MRM Franchise Feed: Morano Gelato’s First Franchise, Shell Shack and Teriyaki Madness Plan Expansion Routes

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

Morano Gelato To Open First Franchise

Morano Gelato will  open its first franchise shop in Westfield, NJ in June 2017. The shop joins the flagship shop in Hanover, NH and the company-owned shop in Chestnut Hill, MA.

Courtesy of Morano Gelato.

Morano Gelato founder Morgan Morano has spent 15 years in the food industry and the past seven years dedicated to the craft of artisan Italian gelato, making it her mission to bring this Italian dessert to the US in its traditional form. Her first two shops, in Hanover, NH and Chestnut Hill, MA, have been smash successes, leading Forbes magazine to call her work “the best gelato in America.” Morano has also written The Art of Making Gelato.

Courtesy of Morano Gelato.

“We are extremely excited by the progress we’ve made since officially launching our franchise opportunity last year,” said  Morano. “The Westfield, NJ store as well as all Morano Gelato businesses will be leveraging our proven process and simplistic business model to bring authentic Sicilian gelato to cities, towns, and communities across America. We look forward sharing Morano Gelato with many more customers while also educating them on the bold flavors, freshness, and health benefits of gelato.”

Morano Gelato is seeking owner/operators in cities and towns across the US who have a passion to bring traditional Sicilian artisan gelato, sorbet, granita, Italian espresso, Italian hot chocolate and more to their communities. 

According to Morano, the stores’ small footprints of 800 to 1,500 square feet provide an opportunity for great real estate opportunities, faster launches with lower construction costs and higher profitability than other food franchises. The Morano Gelato concept provides reduced labor costs with an efficient business model, limited but high-quality menu and lower food costs for gelato and sorbet, alongside high-margin coffee and espresso drinks. 

Shell Shack Looks to Expand

The Dallas-based Shell Stack seafood brand brought on franchise guru Jon Glaser, CFE, to lead the franchise development department and the overall growth of Shell Shack through franchising across the country.. In May 2013,  Shell Shack made its first appearance. By mid-2015 Shell Shack opened its second location and was actively looking for new sites throughout DFW.

“The decision to open two additional locations in 2016 wasn’t a difficult one to make, ” Matt Saba, COO of Shell Shack, said. “We knew that doubling up in a year wasn’t going to be easy, but it’s just something we needed to do to determine our true demographic pull.”

Dallas Hale, CEO of Shell Shack, added, “We realized that we’ve created an exciting concept in a unique market segment. It is attracting a vast multicultural customer base willing to drive much further than we expected to try out what everyone is talking about.”

Wingstop to Open 30 Locations in Malaysia

Wingstop Restaurants Inc.  entered into an international expansion agreement with The Great Fundamentals Sdn. Bhd. to open 30 franchise locations in Malaysia over the next six years with the first restaurant set to open later in 2017.  Siswanto is  the lead managing partner for the local franchisee.

Prior to heading up The Great Fundamentals Sdn. Bhd., Siswanto created and led the AUM Hospitality (AUMH) group, which has various homegrown local brands such as The Library Coffee Bar, The South East and Ichiban – The Izakaya. AUMH also added the franchise rights for American brands Johnny Rockets and Quiznos, as well as Singapore-based brand Franco. Under Siswanto’s leadership, AUMH grew to be one of the fastest growing F&B groups in Malaysia with 70 outlets across 10 brands.

“We look forward to partnering with The Great Fundamentals in the development of these 30 new Wingstop locations,” said Larry Kruguer, President of International at Wingstop. “Our success in Southeast Asia since first launching in late 2013 has generated over 30 locations across Indonesia, Philippines and Singapore with great consumer reaction and buzz about the brand. Malaysians are passionate consumers of chicken and this market will enhance our presence in the region while further fulfilling Wingstop’s mission to ‘Serve the World Flavor.’”

“We’re honored to be a part of the Wingstop family as it is certainly one of the most exciting American restaurant brands to be introduced to Malaysia in recent memory,” said Siswanto, Managing Partner at The Great Fundamentals Sdn. Bhd. “We are confident that the Wingstop experience will resonate very well with Malaysians.”

Malaysia will mark Wingstop’s ninth international market outside of the United States with recent announcements including Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Colombia and Panama currently under development and opening later this year. Founded in 1994 and headquartered in Dallas, Texas, Wingstop Inc. operates and franchises more than 1,000 restaurants across the United States, Mexico, Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia, and the United Arab Emirates. 

