquired 76 LJS restaurants owned by ServUS located primarily in Indiana. ServUS is owned by veteran franchisee Bob Ruckriegel who opened the third Long John Silver’s restaurant in 1969. Financial terms were not released.

“This is an excellent opportunity to continue our brand revitalization,” said Brian Unger, President and COO of Long John Silver’s. “We’re thrilled to add an extensive line-up of well-performing restaurants to our company-owned portfolio and to continue the legacy that Bob has left behind.”

ServUs’ owned Long John Silver’s restaurants are located primarily in central and northern Indiana as well as western Kentucky and southwestern Michigan. This acquisition grows the LJS’ company-owned system to 200 restaurants and includes the addition of ServUS’ highly experienced operations team.

“This brand holds a special place in my heart and we’re very proud of the work we’ve put into these restaurants for the last 49 years,” states Bob Ruckriegel, “I know these restaurants and the team running them are in great hands.”

Long John Silver’s recently began the process of revitalizing its brand, swapping the nostalgic Cape Cod building elements for clean, nautical-themed lines of a new design. The newly renovated restaurants have already reported double digit growth and the newest Long John Silver’s locations from ServUs in Indiana will showcase this fresh, contemporary change as well as adding the brand’s new grilled platform to the restaurants. The brand shifted from a 100 percent franchised system and began acquiring restaurants in late 2015. Today Long John Silver’s owns 20 percent of the restaurants in its system, making it the largest restaurant operator for the brand.

Newk’s To Expand in Texas
Newk’s Eatery  is expanding with the company’s latest development agreement to open 11 locations across West Texas and the San Antonio metro area.
Newk’s newest franchisee is Lashford Howard LLC, owned by Patrick and Tara Lashford and Kendall Howard. The group plans to introduce Newk’s in Amarillo, Abilene, El Paso, Lubbock, Midland, Odessa, San Angelo, and in greater San Antonio. 
We have frequented Newk’s Eatery for years across Texas, always impressed by the premium ingredients and culinary-driven menu,” said Patrick Lashford, co-owner of Lashford Howard LLC. When the opportunity presented itself to expand Newk’s across West Texas and San Antonio, we partnered with Kendall Howard immediately. Tara, Kendall and I look forward to bringing Newk’s hand-crafted sandwiches, pizzas and salads to more Texas neighborhoods.”
Kendall Howard has more than 30 years of experience in restaurant ownership and operations. While new to the industry, Patrick comes from a Fortune 50 and corporate background, consulting with some of the largest companies in the world in complex business transactions. He and Tara bring business operations and real estate experience to Howard’s proven expertise owning and operating various restaurant concepts.
We are all excited to share the bold, powerful concept of Newk’s to West Texas and San Antonio neighborhoods,” said Kendall Howard, co-owner of Lashford Howard LLC.
Rise Biscuits Donuts Rising Coast to Coast

Rise Biscuits Donuts  has announced a multi-unit franchise deal for Southern California that will officially stretch the brand from coast-to-coast. Franchisee Bill Propster, an industry veteran who built a career operating Domino’s locations for 6 years, is plotting locations for San Fernando Valley and Ventura County, hoping to open at least one Rise store per year.

“Rise’s craveworthy food has already gained a huge national following that continues to grow each day, and while Southern California has a lot of trendy and notable concepts, the one that’s missing is Rise Biscuits Donuts,” says Propster. “I’m thrilled to be re-entering the restaurant franchising industry with such an innovative brand, and have full confidence that Rise’s namesake biscuit and donut offerings will be a welcome addition to Southern California.”

Rise Biscuits Donuts was founded in 2012 by Culinary Institute of America-trained chef, Tom Ferguson. Described as a mixture of ‘old school, new school and our school,’ the Rise menu boasts unique biscuit creations and rotating donut flavors like Créme Brulee, Pineapple Basil, and Maple Bacon. Their signature flaky biscuits can be enjoyed on their own, or cut and stuffed with premium fillings like buttermilk-brined fried chicken, crispy bacon, country sausage, egg, cheese, and more. All of Rise’s offerings are made with the highest quality ingredients throughout the day, ensuring guests are able to enjoy fresh biscuits and donuts on each visit.

Since first opening as a single storefront in Durham, North Carolina, the brand has grown to include 18 stores across eight states and has over 160 units in development. The Southern California franchise deal is the latest addition to Rise’s budding empire and solidifies the brand’s coast-to-coast takeover.

