MRM Franchise Feed: Currying Up Favor and Committed Taco

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

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Curry Up Now Secures Investment

Curry Up Now attracted a new investment from seed-stage venture capital firm Liquid 2 Ventures (L2V). This investment comes at a pivotal time, as the Indian fast casual has more than 50 franchise and corporate locations in varying stages of development across the United States, including two franchised locations that recently opened in Atlanta  and Orange County, California. In 2020 alone, Curry Up Now anticipates opening 12 locations across the country.

Curry Up Now began as a food truck in 2009 and was founded by husband and wife duo, Akash and Rana Kapoor, and  supported by co-founder and Senior VP of Operations, Amir Hosseini.  Their signature dishes include burritos, bowls, tacos, Naughty Naan, and more, as well as a wide variety of Indian street food snacks and traditional dishes like Thali Platters, Kathi Rolls, and Bhel Puri. Ingredients are clean and sourced from local vendors whenever possible, and the menu is designed to support vegan, gluten-free, and Halal diets in an effort to accommodate all guests, no matter their dietary preferences. Curry Up Now also limits their disposal waste by using real plates, silverware and cloth napkins in-house and packaging all to-go orders in recyclable and compostable containers. 


“We’re honored and excited to have the support of Liquid 2 Ventures, an investor who can bring both financial capital and a wealth of experience to support our efforts to strategically grow Curry Up Now,” said Curry Up Now’s Co-Founder Amir Hosseini.

Liquid 2 Ventures, which is also headquartered in the Bay Area, is a seed-stage venture capital firm created for the post-cloud, post-mobile, post-accelerator world of technology startups. It was built by a team of ex-founders including Hall of Fame Quarterback and serial angel investor, Joe Montana, Mike Miller, a Ph.D. Physicist and founder of Cloudant, and Michael Ma, a Harvard graduate and founder of Talkbin. Curry Up Now will be the first restaurant is L2V’s portfolio and the investment will support the rapid growth and expansion of both corporate and franchised locations.  

"We are very excited about the investment opportunity in the Curry Up Now concept; while at first glance restaurants don't seem like a typical venture capital investment, we've seen companies such as Sweetgreen achieve venture growth,” said L2V General Partner Joe Montana.  “Curry Up Now represents a big opportunity combining great product, in this case, amazing food, with a management team that is using the cutting edge of software to bring startup-style growth to the QSR world."

Benihana Plans Franchise Expansion

Benihana National Corp. announced a strategic plan to support the continued expansion of its business. The plan is centered around four key initiatives, which include:

  • New restaurant development in the U.S.;
  • Select U.S. acquisitions;
  • U.S. franchise development; and
  • International franchise development in the Caribbean, Central America, and South America.


Benihana has over 80 percent brand recognition nationwide and attracts a consistent and growing guest base, with 15 million guests served annually across 107 locations. This enduring popularity has sparked the development of valuable partnerships, including Benihana frozen food products with KraftHeinz and locations in select entertainment and sporting venues such as Yankee Stadium (Bronx, NY), Hard Rock Stadium (Miami Dolphins), the Sprint Center (Kansas City), Dignity Health Sports Park (LA Galaxy), and Talking Stick Resort Arena (Phoenix Suns), among others. 

"With strong momentum across our brands, we are committed to executing on our strategic plan, which will broaden our reach and unlock significant opportunities for continued growth," said Tom Baldwin, Chief Executive Officer and President of Benihana. "To further support our franchise development initiatives, we will be working with Lynette McKee– an industry expert with over 30 years of experience in franchising – to identify franchise partners in targeted international markets and leading U.S. cities. We are dedicated to our guests and by welcoming well-qualified franchisees who share our commitment to excellence into the Benihana family, we will be even better positioned to continue providing our guests with the outstanding food and service they have come to know and love!"

Interested parties should have extensive experience in multi-restaurant food service, with a focus on excellent restaurant operations and development, and meet specified financial and investment criteria.

Hattie Marie's Looks to Franchising

Hattie Marie's Texas Style BBQ & Cajun Kitchen is now offering franchise opportunities to qualified candidates,  With three Metro-Atlanta locations slated to open in 2020, Hattie Marie’s offers a wide variety of BBQ dishes including: BBQ Ribs, Smoked Brisket,Pulled Pork, Smokey Sausage Links, Fried Catfish & Shrimp, Macaroni & Cheese,Potato Salad, Collard Greens and Texas-Style Gumbo.

Hattie Marie's

Opened by Willie and Ramona Griggie, Hattie Marie’s was created to honor Willie’s late mother, Hattie Marie, who was originally from the southeast Texas town of Port Arthur. In the late 1980’s, Hattie Marie brought her culinary talents to the masses and opened a bakery/catering service, Pie Face Bakery. Word quickly spread about the delectable dishes being prepared there and her business took off. She was forced to close her doors due to health complications, but many of her recipes and her cooking style live on through Willie and the rest of her children.

“With our concept, we’ve embraced our family’s tradition while paying homage to my mother, the late Hattie Marie,” says co-owner, Willie Griggie. “Hattie Marie’s BBQ intends to bring the flavor and essence of South East Texas cooking to the entire United States through our recently created franchise opportunities.”

Unlike other “barbecue joints,” Hattie Marie’s smoke all of their meats in-house daily.

Willie and Ramona Griggie

“We are seeking experienced single or multi-unit franchisees to acquire and develop locations in shopping areas, airports, colleges, and more,” says co-owner, Ramona Griggie. “We bring strong financials and a culture that promotes community and great eating.”