Texas Chicken Opens in Bahrain

Texas Chicken® announced its first new restaurant opening in the Kingdom of Bahrain. The brand is growing its footprint in the Middle East alongside Ali Bin Rajab & Sons, the operating franchisee selected for the Bahraini expansion.

“We are proud to bring the Kingdom of Bahrain the quality and proven performance of one of the world’s leading chicken chains,” said Nasser Sayed, Country Operations manager and Managing Partner for Ali Bin Rajab & Sons. “The quick-service restaurant concept has been around for nearly 40 years in this region, and we see the 65-year heritage and reputation behind Texas Chicken as a key competitive advantage.”

Officials from Texas Chicken echoed the excitement for this pioneering push into new Middle East territory. “High-quality, delicious, made-from scratch food is a cornerstone of the Texas Chicken brand experience,” said Tony Moralejo, Executive Vice President of International Business and Global Development for the brand. “We look forward to giving the people of Bahrain many opportunities to enjoy the great chicken experiences guests love.”

The new deal with Ali Bin Rajab & Sons is slated to include five total restaurants in the Kingdom of Bahrain by 2020. As an operator, the restaurant group has 20 years of experience in quick-service restaurants. All Bahraini Texas Chickenlocations will feature the signature menu items that have given the brand its worldwide popularity, including hand-battered and double-breaded original and spicy fried chicken, scratch-made honey butter biscuits freshly baked throughout the day, and a variety of home-style sides. 

“We look forward to what this new relationship will bring to our Middle East guests,” continued Moralejo. “Bahrain is a thriving economy filled with people who recognize and appreciate the kind of quality Texas Chicken specializes in providing.” 

Pink Taco Expands to Chicago and Miami

Pink Taco executed lease agreements to open restaurants in Chicago and Miami as part of an accelerated growth strategy.

The two new planned Pink Taco restaurants, which will complement current locations in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, will be:

  • A 9,600-square-foot space located at 162 West Hubbard Street (at the intersection with North Wells Street) in Chicago’s renowned River Northneighborhood, featuring a wraparound seasonal outdoor patio and expected to open later this year; and
  • A 5,000-square-foot oceanfront space located at 1200 Ocean Drive (at 12th Street) in Miami’s South Beach, offering beautiful views and an expansive, year-round outdoor patio and scheduled to open in 2018.

In addition, Pink Taco is actively looking to expand by opening restaurants in other premier metropolitan areas across the United States, including New York City, Boston, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. Pink Taco is focused on finding the right spaces for its unique restaurant experience in densely populated, high-profile urban areas that cater to a live, work, play lifestyle and benefit from convention, business, retail and tourism traffic.

“We are excited to introduce Pink Taco to Chicago and Miami and see this expansion as the next step in our plans to elevate the brand rapidly across the nation,” said Mike Zoob, Pink Taco Vice President of Real Estate. “Pink Taco offers a unique dining experience that we believe is scalable when you match the operational know-how of our partners with the particular dining tastes and needs of local communities to create one-of-a-kind locations. We will continue to work with strategic real estate partners across the country to provide on-the-ground support in identifying and securing ideal urban locations for continued expansion.”

Taco Bell Has Reservations

A table for two at the Taco Bell Test Kitchen, please. That’s right, for the first-time fans across the country will have the chance to make reservations at Taco Bell’s Test Kitchen, via OpenTable.

From the Doritos Locos Tacos to the Naked Chicken Chalupa, Taco Bell is known for its revolutionary Mexican-inspired food creations, and the Test Kitchen is where it all starts. Located at the brand’s headquarters in Irvine, Calif., the culinary lab will now be open to the public – but you’ll need a reservation. The 32 fans who score an exclusive seat through OpenTable will enjoy a dining experience inspired and plated by Taco Bell’s top creators and chefs. The dinner will feature twists on Taco Bell favorites, never before seen products and menu creations before they are available to the public.

“The chance to be the first to see our innovative food, where its created, from the chefs who make it happen, is a unique experience that’s never been available to the public until now,” said Liz Matthews, Chief Food Officer at Taco Bell Corp. “As a brand known for our firsts, we’re excited to open our doors into the magic of our innovation and give our biggest fans an experience they’ll never forget.”