Rise Biscuits Donuts is partnered with Fransmart, the industry-leading franchise development company behind household brands like Five Guys Burgers & Fries and The Halal Guys, as its exclusive franchising partner to grow the brand. Rise is currently looking for experienced franchisees and qualified investors to introduce the concept to major media markets across the country. 

Yogurtland Opens in Emirate of Sharjah

The ever-popular rapidly expanding, frozen dessert industry leader, Yogurtland recently opened its first location in the Emirate of Sharjah, bringing its international unit count to 45. 

This is the first Yogurtland location in the Emirate of Sharjah, and it joins two other UAE locations and the company’s first locations in Myanmar, Singapore and Oman and 19 locations opened in Thailand over the past year to bring Yogurtland’s delicious handcrafted flavors to delighted fans worldwide.

Yogurtland has also been serving fans throughout Australia since 2013 and presently has 16 locations there. In South America, there are three locations in Venezuela.

“We are thrilled to continue expanding worldwide and bringing the Yogurtland experience to new markets like Dubai, Myanmar, Oman, with more to come,” said John Carlson, Senior Vice President, Marketing, Development, and Operations at Yogurtland. “Our handcrafted flavor offerings allow guests to create an experience as unique as they are, while providing a solid business opportunity for our franchise partners.”

International expansion plans include another location in Dubai this year, and more locations in Oman and Myanmar.

Functional Churro

For too long, fast food fans have had to use flavorless plastic utensils to enjoy milkshakes. Well no more, as Del Taco Restaurants, Inc. is taking shake consumption to a whole new level with its newest dessert item, the Churro Dipper Shake. Now available nationwide on Del Taco’s new Late Night Bites Menu,** the Churro Dipper Shake features a warm, crispy cinnamon churro dipped in a creamy Vanilla shake with chocolate swirls.

“For as long as I can remember, we’ve been forced to choose between a straw and a spoon to enjoy our favorite shakes,” said Barry Westrum, Del Taco’s Chief Marketing Officer. “Inspired by our fans’ passion for deliciously Instagrammable content, we wanted to go all in with a fun and craveable late-night offering, perfect for the warm summer nights ahead.”

The Churro Dipper Shake is just one of Del Taco’s three menu offerings on the company’s new Late Night Bites Menu sure to entice the night owls, whether they are picking up a graveyard shift or leaving an after-party. The full late night menu includes:

  • Queso Loaded Fries: Crinkle-Cut Fries topped with seasoned beef, creamy Queso Blanco, hand-grated cheddar cheese, fresh diced tomatoes, sour cream and sliced jalapeños.
  • Regular Size Queso Loaded Nachos: House-made chips piled high and loaded with a choice of seasoned beef, fresh grilled chicken or fresh grilled carne asada steak, slow-cooked beans made from scratch, and creamy Queso Blanco, all topped with sour cream, fresh diced tomatoes, and sliced jalapeños. Available as Regular Size on the Late Nights Bites Menu, and Large on the existing menu.
  •  Churro Dipper Shake: A crispy cinnamon churro dipped in a Vanilla shake with chocolate swirls.

“At Del Taco, we’ve discovered that the churro is more than just a delicious cinnamon and sugar-doused pastry,” Westrum added. “Its ridges are the perfect tool for collecting and savoring the leftover chocolate sauce and ice cream that the straw couldn’t quite get.”

While the Late Night Bites Menu was inspired by fans who crave Del Taco outside the traditional breakfast, lunch and dinner hours, the three menu items are available all day and night.

Del Taco also announced its franchise growth incentive program for 2018, geared specifically toward multi-unit operators looking to expand their portfolio with a winning player in a thriving restaurant category.

Due to the strong demand to expand with Del Taco beyond current markets, the program applies to new franchisees who commit to opening a minimum of five Del Taco restaurants in a new market within a specified time frame. Designed to attract franchisees with an appetite for multi-unit expansion, the incentives include discounted initial fees and reduced royalties for up to three years, aiding unit-level profitability early on in the initial entrance phase of development in a new market.