Hattie Marie’s already has an established market presence and substantial market penetration in Atlanta. From that highly successful platform, the company is looking to initially expand the brand on a national level. To qualify financially for Hattie Marie’s franchise ownership, you must have a provable net worth of at least $100,000, and liquid assets of at least $40,000. Franchisees must be willing to sign single or multi-unit development agreement of no less than three stores within two years.

Taco Bell's 2020 Commitments

Taco Bell committed to making all consumer-facing packaging recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2025 worldwide. Taco Bell will be offering paid sick time for all corporate-owned restaurant employees, plans to test a $100,000 salary for managers of company-owned restaurants in select markets, and will continue to champion easy and accessible vegetarian options around the world. 


"It's no secret that Taco Bell marches to the beat of its own drum, and we provide our fans with unexpected experiences year after year. From the Doritos®️ Locos Taco to the Taco Bell Hotel, we want to continue to lead in creativity on our menus, in our restaurants and beyond," said Mark King, Taco Bell CEO. "As Taco Bell expands its footprint, our responsibility to drive positive impact increases. Our business growth in the last decade has positioned us to create change for good and implement creative solutions for our planet, our people and our food. We're excited to shake things up and make 2020 even more about what matters most: our purpose."

This year, Taco Bell is committing to:

Make all consumer-facing packaging recyclable, compostable or reusable. 

By 2025, in Taco Bell restaurants across the globe, the brand aims to make all consumer-facing packaging recyclable, compostable or reusable. Recycling and/or composting bins will be added to all restaurants, where infrastructure permits, and PFAS, Phthalates and BPA will be removed from all consumer-facing packaging materials. 

Taco Bell Sustainable Packaging
Continue to invest in its people, building leaders at all levels. 

Whether employees want to grow to run a $2 million business and oversee a team of 30 people or want to be the best team member they can be, Taco Bell offers something for everyone. Later this year, the brand will be testing a $100,000 annual salary for Restaurant General Managers of company-owned restaurants in select locations. For those who may not want to be in a manager role, the brand is introducing "Makers," a program for restaurant team members who want to elevate their passion for the brand and want leadership experience. Additionally, starting January 1, 2020, all nationwide company employees can become eligible to receive at least 24 hours of paid sick time per calendar year. Through these initiatives, Taco Bell aims to enhance restaurant performance, employee satisfaction and support recruitment and retention. 

Increase education support for fans and team members to keep pursuing their passions. 

The Taco Bell Foundation is awarding $6 million in Live Más Scholarships in 2020 to help fans and team members pursue their unique passions. This year's awards will bring the Taco Bell Foundation to $17 million in total awarded scholarships since it first launched five years ago, well on schedule to meet its initial commitment of awarding $21 million by 2021. Those interested in applying should submit a two-minute video about their passion before January 23, 2020.  

Strive to be the number one QSR for vegetarians. 

Taco Bell has always been a haven for vegetarians. After last year's dedicated vegetarian menu with American Vegetarian Association certified items* launched nationally with new favorites like the Black Bean Crunchwrap, Taco Bell vows to continue providing the most vegetarian choices as well as find ways to make it even easier to order them, whether that's on the app, in the restaurant or through the drive thru.

Pieology Pizzeria Refranchises Locations 

Pieology Pizzeria refranchised 21 corporate-owned restaurants to Amir Siddiqi, CEO for Akash Management, LLC. Siddiqi is a major financial and operating partner behind fourteen Pieology restaurants, encompassing geographies such as greater Los Angeles, Central California and Phoenix. In addition, Akash Management is a significant franchisee with Carl’s Jr., Arby's, Jamba Juice and most recently, WingStop.

“We welcome the Pieology team and its employees to Akash Management.  We believe the Pieology team will be a great addition to our company and will assist us in achieving our long-term strategy.  This acquisition demonstrates our ability to enhance our portfolio of operating businesses and brands that maintain similar cultural values and are poised to grow,” said Akash CEO Amir Siddiqi. 

“This transaction comes at a good time and serves as validation for where we’ve come from and where we are headed as a brand. It fits into our strategic plan of continuing to increase system revenues and aligning the brand with key strategic stakeholders,” said Pieology CEO Gregg Imamoto. “This deal is driven around increasing stakeholder value through profitable growth and expansion, and Amir and his team will be active on the development front.”

“Corporate will continue to be in the restaurant ownership business in order to continue testing new ideas, products and concepts,” he said. “We are very confident in Amir and his team, and we know that this transaction will yield benefits for the entire Pieology system.”

Krispy Krunchy Expansion

Krispy Krunchy Chicken® recently opened its 10th location in Mexico in Mérida, Yucatán.

"We are very excited to open another Krispy Krunchy Chicken® location in Mexico as part of our growing family and continuing to be a part of their family, too," said Rocio Cabrera, Director of International Operations at Krispy Krunchy Chicken®. "2019 has been a fantastic year opening in new cities and welcoming new customers to enjoy our unique flavor and menu items.  Our international locations have performed very well, and we believe this location will be just as successful. We plan to continue expanding Krispy Krunchy Chicken® to serve all the areas that we can, as well as getting more involved in the local communities." Krispy Krunchy Chicken® now can be found expanding in Mexico in the cities of Cancun, Hermosillo, Miguel Alemán, and Mérida.  

Established in Louisiana in 1989, the fried chicken brand has more than 2,500 locations worldwide and continuously strives to provide delicious Cajun flavors to the c-store industry, as well as other retail outlets.  Krispy Krunchy Chicken's® menu features their famous fried chicken, fried seafood, honey butter biscuits, and various sides, as well as newer items, such as the Boneless Wings, Crispitos®, and State Fair® Corn Dogs.

"We are already hard at work planning to open more locations in 2020 throughout Mexico, including another location in Mérida. This is a wonderful opportunity for our company, and just the beginning of many great expansions to come," said Rocio Cabrera.