Taco Bell will unveil the reservation URL on Cinco de Mayo for the first dining experience that is set for Friday, May 19. After the initial event, a series of dining experiences will be added throughout the year, giving fans nationwide the opportunity for a coveted Test Kitchen by Taco Bell reservation through OpenTable.

“OpenTable prides itself on helping people make the hottest reservations around and is excited to partner with Taco Bell to give fans this exclusive opportunity,” said Scott Jampol, Senior Vice President of Marketing at OpenTable. “We’re always looking to offer our diners the most unique dining experiences, and that’s exactly what they’ll find at the Test Kitchen by Taco Bell.”

Sense360 Raises Seven Million Dollars in Series A Funding to Fuel Growth

Sense360, secured seven million dollars in its Series A funding round. The Company will use the funds to fuel its growth, as well as to strengthen its support of new and existing clients, representing nearly 20,000 locations across the quick serve and fast casual restaurant space. The financing round was led by Firstmark, and included Qualcomm Ventures (the investment arm of Qualcomm Incorporated) and Upfront Ventures.  

As part of the announcement, Sense360 also named four prominent industry leaders to its advisory board: Noah Glass, founder & CEO of Olo; Joel Aach, former VP of Insights at Darden Restaurants; Alex Vayslep, vice president at Maritz Holdings Inc.; and Huw Griffiths, global chief product officer at Universal McCann.

“The restaurant and retail industries have been challenged by a lack of deep and actionable consumer insights that can be leveraged to diagnose weaknesses and capitalize on strengths,” said Eli Portnoy, CEO and Founder of Sense360. “We’re proud to be working with such prominent investors and well respected advisors. This infusion of capital will further power Sense360’s technology and our people to generate useful and reliable data and products that help quick serve and fast casual restaurants gain a competitive advantage in today’s challenging market.”

At the core of Sense360’s research is its cutting-edge mobile sensor technology, which collects anonymous, always-on location and survey data from a panel of two million consumers, enabling the Company to observe where, how and when people interact with physical locations and businesses, without compromising consumer privacy. By understanding the visits of millions of consumers in the real world, Sense360 provides restaurants the ability to measure against key metrics and benchmarks, identify their core personas, analyze promotions and offers, discover growth opportunities and develop localized marketing plans using its proprietary data.

“What differentiates Sense360 from other data providers is our longitudinal visit data combined with surveys,” said Portnoy. “This means we help clients understand what happened via highly sophisticated behavioral analytics, and why it happened with our targeted surveys. The data uncovers the true opportunities thereby providing tremendous value to restaurants and retailers that are looking for a competitive edge in today’s crowded marketplace.”

Five Guys Selects FoodLogiQ to Connect Global Supply Chain

FoodLogiQ, an SaaS provider of food safety compliance, whole chain traceability, and supply chain transparency solutions, said Five Guys Burgers and Fries has selected its FoodLogiQ Connect platform for global supply chain visibility, streamlined supplier management, and quality issue tracking and reporting. For more 30 years, Five Guys has served America and the chain of restaurants has quickly expanded to more than 1,400 locations across North America, Europe, and the Middle East.

Driven by this rapid growth, Five Guys required a supply chain solution that could meet its growing supplier management and food quality needs. The global restaurant brand will leverage the FoodLogiQ Connect platform to centralize supplier communications, standards and benchmarking. Using FoodLogiQ’s Manage + Monitor module, Five Guys will standardize and centralize their international supplier food safety program and product quality specifications for their U.S., International (Europe and Middle East), and joint venture business in England. 

“We truly have vendors who are partners in the business with us, and our suppliers make up the fabric of our brand,” said Carl Napiwocki, VP Global Supply Chain. “FoodLogiQ enables us to build greater collaboration and visibility with our suppliers so that we can not only protect the Five Guys brand, but protect our suppliers as well.”

“We are excited to add Five Guys to our growing list of customers answering the call for greater transparency from their consumers,” said Dean Wiltse, CEO of FoodLogiQ. “The ease of use of the FoodLogiQ platform allows Five Guys to realize a return on investment by creating efficiencies in their supply chain while also providing the visual and analytical reporting that will drive strategic decisions for their business.”