“Del Taco has experienced 18 consecutive quarters of system wide same-store sales increases thanks to menu innovation focused on producing fresh food from our working kitchens and a wide range of value, mid-tier and premium products designed to appeal to consumers across multiple dayparts and occasions,” said Laura Tanaka, director of franchise development at Del Taco. “These attributes, along with favorable unit level economics generating category leading flow thru have helped propel our franchise initiatives forward, and we’re thrilled to continue to expand our brand in a disciplined fashion with multi-unit franchise partners across specific regional geographies.”

The brand currently has more than 560 locations across 14 states. 

Tropical Smoothie Cafe Eyes Midwest

Tropical Smoothie Cafe announce aggressive franchise development plans for the Midwest, specifically targeting Ohio and Illinois. With momentum from new franchise agreements and a strong pipeline of upcoming grand openings, the brand is continuing to target the Midwest for additional growth and is seeking qualified entrepreneurs to expand the brand’s presence throughout the region.

“The Midwest is a key area for development and while we have an existing presence in markets such as Ohio and Illinois, we’ve only scratched the surface,” said Mike Rotondo, CEO of Tropical Smoothie Cafe. “We see tremendous growth potential for Tropical Smoothie Cafe in the Midwest and believe that our successful business model and strong franchisee network will resonate in the region. We look forward to the opportunity to bring more locations to the Midwest and are eager to welcome new franchisees who share our passion of providing unparalleled hospitality and superior products in the communities we serve.”

Tropical Smoothie Cafe is propelling expansion efforts in Ohio and seeking to bring more locations to markets such as Cleveland and Columbus. There are 15 cafes currently open in the state and with the five franchise agreements signed this year, the brand is slated to open more than a dozen new locations throughout Ohio over the next few years. Tropical Smoothie Cafe is further expanding its Midwest presence by also targeting Illinois. The brand has six existing cafes in the state, with an additional location set to open in Tinley Park this summer. As development efforts continue in Ohio and Illinois, Tropical Smoothie Cafe has set a goal to open 50 new cafes across both states over the next 5 years.

To support the brand’s expansion efforts, CEO Mike Rotondo will be hosting informative ‘Meet the CEO’ events on June 5, 6 and 7 at Tropical Smoothie Cafe locations in Lockport, Illinois, Toledo, Ohio and Findlay, Ohio, respectively. The events will offer interested prospects an opportunity to learn more about franchising opportunities with the leading fast casual brand, which has achieved compounding success and substantial nationwide growth over the past several years.

In addition to the brand’s movement in the Midwest, Tropical Smoothie Cafe is accelerating its growth throughout markets across the country, having signed nearly 100 franchise agreements this year alone for nationwide expansion. Tropical Smoothie Cafe is looking to add qualified franchisees to its growing brand. Candidates should have business experience; $125,000 in liquid assets and a minimum net worth of $350,000; and an initial investment of between $222,095 and $569,335. The better-for-you food franchise currently boasts an average unit volume (AUV) of more than $681,000 – the highest in the company’s 21-year-history – with the top 50 percent reporting an AUV of more than $873,000.

RSVP to the ‘Meet the CEO’ event in Lockport, Illinois on June 5click here.

RSVP to the ‘Meet the CEO’ event in Toledo, Ohio on June 6click here.

RSVP to the ‘Meet the CEO’ event in Findlay, Ohio on June 7click here.

Taylor Joins Velvet Taco Team

Velvet Taco said Allyn Taylor has joined the company as Chief Development Officer to lead real estate development for the growing company. 

“With over 20 years of senior leadership experience, Allyn will add tremendous value to our team,” said Clay Dover, President of Velvet Taco. “His extensive background in driving development strategy will be key in expanding our brand across the country. The timing couldn’t be better and we welcome Allyn to the team.”

Allyn Taylor

Prior to joining Velvet Taco, Taylor served as Chief Development Officer for Zoës Kitchen where he led real estate, design and construction for over 250 restaurants. He also previously held senior development roles with Panera Bread, P.F. Changs China Bistro, Pappas Restaurants, Ruby Tuesday and Brinker International.

“It’s an exciting time join the Velvet Taco team,” said Taylor. “They have incredible plans for continued growth and development, I look forward to being part of this amazing brand.”

With the opening of Houston’s second location and this Uptown development, Velvet Taco now has 10 restaurants open or under construction in Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, Houston and Chicago.