Paris Baquette's Leadership Changes

Paris Baguette announced new appointments to its executive leadership team to support its mission of developing an inclusive, global, and entrepreneurial culture while positioning for long-term growth.

As of January 1, 2020, former Chief Operating Officer (COO), Darren Tipton, assumed the role of CEO of Paris Baguette’s United States business operations. In his new role, Tipton oversees multiple departments including Franchise Sales & Development, Real Estate, Café Design & Construction, Café Operations, and many more.

Tipton joined Paris Baguette in October 2018 where he served as Vice President of Operations and COO. Prior to Paris Baguette, Tipton held numerous roles with leading restaurants and organizations in the industry, including his position as Vice President of Operations at Le Pain Quotidien.

Former Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Jack Moran, assumed the role of Global CEO, where he is responsible for business development in the Americas, Europe and other territories. Moran, who has worked at Paris Baguette since July 2018, brings over 25 years of experience within the fast-casual dining space to Paris Baguette, previously holding a variety of executive roles including CEO at Le Pain Quotidien, and Director of Operations at Au Bon Pain.

“It is a privilege to succeed Jack Moran as US CEO and I am thrilled to be working alongside him during such an exciting growth period for Paris Baguette,” said former COO, Darren Tipton. “With the new year upon us, we are eager to continue Paris Baguette’s growing momentum and remain dynamic in enhancing our brand values while becoming one of the county’s most reputable and renowned bakery café businesses”

“It is an absolute honor to be promoted to Global CEO of Paris Baguette and to contribute to the company’s accelerated growth, expansion, and strategy across the globe,” said former CEO Jack Moran. “As we head into 2020, I look forward to another transformative year and continuing our ultimate mission of becoming the largest and most renowned bakery café business in the world.”

Taco Johns Adds to Board

Taco John’s International, Inc. added three new board members: Greg Haggis, Scott Weisberg and Les Karel.

“We are thrilled to welcome Greg, Scott and Les to the Taco John’s International Board of Directors,” said CEO Jim Creel. “All three have impressive and diverse backgrounds in the industry. I believe each of them will bring something incredibly unique and valuable to the table that will help lead Taco John’s to see even more success in the future.”

Greg Haggis

Haggis, a seasoned executive, brings nearly 40 years of experience in the food industry to Taco John’s board. After beginning his career at McDonald’s Corporation in 1981 as a store accountant, Haggis moved on to The Wendy’s Company, where he worked for nearly 30 years and served as senior vice president of finance and brand chief financial officer. Haggis is chief financial officer for The Wenzak Companies, a 35-unit Wendy’s franchisee in Illinois, Indiana and Iowa.

Scott Weisberg

Industry veteran Weisberg is an HR executive with a range of progressive experience within multi-national, consumer organizations such as Wendy’s, General Mills, Nabisco, Inc., and PepsiCo, Inc. He served as chief people officer at Wendy’s International, Inc. for six years before starting his own executive coaching and consulting business, Incisive Consulting, LLC, in 2018.

Les Karel

Another proven leader in the industry, Karel is a supply chain professional with experience spanning across corporate, franchise, multi-brand and high growth foodservice organizations. Karel brings restaurant knowledge to Taco John’s from former roles at General Mills Restaurants, Inc., Boston Market, Darden Restaurants, Inc. and Arby’s/Wendy’s Group. From 2011 to 2019, Karel served as senior vice president for ARCOP, Inc., Arby’s national supply chain cooperative. 

Black Bear Diner Ads Execs

Black Bear Diner promoted of Anita Adams to chief executive officer and the addition of restaurant veteran Jeff Guido as chief operating officer. Bruce Dean, the brand’s co-founder and CEO, will remain active with the company as executive chairman.

“As co-founder and chief executive officer, Black Bear Diner is now entering its 25th year in business,” said Dean. “We have grown this brand larger than I ever would have anticipated and hoped for, and there is much more to come. My focus is now on perpetuating the next 25 years and ensuring we continue to prosper, grow and be the leader in family dining. Succession planning is paramount to ensure our long-term success, and to that end, I will be assuming the executive chairman position. I’m pleased to announce that Anita Adams, our president and former chief financial officer, will now assume the role of chief executive officer. Anita is a true industry professional, and she is the right person to guide Black Bear Diner in our next chapter of success.”

With 24 years of broad leadership and transaction experience across private and public companies, Adams was most recently president of Black Bear Diner, overseeing short- and long-term strategies that drove the brand’s rapid growth and performance, as well as the franchise’s shared services, including operations, franchise and corporate development and human resources. Adams first joined the company in 2017 as chief financial officer. In March of 2019, Adams was promoted to president in addition to her role as CFO. In October that same year, the company hired Steve Sparks to assume the role of CFO, allowing Adams to focus on her role as President.

“Black Bear Diner has enjoyed an amazing 25 years and I am proud to assume the CEO role of such a well-respected brand,” said Adams. “Our efforts have been focused on building a scalable foundation to support our aggressive growth strategy, while ensuring we stay true to the brand’s heritage of hospitality, quality and operational excellence. I look forward to partnering with our franchise community, team leaders and shareholders to position the brand for continued prosperity.”

For nearly a decade before joining Black Bear Diner, Adams was CFO of American Blue Ribbon Holdings (ABRH), a diversified food service company that operated more than 690 company and franchise restaurants in more than 40 states, where she helped grow revenue from $400 million to $1.2 billion, managing five restaurant brands and a bakery operation. Before that, she was the vice president controller for VICORP Restaurant Group prior to its acquisition by ABRH, and the vice president of corporate accounting for First Data Corporation, a Fortune 500 global financial services company generating over $10 billion in revenue, in addition to high ranking financial roles with PRO Group, Inc., Seahawk Minerals and Pricewaterhouse Coopers. She has a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Wyoming and holds an active CPA license in the State of Colorado. 