Panera Bread Franchisee Donates to Food Banks
Photo from left to right Rachid Guerrab, GM, Panera Bread South Bay, Christian Delrio, Shift Manager, Panera Bread South Bay, Melanie Gordon, Greater Boston Food Bank, Sarah Polodsky, Greater Boston Food Bank, Mitch Roberts, PR Management, Stephanie Williams, Panera Bread South Bay

PR Management Corp., New England’s largest Panera Bread franchisee, donated a total of $275,000 to five New England food banks as part of their Feeding America initiative. PR Management’s co-founders, Mitchell Roberts and David Peterman, recently presented checks to the Greater Boston Food Bank, Worcester County Food Bank, New Hampshire Food Bank, Good Shepherd Food Bank of Maine, and Western Massachusetts Food Bank.

“Our company’s mission has always been to give back to our local communities and we see helping to relieve hunger across New England as part of that goal,” said David Peterman, Co-founder of PR Management Corp. “We hope these donations will help our New England food bank partners and Feeding America continue their tremendous work to alleviate hunger across the region and the country.”

Mitchell Roberts and David Peterman are partners in PR Management Corp. which operates 64 franchise Panera Bread locations in New Hampshire (Bedford, Concord, Derry, Dover, Keene, Manchester, Plaistow, Portsmouth, West Lebanon, and Seabrook), Massachusetts (Beverly, Boston, Braintree, Brockton, Brookline, Cambridge, Chelmsford, Chicopee, Dorchester, East Longmeadow, Framingham, Hadley, Hingham, Leominster, Lexington, Lynnfield, Marlborough, Mashpee, Milford, Millbury, Nashua, Natick, Newton, Newburyport, North Andover, North Nashua, Pembroke, Pittsfield, Plymouth, Raynham, Shrewsbury, Swampscott, Walpole, Waltham, Wayland, Webster, Westborough, Westford, West Springfield, Westwood, Wilmington, Woburn, and Worcester) and Maine (Auburn, Augusta, Biddeford, South Portland, Topsham and Westbrook).

As of December 27, 2016, there were 2,036 bakery-cafes in 46 states and in Ontario, Canada operating under the Panera Bread®, Saint Louis Bread Co. ® or Paradise Bakery & Cafe® names. 

ApplePie Capital Adds Feldman

ApplePie Capital, the first online lender solely dedicated to the franchise industry, appointed franchise industry veteran Ronald Feldman as chief development officer, as well as acquired Funding Solutions, LLC, a national franchise lending consultancy that specializes in SBA, conventional and equipment finance loans. Feldman and Funding Solutions’ managing partner Randy Jones will join ApplePie’s leadership team.

Ronald Feldman

These additions position ApplePie’s financial platform to exponentially expand upon its hallmarks of speed, flexibility and efficiency with new product options, an expanded network of lending sources and an extraordinary wealth of franchise finance expertise for its growing list of franchisor partners. Currently, ApplePie serves more than 40 franchisors including Orangetheory Fitness, Jimmy John’s, Jersey Mike’s and Marco’s Pizza.

“These developments are a game changer for ApplePie and the brands we serve,” said Denise Thomas, CEO and co-founder of ApplePie. “In addition to the decades of franchise finance experience we are bringing on board to accelerate new product innovation, we can now provide comprehensive lending programs to franchisors, eliminating the need for their franchisees to engage with multiple lenders.” Thomas continued, “By combining the $500 million in committed capital we’ve raised for our core growth product with a diverse lender network, we can ensure that our franchisee clients have access to the right financial solutions, wherever they are in their development cycle.“

Responsible for growing ApplePie’s brand portfolio and contributing to product strategy, Feldman comes to the company with more than 20 years of experience in franchise leadership and franchise financing.  He previously served as chief development officer at FranData, the industry leader in market research, and as a principal and co-founder of Franchise America Finance (FAF) and The Siegel Financial Group. Feldman was also an early franchisee of The Goddard School system. As an active advocate of the franchising business model, Feldman currently serves the International Franchise Association (IFA) as chair of the Supplier Forum Advisory Board and sits on both the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee of the association.  Feldman was awarded the Sid Feltenstein MVP Award for service to the IFA’s Political Action Committee (FRANPAC) in 2013.

“ApplePie is uniquely positioned to transform franchise finance by using technology and franchise data in new and innovative ways to make financing simple and predictable,” said Feldman. “They also truly understand what drives growth and work backwards from the needs of franchisors to develop custom solutions for their franchisees. I am thrilled to bring my expertise to ApplePie and help build on the momentum they have created in just a few short years.”