The MODMobile Debuts

BBX Capital – the exclusive MOD Pizza franchisee in Florida debuted MOD Pizza’s first-ever food truck – a MODmobile. Equipped with its own 800-degree gas-fired oven, and a glass encased display kitchen, the MODmobile will take the brands’ signature individual artisan-style pizzas on the road throughout the state of Florida.  

“We are very excited to unveil MOD Pizza’s first “mobile store,” said Brick Kerge, Vice President of Operations for BBX Capital’s MOD Pizza business in Florida. “The food truck gives us the ability to expand the MOD brand in Florida, have guests experience our pizza and unique culture, and give back to our many great communities throughout the state.”

The MODmobile serves MOD’s individual, artisan-style pizzas which are made on demand, using fresh-pressed dough and signature sauces. Customers can choose from a menu of the MOD classics – Dillon James, Dominic, Jasper, Lucy Sunshine, Mad Dog, Maddy and Tristan. All pizzas can be modified upon request and are always one flat price.  Like every MOD store, the truck will include original artwork and MOD’s signature “Wall of Fame,” a photo collage that pays homage to the community and people from the MOD journey – all housed in a 33-foot long, 12-ton, Freightliner M2 106.

“As a brand rooted in giving back and supporting our local communities, we now have an easy way to share our mission of ’Spreading MODness’ throughout the entire state” said Jarett Levan, President of BBX Capital, official MOD Pizza franchisee. “While the MODmobile will first serve our customers in South Florida, it will soon be in many markets across the state of Florida, and will support us as we continue our expansion to more than 60 stores”

MOD Pizza kicked off the launch of the MODmobile with a week of “Spreading MODness” by visiting local non-profit organizations throughout South Florida including Arc Broward, SOS Children’s Village, and the Coral Springs Police and Fire Department. 

The MODmobile is now available to book for events and special occasions, including corporate and charity events, birthday parties, weddings, religious gatherings, tailgates and other special events. 

BBX Capital is the exclusive franchisee for the MOD Pizza brand for the state of Florida and has signed an agreement to develop up to 60 MOD locations throughout the state over the next five to seven years.  BBX Capital currently has four MOD locations in Florida located in Parkland, Coral Springs, Kendall and Jacksonville. The MODmobile is the second food truck to be successfully launched in the Florida market by BBX Capital, who also launched the Hoffman’s Chocolates Sweet Ride Food Truck. 

Sweet Rewards at Bruster’s

Paytronix Systems, Inc., and Bruster’s Real Ice Cream, launched Bruster’s new Sweet Rewards customer loyalty program, across most of its 200 franchised shops in 20 states.

The new Sweet Rewards loyalty program provides customers with two easy ways to join by either downloading the Bruster’s App or registering online at  Guests receive a $3 reward just for joining, earn 1 point for every $1 spent and at 50 points will earn a $5 reward, plus more exclusive offers for members.  The App, supported by iPhone and Android smartphones, also allows customers to track progress, browse the menu, share on social media and find nearby locations.

“Bruster’s goal is always to have our franchisees be successful from the day they open their doors. Our new Sweet Rewards loyalty program is an important marketing initiative to aid in their success,” said Jim Sahene, Chief Executive Officer, Bruster’s Real Ice Cream. “We invested in the Paytronix-powered rewards program because we believe it is the best platform for enabling franchisee and consumer adoption. Our entire team is excited to be working with Paytronix to grow our business through real-time consumer insights direct from our growing fan base.” 

For close to 30 years, Bruster’s has worked to develop its franchise operations largely by protecting the integrity of its brand, developing brand enthusiasts and helping individual store owners drive sales. Bruster’s leaders wanted to move from a long-time eClub to a more modern, full-scale loyalty program that would enable its franchisees to take advantage of data analytics and mobile technology to uncover opportunities for increasing revenue.

Bruster’s turned to Paytronix as its loyalty program partner and worked closely with their team to develop a strategy to migrate legacy eClub members to its new program.

Prior to the program launch, Bruster’s had invested in new NCR Silver POS systems and scanners in each location. The new technology integration enables store personnel to instantaneously scan the mobile Bruster’s app or identify a customer through phone number look-up on the POS system.

“By teaming up with Paytronix, Bruster’s can be more strategic about how it influences buying decisions through relevant customer engagement,” said Jennifer Brinker, Vice President of Marketing, Bruster’s Real Ice Cream. “The Paytronix program will not only provide critical consumer data to market to our customers’ individual desires and needs, but it is easy and fast for franchisees to implement, as well as for our guests to participate in and become lifelong fans.”