Guido joins Black Bear Diner as chief operating officer by way of ABRH where he held the position of president for the Family Restaurant Division, overseeing all financial and administrative aspects of Village Inn and Baker’s Square restaurant concepts. During that time, Guido built an exceptional team that delivered 26 consecutive quarters of same store sales growth. With over 40 years leading major restaurant brands, Guido has consistently built value for stakeholders by identifying strategic opportunities to provide exceptional customer service.

“My mission at Black Bear Diner is to ensure we’re operating at the same extraordinarily high level that the company did when it opened its first, single restaurant 25 years ago,” said Guido. “Offering a consistently great experience as we continue to expand is critical. I look forward to working alongside a great leadership team to strengthen Black Bear Diner’s already exceptional offerings of enthusiastic customer service and abundant, quality food to more guests across the nation.”

Dean co-founded Black Bear Diner in 1995, and served as co-president until 2016 when he was named CEO. He will remain with the company as executive chairman. Dean contributed to the brand’s early success by leveraging his early beginnings in the restaurant business. He created the recipes for some of the brand’s most popular and best-selling food items and is also the visionary behind “bear-sized” portions, a brand commitment to deliver unrivaled comfort food value and portions.

“Bruce has shown that family dining, when done right and with authenticity, is here to stay,” said Adams. “Over the last several years, I’ve highly valued Bruce’s leadership and partnership, and will continue to benefit from his experience and passion.”

The last year has demonstrated the brand’s continuous efforts to build Black Bear Diner’s executive leadership team following years of growth and geographic expansion. The executive leadership team includes Bruce Dean, executive chairman; Anita Adams, chief executive officer; Jeff Guido, chief operating officer; Steve Sparks, chief financial officer; Joe Adney, chief marketing officer; and Tammy Johns, chief people officer.

I Heart Mac&Cheese Continues Expansion

I Heart Mac & Cheese continues on its growth plan with new development deals and openings. The brand inked a two-store franchise development agreement with JP Quickserve Corp to expand the brand’s presence in New York. Two locations will open in Manhattan throughout 2020 with the first restaurant set to open this spring.

“I Heart Mac & Cheese is a fun, attractive concept and an affordable franchise model that is easy to operate with support systems in place to help our partners be successful,” said Stephen Giordanella, I Heart Mac & Cheese CEO and Chairman. “We are thrilled to continue expanding our popular concept throughout the state of New York into Manhattan.”

Peter Boudouvas and his wife, Antonietta, will manage and oversee operations for both I Heart Mac & Cheese locations. Peter spent much of his career working on Wall Street and more than 20 years in automotive financing. He was attracted to I Heart Mac & Cheese due to the uniqueness and simplicity of the concept as well as the opportunity to showcase the proven franchise business model in the heart of Times Square.

“I’m thrilled to be opening two I Heart Mac & Cheese locations in New York, alongside my wife,” said Peter Boudouvas.  “We look forward to bringing a conveniently delicious dining experience to the city that never sleeps and showcasing menu items that are reminiscent of everyone’s favorite childhood memories.” 

The company also announced a two-store Central Florida franchise development agreement that is the latest in the brand’s continued expansion across its home state. Two locations will open in Orlando beginning this Spring – one near the University of Central Florida (UCF) campus and the other on the renowned shopping and dining destination, International Drive, just minutes from the area’s most popular theme parks and attractions.

 “Orlando is the third-largest metropolitan area in Florida with 1.5 million local residents and a truly international destination with more than 68 million visitors coming to the area each year," added Giordanella.  "I can’t imagine a better place to elevate our growing family-friendly brand onto the global stage.  We are excited to welcome both local residents and travelers from around the world as they experience our award-winning concept and create unforgettable memories.”

A central Florida resident, Patel will manage and oversee operations for both new I Heart Mac & Cheese locations. As a determined, budding entrepreneur, Darshil shadowed his father as he operated a wholesale business, learning and developing critical leadership and management skills.  He was attracted to the I Heart Mac & Cheese franchise following the brand’s launch of new vegan menu options in 2019, noting the simplicity and flexibility of the concept and the opportunity to bring a new, one-of-a-kind fast-casual concept into his rapidly expanding hometown.

“I’m excited to open two I Heart Mac & Cheese locations in the thriving Central Florida community,” said Patel. “We look forward to bringing a conveniently delicious dining experience to the students at UCF, who I know are going to love this concept, as well as those visiting I-Drive in pursuit of a warm, welcoming place to dine with dishes that are reminiscent of their favorite childhood memories.” 

I Heart Mac & Cheese is now open in Cooper City, Florida. 

“It is a dream come true to be able to open up an I Heart Mac & Cheese location with my father,” said Josh Phillips, I Heart Mac & Cheese franchisee. “For as long as I can remember, mac & cheese has been a favorite in our family.  We are excited to be able to offer our friends, family members and neighbors in Cooper City a place to come together and enjoy this childhood classic, while making long-lasting memories.”

Catering to every age, lifestyle and craving, I Heart Mac & Cheese Cooper City is located at 5602 South Flamingo Road, in close proximity to several schools and sports fields within the close-knit West Broward Community. 

“We have received overwhelmingly positive feedback since our very first location opened and feel proud to continue expanding to new communities in South Florida, where we started,” said Stephen Giordanella, chief executive officer & chairman of I Heart Mac & Cheese. “With our recent menu additions and a variety of budget-friendly options, we know that I Heart Mac & Cheese will become a family staple and we look forward to getting to know our new guests in Cooper City.”