Funding Solutions, LLC is a six-person franchise loan consulting firm based in Michigan that has connected thousands of franchisees with SBA, conventional and equipment loans since 1999.  The Funding Solutions brand is merging into the ApplePie brand, allowing ApplePie to add deep industry knowledge to its team and more comprehensively address the needs of franchisees.

Randy Jones, managing partner of Funding Solutions, will serve as ApplePie’s new head of originations. Jones said, “Our team couldn’t be more excited to join ApplePie. Their values are aligned with ours, their franchisor-centric approach to doing business mirrors our own, and by combining forces and leveraging their technology and access to capital markets, we can provide a superior experience for the franchisors and franchisees we serve.”

“What we find most exciting about this news is the vision that ApplePie has for making financing more efficient for our franchisees,” said Dave Long, CEO and co-founder, Orangetheory Fitness.  “My franchisees need a lender that understands our business and the unique needs of our franchisees, and ApplePie has set their sights high to achieve that goal.”

Since it started lending in January 2015, ApplePie has formed partnerships with 43 franchise brands, funded over $65 million in loans and returned more than $12 million in principal and interest.

Teriyaki Madness Goes for Transparency

With 144 units under contract throughout the United States, Teriyaki Madness, in the new age of the transparent Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD), announced it will be including all income statements with Item 19 of the FDD.

Item 19 in the FDD is the section that provides details on earnings, costs and other factors likely to affect future financial performance after a franchise agreement is signed. Highlighted in the revolutionary section of Teriyaki Madness’ FDD are the company’s cost of goods sold, profit margins and labor costs.

“We feel that it is important to be 100 percent up-front and honest with all of our prospective franchisees,” said Michael Haith, Teriyaki Madness CEO and 2017 Franchise Times Dealmaker of the Year. “We have an extremely profitable restaurant concept and the Asian fast casual segment is booming. It is important for every candidate to see his or her earning potential with Teriyaki Madness.”

Recently, Teriyaki Madness broke into its 15th state and has more than 40 locations open across the United States. The majority of its more than 60 active franchise agreements signed are with multi-unit store operators, including a 20-unit agreement that was signed in the Phoenix metro area last fall. Although the franchise does include single-unit operators, Teriyaki Madness continues to seek multi-unit operators to get to the next level.

“With an AUV of just under $1.1 million, Teriyaki Madness is the ideal fit for a multi-unit operator who is looking to complete his or her portfolio,” Haith said. “We are incorporating groundbreaking initiatives within our system and are growing at a rapid rate throughout all sections of the country. In a few years, Teriyaki Madness will be a staple in every major city in America and will be the go-to restaurant in the Asian fast casual food segment.”

Teriyaki Madness was founded in 2003 and currently has franchise agreements for nearly 150 locations in the U.S.

Bloomin’ Brands Refranchises 54 Sites

Bloomin’ Brands, Inc. announced the sale and refranchising of 45 Outback Steakhouses in ArizonaColoradoNevada and New Mexico to Cerca Trova Restaurant Concepts, Inc. and its affiliates, along with eight Outback restaurants and one Carrabba’s Italian Grill in MontanaSouth DakotaUtah and Wyoming to Evergreen Restaurant Group LLC. The transactions closed on April 25 and April 27.

“Both Cerca Trova and Evergreen are excellent operators and have been successful Outback franchisees for more than 20 years,” said Suk Singh, Global Chief Development Officer & Franchising. “We’re confident that with their expertise, knowledge of our brands, and dedication to providing an outstanding Outback experience, this will be a seamless transition for our guests.” 

Cerca Trova, formerly known as T-Bird Restaurant Group, has operated Outback restaurants in California since 1994 and is a portfolio company of H.I.G. Capital, a leading global private equity and alternative assets firm. H.I.G. specializes in providing both debt and equity capital to small and mid-sized companies, utilizing a flexible and operationally focused/ value-added approach. Cerca Trova is the largest franchisee for Bloomin’ Brands.

“This partnership will provide additional energy and resources to Cerca Trova as we expand,” said Steve Weigel, President and CEO, of Cerca Trova Restaurant Concepts.  “Working with the entire team at Outback is an honor and a privilege and this partnership will allow the brand to continue to prosper.”