“Bruster’s Real Ice Cream has made a strategic investment that will aid individual franchisees as they compete in their markets,” said Michelle Tempesta, head of marketing, Paytronix Systems, Inc. “From program design to implementation to the program rollout to all of its stores, Bruster’s Real Ice Cream has capitalized on the ability of the Paytronix Rewards platform to deliver a sophisticated data-driven loyalty program that will scale with Bruster’s unique business.”

Wahlburgers in North Carolina

Wahlburgers restaurant is now open in the heart of Downtown Raleigh, marking its first location within North Carolina. This opening marks the 25th Wahlburgers throughout the US.

The new 5,000 square-foot restaurant and bar will be right in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Fayetteville Street and adjacent to the ABC11 Studios.

“Our family is excited to open our first North Carolina restaurant in Raleigh, and we appreciate the opportunity to become part of the community,” said Mark Wahlberg.

Created by Executive Chef Paul Wahlberg, the chef-inspired menu features an emphasis on fresh, high-quality, yet simple food that highlights some of his family’s favorites. The “Wahlfaves” include:

  • Donnie’s choice: BBQ Bacon Burger, available as a turkey or beef burger and described as a “spiced-up weekend barbecue on a bun,” topped with white cheddar cheese, bacon, avocado, fresh jalapenos and barbecue sauce
  • Mark’s choice: Thanksgiving Day, “like Thanksgiving leftovers on a bun,” made with fresh ground seasoned turkey, stuffing, Paul’s house-made orange-cranberry sauce, roasted butternut squash and mayo
  • Paul’s choice: Wahlburger’s signature Our Burger

“We preach being involved in the community to our team, it’s imbedded in our culture, and we are beyond ecstatic to open in one of the fastest growing cities in the country,” said owner, Greg Pranzo. “We look forward to being a good neighbor and are beyond thrilled with the overwhelming positive response we have already received from the community.”

The Halal Guys Launches Catering Rewards

The Halal Guys launched a Catering Rewards Program, which will be combined and integrated with the current rewards program.


Each member of the current rewards program will be able to redeem both regular and catering rewards points. Members of the Catering Rewards Program will earn points with each catering order, and will earn perks such as free sandwiches and platters, or up to $100 in bonus dollars on their account.

The Halal Guys’ new Catering Rewards Program will build upon one of the most successful and engaged loyalty programs in the fast casual industry. The Halal Guys Rewards launched in November of 2016 to capitalize on the brand’s passionate and growing fan base. In 2017, The Halal Guys Rewards was named the winner of the Paytronix Loyaltees Award for Best Restaurant Loyalty Launch. The Halal Guys’ loyalty program secured 17,000 registered members and had more than 50,000 transactions with a rewards card in the first two months. In November 2017, The Halal Guys launched its first-ever mobile app, which has been another key move in integrating with the rewards program and engaging members.

 Cowboy Chicken Opens in Edmond, Oklahoma

Dallas-based Cowboy Chicken opened its second area location on Monday, May 7.
“We’re thrilled to serve our legendary wood-fired flavor to the people of Edmond,” says Cody Trammell, franchise owner and operator with the Southern Fired Hospitality Group. “We hope to be a vital part of this community for years to come. This celebration is just the Cowboy Chicken way of introducing our one-of-a-kind dining experience to our new friends and neighbors.”


The 2,800-square-foot Edmond restaurant centers on a large, wood-burning rotisserie where guests can view the chickens roasting from the rustic-meets-modern dining area. 

sweetFrog Acquires Five Hoopla Locations

sweetFrog Frozen Yogurt acquired five New York-based Hoopla Frozen Yogurt locations in Camillus, Middletown, New Hartford, Newburgh, and Poughkeepsie on Tuesday, April 24, 2018. The takeover represents the first of many acquisitions sweetFrog hopes to complete in 2018 as the brand remains committed to an aggressive acquisition and rebranding strategy.

sweetFrog’s CEO, Patrick Galleher, is excited to complete another successful acquisition. Galleher says these Hoopla stores were an attractive investment for sweetFrog because it allows the franchise to expand its footprint in a region where the sweetFrog brand has established strong customer loyalty.