Fazoli's To Grow in Pikeville

Fazoli’s will add a new restaurant in Eastern Kentucky. Fazoli’s President and CEO Carl Howard announced said the company has executed an area development agreement with Franchisees Jordan Stapleton and Hillary Harkins to bring one restaurant to Pikeville in summer of 2020.


Jordan Stapleton will run the new Fazoli’s with his fiancée, Hillary, and mother Anita Stapleton. The Stapleton family has been in the restaurant business for nearly 35 years, and the three saw opening a Fazoli’s together as a way to strengthen their relationship. Because of Fazoli’s warm, friendly atmosphere and indulgent food, Harkins knew this was the best concept for them, especially as they all become a family.

“We are teaming up to create a family business that will be loved in the Pikeville community,” Harkins said. “Currently, there is not a Fazoli’s near Pikeville, and we are in need of premium Italian food here. There used to be a Fazoli’s in Pikeville long ago, and now, we’re bringing it back for all of the fans who have missed it so dearly.”

“Fazoli’s delivers food fast, yet it is a premium dining experience,” Harkins said. “Craveable classic Italian dishes with tableside service, grated Parmesan, unlimited breadsticks and an incredible staff, it felt as if I was paying for a $25 meal. Best of all, we got all of that at an affordable price. It is clear that Fazoli’s has an unwavering commitment to its guests’ experience, and we look forward to sharing this with the Pikeville community.” 

For others looking to join the Fazoli’s family as a franchisee, the brand is offering one of the best franchise incentives on the planet. Seeking multi-unit operators across the U.S. to join its growing, successful franchise network, the new incentive program offers a guaranteed savings of at least $125,000 for franchisees developing at least three locations. Franchisees developing more than five locations will save over $200,000. 

The Toasted Yolk Continues Growth

The Toasted Yolk is continuing expansion throughout the Texas market and into Southeast United States with three new locations set to open in early 2020 and 17 additional units in development phases.  

Founded in 2010 by industry veterans and friends Chris Milton and Mathew DeMott, the restaurant brand has expanded to 11 locations across the Greater Houston area in just under a decade with nine of those opening within the past two years. In 2017, the daytime eatery began franchising locations.

The Toasted Yolk

“We are proud to hit this milestone of having over 10 locations across the Greater Houston area and are excited to continue bringing our unique breakfast and lunch experience to communities across Texas and beyond,” said Milton, CEO of The Toasted Yolk. “We believe our growth can be attributed to our unwavering commitment to service and high-quality food, which has also allowed us to stay consistent in each new location we open. We’re looking forward to continued growth and success in 2020.” 

 As the restaurant expands into new markets such as Dallas and San Antonio, The Toasted Yolk is focusing their development efforts on creating a national footprint with locations spanning across the Gulf coast and into Florida where candidates are expressing a high level of interest. Focusing solely on daytime service, The Toasted Yolk takes pride in sourcing top-notch ingredients and buying locally at every opportunity to deliver farm-to-table fresh meals. Each restaurant offers a full menu and bar with boozy cocktails, served in a vibrant and dynamic atmosphere.

“With several new locations and franchise opportunities on the horizon in 2020, we look forward to expanding our eatery and bringing our unique offerings to new communities,” said DeMott. “We’re really excited about our growth and will continue to provide our customers with the highest level of satisfaction – that’s what the Toasted Yolk is all about.” 

Famous Dave's Opens Smaller Footprint

Famous Dave's opened the first of its smaller footprint prototype restaurants in Uptown, Minneapolis. The new restaurant is  approximately 3,000 square feet, (compared to the average 6,500 – 7,000 square feet)  and features a bar-centric environment and compact dining area. 

The restaurant features technological innovations such as tabletop ordering and digital kiosks in an effort to appeal to a younger demographic. The location will focus heavily on its off-premise delivery and catering business, which was previously a large aspect of the brand’s former Uptown location. The executive team has focused on curating a different and exciting experience for its guests within the space by introducing activities such as  trivia, game nights and karaoke, while continuing to implement the same core values that Famous Dave’s has held for 25 years.

“We’re excited to explore this new concept, which allows our brand to operate from a smaller space with a bar-centric atmosphere, resulting in a comfortable and fun local hangout,” said Jeff Crivello, CEO of BBQ Holdings, Inc. “Our team is looking forward to this initiative in which will capture efficiencies in occupancy costs, labor, and an abbreviated menu of our legendary, core BBQ.”

Famous Dave’s parent holding company, BBQ Holdings, Inc. who recently opened its Clark Crew BBQ restaurant concept with its partner Clark Championship Products LLC, is looking to open five to ten of these smaller footprint restaurants by the end of 2020. The brand is also looking to implement a drive-thru to continue the convenience factor at their existing stores. In addition to expanding the concept in the Minneapolis market, Famous Dave’s is also looking at opening in Atlanta, New York, New Jersey, the Carolinas, Illinois, and Wisconsin.

The BBQ restaurant chain is focusing on growth and innovation while continuing to invest in technology, customers  and franchisees to support their new openings and continued growth.

“At the end of the day, our foundation is built on great BBQ and fantastic service,” said Al Hank, Sr. Director, Strategy & Franchise Operations. “You can still enjoy that same Famous Dave’s experience but we’re taking the steps towards ensuring that our customers are able to come in to catch the game and  grab a beer while also having  the option to order our Famous BBQ from the comfort of their own homes.”

Pizza Inn Express Makes Its Danville Debut

 Pizza Inn Express is bringing convenience to pizza-lovers in Danville when it makes its debut on Friday, Jan. 17. Located at 804 E. 8th St., inside a newly renovated Exxon, the new Pizza Inn Express features a drive-thru window and dine-in seating. Danville’s new Pizza Inn Express is owned and operated by Franchisee David Blackmon, president of Blackmon Oil. Blackmon owns and operates three other Pizza Inn Express locations throughout west Arkansas.

“We are excited to bring Pizza Inn to the Danville community,” Blackmon said. “Our location will serve specialty pizzas such as Bacon Cheeseburger Pizza, Buffalo Chicken Pizza and BBQ Chicken Pizza. We can feed families and travelers alike with fresh pizzas, sandwiches, wings and made-to-order appetizers. The Danville location will make fresh dough continuously throughout the day in order to make the best crust possible. Guests will likely smell our fresh dough when they enter our store. Our customers expect great tasting food served in a clean and hospitable environment, which is exactly what everyone can expect with our newest Pizza Inn Express.”

Blackmon is also committed to active community involvement. His team will give annual $500 ExxonMobil Educational Alliance ‘Stem’ Grants to Danville High School and Two Rivers School. They also support the Arkansas Baptist Children’s Home in Monticello.

“David is one of our top performing franchisees, and we are thrilled to have him open his fourth location with us,” said Douglas Kwong, VP of Marketing of RAVE Restaurant Group. “He is a great operator and he’s very active in the community. I have no doubt that, like his other three locations, this Pizza Inn Express will experience great success.”

Stoner's Pizza Expands in Georgia

Stoner's Pizza Joint is accelerating its franchise development efforts with the opening of its newest franchisee-owned location in Atlanta, Georgia. Located at 120 Piedmont Ave. NE, the new restaurant marks the brand's first Atlanta location. The new location will be owned and operated by the Chunara Food Group.

Led by Ali and Shezaan Chunara, the Chunara Food Group is a large multi- unit operator with over 70 locations across the U.S. The Chunara Food Group owns and operates brands including TGIFriday, Popeyes, Churches Chicken and Dunkin Donuts. 

"We are excited to bring our operational experience and background to the Stoner's Pizza family as we embark on opening the brand's first flagship store in the Atlanta Market. We will deliver delicious, fresh, and custom-made pizzas, wings, and desserts with some unique ingredient options," said Shezaan Chunara, Vice President, Chunara Food Group.

"2019 was an exciting year for Stoner's Pizza Joint with the launch of our new branding and accelerating our franchise program with the addition of strong multi-unit franchisees. We are thrilled to begin 2020 with the debut of the new Atlanta store, growing the brand further into Georgia and insulating it with everything it needs to be the leader in this space," said Nick Bergelt, Chief Concept Officer of Stoner's Pizza Joint, "We're extremely excited to bring Stoner's to this area with our fresh new look and customer experience. We look forward to growing quickly in the market."

Stoner's Pizza Joint is currently seeking qualified franchisees to help the brand grow nationwide in college town markets, with an initial focus on the Southeast region. Prospective franchisees should have a minimum net worth of $250,000. The ideal candidate is a proven, multi-unit operator in the restaurant industry and has a strong knowledge of their market. Stoner's Pizza Joint's Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD) reveals an estimated initial investment range of $90,000 to $206,000 for the first location, including a franchise fee of $25,000. If franchisees chose to develop multiple units, the franchise fee for three units is $65,000 and, for five units, $95,000.

Blaze Expands in Dallas

To round out an impressive growth year, Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza is taking another slice of the Dallas market. 

Among the four Dallas-area multi-unit agreements that were signed in 2019, husband and wife duo Tony and Marina Petro are the newest team to join the brand’s local development efforts. In the years to come, the Petros will focus on adding Blaze Pizza locations to North and East Dallas with possible sites coming to Addison, Richardson, Rockwall and Rowlett.

“After two years of searching for the right business, Blaze Pizza was the only concept that matched our standards and checked all of our criteria boxes,” said Tony. “Initially, Rick and Elise Wetzel’s experience in the fast-casual space was an important selling factor, but we’ve come to learn that the entire executive team is equipped to support our investment. With the concept continuing to heat up the Dallas market, we have a unique and exciting opportunity to build the brand in our hometown.” 

The Petros join Blaze Pizza with a complementary management and marketing skillset. As a Management Consultant, Tony brings strong leadership qualities that will help the couple build a young, dynamic crew. Likewise, Marina’s most recent marketing and communications role with Yum! Brands positions her as an expert in promoting restaurants, while nurturing the brand-to-customer relationship. Working alongside the Petros is Nathan Robinett, a restaurant operations director with a strong history in achieving positive financial results for multi-unit locations. He is known throughout the quick-service industry for his Progressive operational leadership experience and passion for surpassing financial and service goals via a unique combination of world-class service delivery, lean operating methods, renewed marketing directions, and incentive-driven awards. 

“As a pair, Tony and Marina have a refreshing energy and enthusiasm that will surely have a ripple effect on our franchise system,” said Carolyne Canady, President International, Chief Development Officer for Blaze Pizza. “Their industry knowledge and proven work ethic will set them up for long-term success, and we’re thrilled to have them grow the brand in the Dallas market." 

The brand’s business model, made up of extensive site selection procedures, training programs and marketing support, is designed to attract individuals and operator teams with a strong business acumen, proven restaurant industry success and an interest in multi-unit franchising. 

Checkers & Rally's Continues Growth Path

Checkers & Rally’s celebrated 2019, with nearly 900 units across 28 states. In terms of franchise development, Checkers & Rally’s has opened more than 80 new restaurants over the last 24 months. The drive-thru restaurant franchise also added 34 new franchisees to the system in 2019, with the capacity to add more than 143 new restaurants. Additionally, there are more than 80 approved restaurant sites in the pipeline. 