“It’s a win-win for all parties involved,” explained Galleher. “Acquiring these existing locations in New York is a cost-efficient way for us to expand in an area where customers already love our brand and products. Plus, we have the benefit of maintaining the staff at each location where employees have built-in rapport and established relationships with local customers.”

sweetFrog has wasted no time taking over these five New York locations.  Local customers can already enjoy their favorite sweetFrog flavors in those stores.   Plus, there will be no down time or store closures for re-modeling updated because Hoopla and sweetFrog stores possess similar layout designs and real estate expectations.   All five stores were expected to be completely re-branded with new signage by end of May.

“This is a pivotal moment for sweetFrog’s future and we’re excited,” said Galleher. “We have no plans to slow down; we’re gaining momentum. With every new location, sweetFrog becomes even more of a household name. We’re 340 stores strong, and this is just the beginning.”

Überrito at the Airport

Überrito inked an greement with SSP America to commercially develop and operate a new Überrito location at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. The agreement supports the company’s plans for rapid national growth, and PHX will be the restaurant’s first airport terminal location.


The new Überrito will be located in post-security in Terminal 3. The modernized Terminal 3 will contain nearly 20,000 square feet concession space expansion, which includes the North and South Concourses, lobby and ticketing areas. The restaurant is expected to open in late 2018/early 2019, while the remainder of the terminal expansion is planned for completion in 2020.

“We look forward to working with SSP America as we bring Überrito’s distinct Fresh-Mex concept to travelers for the first time through PHX’s airport expansion,” said Marcus Jundt, Chief Executive Officer for Überrito. “SSP America is a leader in the food travel industry, and this licensee agreement reflects our commitment to establishing relationships with highly experienced groups across the country who are aligned with our significant expansion plans.”

Überrito continues to seek experienced, multi-unit operators and franchisees to help grow the brand nationally. Single and multi-unit area development opportunities, along with master franchise agreements, are available.

Überrito currently operates five Houston-area locations and one Phoenix location. The restaurant brand is part of Williston Holding Company, which currently operates and franchises 56 Mexican and American restaurant locations across nine brands: Casa Olé, Monterey’s Little Mexico, Überrito, Tortuga Mexican Kitchen, Crazy Jose’s, Williston Brewing Company, Gramma Sharon’s, J Dub’s Bar & Grill, and Doc Holliday’s Roadhouse.

Nestlé® Toll House® Café by Chip® Expands in Texas

Nestlé® Toll House® Café by Chip® is branching out to yet another region of Texas.


Ziad S. Dalal, President of Crest Foods, Inc., the franchisor of Nestlé Toll House Café by Chip, announced today that the company has executed a franchise development deal with Sherry Ramirez to open the first café in San Antonio. Located in Culebra Commons at 6626 W. Loop 1604 N., Ste. 215, the new café opened April 22.

“My passion is to continue serving my community by providing a quality product in a welcoming environment for them to enjoy,” said Ramirez. “I will be honoring those who serve us daily – military members, veterans, police officers, firefighters and other emergency response personnel – by providing discounts and inviting them to be a part of the Nestlé Toll House Café by Chip team as a potential second career. I strongly believe in the excellence of this brand and I look forward to growing with it in the months and years to come. My team and I are also excited to get involved with the local community by sponsoring local youth sporting activities and charities. God has blessed me so richly and I want to extend my appreciation by giving back to my neighbors.”


Ramirez previously served more than 36 years as a Registered Nurse and Acute Care Nurse Practitioner in the Army, Navy and Air Force.  Her daughter will be managing the café and has over 21 years of restaurant management experience.

The new café has charging stations throughout the café, comfortable indoor and outdoor seating and free Wi-Fi. It is also a great celebration destination with a decked out party room and a fun kiddie corner for toddlers.

“We are excited to expand into San Antonio and we feel very fortunate to have Sherry join our team,” said Dalal. “I have great confidence in Sherry, due both to her extraordinary background in the military and the passion she shares for the brand, and we look forward to working with her as she opens her beautiful new Nestlé Toll House Café by Chip in Culebra Commons.” 

The premium dessert destination concept is built around one of the world’s most recognized food brands – Nestlé. The San Antonio café will serve up freshly baked cookies, customized cookie cakes, a wide assortment of freshly baked confections, ice creams, smoothies, cold beverages and premium coffees. In addition, several delicious savory items – including sandwiches and salads – will be featured at the café.