Checkers & Rally’s underwent a major brand innovation in 2019. The growing brand continued to reinvent every area of the business, from how it constructs modular restaurants to open faster, to how it serves guests through on-premise service, delivery and pick-up, to ways it can offer delicious menu items at a great value.

“Checkers & Rally’s had an excitingly successful year in 2019,” said Director of Franchise Recruitment Ursula Lane. “From noteworthy restaurant openings to recognition as a top place to work by our hometown newspaper, the Tampa Bay Times, Checkers & Rally’s had much to celebrate. Guests continue to know us as the place for big, bold and flavorful food, including our Famously Seasoned Fries, and existing and prospective franchisees recognize our brand as a competitive business opportunity. We’re looking forward to keeping that momentum and innovation going through 2020, and the franchise development team welcomes conversations with qualified and experienced prospective franchisees who want to join a franchise family known for its exceptional value, people-first attitude, and ‘Crazy Good Food.’”

Twin Peaks Drives Accelerated Expansion in 2020

Twin Peaks reported a 2.5 percent increase in year-over-year sales and a 1.2 percent increase in year-over-year traffic in 2019. Over the last year, Twin Peaks also introduced its innovative smoker program and enhanced beverage and lunch menus. In addition to menu innovation, Twin Peaks opened three new restaurants, remodeled two locations and signed three franchise deals.

“Twin Peaks is on a winning streak with no plans of slowing down,” said CEO Joe Hummel. “2019 was a very successful year for us and we are excited to bring that momentum with us through 2020. Twin Peaks thrives on innovation, excellence and separating ourselves from the normal. Each of our kitchens are equipped with a smoker for serving up in-house smoked menu items which isn’t  something that many restaurants can claim, in addition to our extensive beverage selection. But menu innovation doesn’t stop there. It will continue to be a focus in 2020. Our culinary team will have new menu items in our test kitchens each month to keep the ideas fresh and flowing. And with our continued expansion, we also plan to expect to see even more regional shifts to the Twin Peaks menu.”

Along with its focus on menu innovation, Twin Peaks plans to continue ramping up development with even more new restaurant openings and redesigns. Twin Peaks plans to open 12-15 additional new restaurants throughout 2020. Q1 initiatives include a new store opening in Lubbock, Texas, a remodel of one of the flagship restaurants in Austin, Texas and new beverage and food menu rollouts. Its first restaurant in Latin America is set to open in Mexico City in Q2. Redesigns are in the pipeline throughout the year for several locations, which will be upgraded with expanded indoor and outdoor bars, enhanced AV packages, fun elements like outdoor firepits and other improvements.

After signing three franchise deals in 2019, Twin Peaks is expected to expand into several new markets in 2020. The brand is also looking to continue its franchise development in 2020 by signing up to 10 new partners for 40 new locations.

Twin Peaks also dedicated part of 2019 to giving back to the community. During the Miss Twin Peaks pageant, the brand announced its lifetime donation amount of $750,000 to its national nonprofit partner Folds of Honor to help fund scholarships for families of fallen and disabled service members. Twin Peaks plans to continue this partnership in 2020.

Tropical Smoothie Plans for Growth

Tropical Smoothie Cafe reported its eighth consecutive year of same-store sales growth. During 2019, the brand opened 124 cafes in key markets throughout the U.S. such as Dallas-Fort Worth, Tampa and Chicago and signed 213 franchise agreements, with more than 60 percent of those agreements coming from its existing franchisees.

“We’re proud to reflect on 2019, recognizing it as a record-breaking year for Tropical Smoothie Cafe as we opened more cafes and sold more franchise agreements than any other year in our company history. To top it off, we experienced same-store sales twice the industry average, further positioning us as a standout brand in the segment and a viable investment strategy for experienced multi-unit operators or those looking to franchise for the first time,” said Charles Watson, CEO of Tropical Smoothie Cafe, LLC. “As we enter a new decade, our goal is to continue propelling the success and profitability of our dedicated franchisees, existing and new, by investing heavily in operations execution and support, the digital guest experience and technology to support cafe operations.”

The brand’s aggressive growth goals for the Midwest and Western United States resulted in major milestones, opening its 750th cafe in Sugar Land, Texas and its 800th cafe in Arlington Heights, Illinois. These expansion efforts have been followed by the signing of several multi-unit franchise agreements in various markets throughout the two regions.

"This year we’ve achieved numerous development milestones for the brand that position Tropical Smoothie Cafe for even greater accomplishment in 2020,” said Cheryl Fletcher, SVP of franchise development for Tropical Smoothie Cafe, LLC. “Our franchisees’ unparalleled commitment to the brand and the communities they serve drive our expansion efforts and sustain the growth momentum we are experiencing. We will continue our targeted growth throughout the U.S. with the goal of having 1,500 cafes open and reaching an AUV of $1 million over the next five years.”

Tropical Smoothie Cafe is looking to add qualified franchisees to its growing brand and currently has franchise opportunities in markets throughout the U.S. Interested candidates should have business experience, along with $125,000 in liquid assets and a minimum net worth of $350,000. Candidates that meet these preliminary qualifications will need to make an initial investment ranging between $246,500 and $580,500. The better-for-you food franchise currently boasts an average unit volume (AUV) of more than $730,000 – the highest in the company’s 22-year-history – with the top 50 percent reporting an AUV of more than $938,000.

Dog Haus Prepares to Scale New Heights in 2020

Dog Haus is buckling up and hitting the accelerator for what is sure to be an exhilarating ride in 2020. The craft casual concept wrapped up 2019 with a solid 9.1% in same-store sales growth.

Throughout 2019, Dog Haus positioned itself for rapid growth by selling new franchise territories in Arizona, California, Colorado, Texas, West Virginia and Wyoming. This summer, the brand unveiled a partnership with Live Nation that brought Dog Haus to a dozen concert venues across the U.S., from San Diego to Boston. And in September, Dog Haus opened its first virtual restaurant location in Chicago, with many more to come nationwide. Dog Haus’ virtual restaurant strategy is securing the brand’s place at the forefront of today’s customer service model.

In conjunction with the brand’s 10th anniversary, more than 20 new franchise locations in 15 markets across seven states are currently projected for the new year. Ten more virtual restaurants will be added to its portfolio and the Live Nation partnership is expected to expand to additional venues, doubling Dog Haus’ presence. 

“Dog Haus has been an emerging brand for several years now, and high demand for our signature menu has resulted in a loyal following that is so strong, we fully expect to experience record growth across the U.S. in 2020,” said Dog Haus Partner Quasim Riaz. “It’s befitting that this marks our 10-year anniversary because it’s going to be a milestone year for us. We are well-positioned to exploit virtually any opportunity that presents itself to us, thanks to our strong infrastructure, pioneering spirit and ability to adapt to the ever-changing industry.”

Dog Haus also elevated its bar program in 2019 with the launch of new innovative cocktails made with premium ingredients handcrafted by celebrity mixologist Phil Wills, known to millions from his recurring appearances on TV’s Bar Rescue. In 2020, the brand will continue its Chef Collaboration Series and Mixologist Collaboration, working with Michelin star chefs and celebrity mixologists.

“Dog Haus has made incredible strides over the past few years as a breakout brand largely due to our willingness to take risks with our menu and the push boundaries of what a company will do for the communities it serves,” said Partner André Vener. “By teaming up with the brightest culinary minds in the business, we’ve been able to delight our guests with some of the most amazing flavors and creative dishes you’ll find anywhere. We have some really exciting things planned for 2020 as well, both in the kitchen and in our proprietary bar program, so we think the best is yet to come.”

Behind the scenes, 2019 brought the introduction of 1Huddle, a competitive game platform for mobile devices that has transformed employee training at Dog Haus. Franchisees gave the system high marks for streamlining and enhancing the training process, enabling team members to gain greater knowledge, resulting in high customer service and satisfaction. The craft casual concept also added value to its guests’ experience through its mobile app, not only simplifying the order process, but improving communication of key holiday promotions and limited-time offers through push notifications.

Over the coming year, Dog Haus will implement additional technology platforms to further optimize restaurant operations. By integrating ZippyYum’s suite of applications – including GoVentory, GoOps and GoTemp – nationwide, restaurant operators will be able to easily track and log inventory, control food cost, access an archive of video training materials and ensure food and equipment temperatures are consistently tracked and measured. 

“The use of ZippyYum’s applications will simplify our operations practice and enable us to serve our guests at the highest level,” said Dog Haus Partner Hagop Giragossian. “Everything we implement on the operations end is to guarantee that we deliver the kick-ass Dog Haus experience we’re all about. 2020 is an opportunity for us to upgrade our existing practices while continuously elevating our craft casual concept.” 

Bojangles' Expands in Deal with Love's Travel

More travelers throughout the Southeast and South Central regions of the U.S. can now enjoy the one-of-a-kind flavor of Bojangles’. The national franchise development agreement includes 40 new Bojangles’ restaurants inside Love’s Travel Stops across four new states for the iconic brand.

The locations will be managed by a dedicated Bojangles’-trained Love’s team to ensure that Bojangles’ fans receive the familiar high-quality menu items they know and love. Through this new partnership, Bojangles’ will expand its footprint into four new states including Illinois, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Mississippi.

“We know that Bojangles’ fans are frequently on the road for work, managing family activities or getting ready for tailgating adventures,” said Jose Costa, Chief Development Officer for Bojangles’. “Whether for breakfast, lunch or dinner, we want to be able to combine a great Southern meal with a fast and easy way to refuel and get back on the road. Love’s is the perfect partner to deliver this experience, with our similar commitments to industry leading operations, excellent customer service and quality facilities.”

Love’s leads the nation in travel stop networks, an oasis for travelers with clean, accessible, brightly lit facilities located in 41 states. It offers a wide range of services for motorists and professional drivers to enhance their travel experience, from fresh coffee and snacks to gasoline and diesel fuel.

“We are excited to offer our customers another delicious and fresh food option while they’re on the road,” said Joe Cotton, director of restaurant services for Love’s. “Bringing Bojangles’ to our home state of Oklahoma along with Arkansas, Mississippi and Illinois is something we’re happy to be a part of.”

Del Taco Refranchising

Del Taco Restaurants refranchised all ten company-operated restaurants in the San Diego market to incoming franchisee SoCal Food Group which is led by Omar Boukai, and supported by the Boukai family who has extensive food service and real estate experience. Related to this refranchising agreement, SoCal Food Group has also committed to develop up to 21 additional Del Taco restaurants over the next seven years, primarily in the San Diego market.

John D. Cappasola, Jr., President and Chief Executive Officer of Del Taco, commented, “The SoCal Food Group has extensive experience in the quick-service restaurant industry and currently operates 50 restaurants across two other QSR concepts. We welcome them to the Del Taco system and are confident that they will be great partners in operating these ten San Diego restaurants and developing up to 21 additional restaurants over the next seven years.”

Del Taco has been executing a portfolio optimization strategy to help stimulate new franchise restaurant growth and to drive operational and financial benefits. The Company has now completed the refranchising of its San Diego, CA and Reno, NV markets during its fiscal fourth quarter, which followed the refranchising of 13 restaurants in the Los Angeles market during its fiscal first quarter earlier this year. The Cypress Group is acting as exclusive sell-side advisor to Del Taco in connection with the San Diego, CA and other active market refranchising efforts.