Headquartered in San Diego, California, Cerca Trova is now the exclusive franchisee of Outback Steakhouse in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico, and remains the largest domestic franchisee of Bloomin’ Brands, operating over 100 Outback locations across the western region (approximately 15 percent of all the Outback locations in the United States).

“We are excited to extend our presence outside of California,” added  Weigel. “The Outback concept is among the strongest in the casual dining sector, with a brand that customers have associated with high-quality and value for nearly three decades. We look forward to building on our long and successful track-record of representing Bloomin’ with well-run, popular restaurants.”

Elliot Maluth, Managing Director at H.I.G., said: “We are very excited about this add-on acquisition, which roughly doubles the size of our business. We upgraded and expanded our management team since making our initial investment in 2015, and believe that the new team, led by Steve Weigel and Mike Wong, will continue to elevate the brand and the customer experience.”

Evergreen Restaurant Group has been a franchisee for 21 years and operates Outback, Carrabba’s and Bonefish Grill restaurants across the northwest.

“Operating three of the finest casual dining brands in the country is very rewarding,” said Jeff Jones, President and CEO of Evergreen Restaurant Group. “We are very pleased to add the additional Outback restaurants to our portfolio and commence operating Carrabba’s Italian Grill as well.”

With the two transactions, Cerca Trova now operates all Outback restaurants across five states and Evergreen, multiple restaurant brands across seven states.

The Halal Guys Goes North

The Halal Guys plans  expansion in Toronto and the GTA, starting with the opening of its first Ontario location, and lagship on 563 Yonge Street, at the intersection of Yonge and Wellesley, on Friday, May 5th.

“We are extremely excited to be opening in Toronto. The demand for The Halal Guys from people who have experienced our food has been very strong, and we are thrilled to not only be able to serve people who already love our food, but to also introduce our brand to new customers, as well,” states Imran Momin, co-owner of the Toronto franchise.

In addition to this first location, the group of franchise owners and cousins Imran Momin, Alveen Momin and Averroes Momin, will be spearheading the opening of several The Halal Guys locations throughout Toronto and neighbouring cities in the coming years.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe Signs Multiple Agreements

Tropical Smoothie Cafe signed multi-unit franchise agreements with several foodservice and franchising industry veterans, each of whom bring decades of experience to the company’s franchise network. This accelerated franchise development coupled with the company’s ongoing success has propelled the award-winning food and smoothie franchise to new heights as it continues to outpace the competition and report positive growth despite the industry-wide declining sales trend, closing out the first quarter of 2017 with positive comp sales of four percent. 

“With 2017 marking Tropical Smoothie Cafe’s 20th anniversary, we’re grateful that the investments we’ve made in our products, people and processes over the past two decades have translated into compounding success. The influx of experienced multi-unit operators joining our franchise network is a true testament to the strength of our business model, and we’re thrilled to welcome each of them to the team,” said Mike Rotondo, CEO of Tropical Smoothie Cafe. “Our franchisees have played an integral role in the substantial growth Tropical Smoothie Cafe has experienced over the last several years. We’ve never strayed from our commitment to supporting each and every franchisee in our network, which has helped fuel growth from within, with more than half of the 160 franchise agreements signed last year coming from existing franchisees.”

Tropical Smoothie Cafe’s newest experienced multi-unit operators include:

  • Mike Shattuck, who brings more than 40 years experience in the food service industry, previously served as the vice president of international for Cinnabon and president international for FOCUS Brands. Shattuck currently has six cafes in development throughout the greater Atlantametro area and will be leveraging his experience running international franchised operations as a key contributor to the success of his cafes.
  • A trailblazer in the franchising and foodservice industries, Emily Harrington has immense experience as a multi-unit operator of successful franchises, having previously owned 42 Hardee’s restaurants prior to joining Tropical Smoothie Cafe. As part of her franchise agreement with the brand, Harrington purchased two existing cafes in Tampa and will be opening an additional four new locations throughout the area over the next several years, with an ultimate goal to own at least 50 Tropical Smoothie Cafe restaurants.
  • Bill Ruby and Greg Powell each bring more than two decades of experience to Tropical Smoothie Cafe. The partners most recently worked together for Denny’s Corporation, where Ruby led marketing efforts as vice president of field marketing and later became vice president of company operations, and Powell spearheaded branded concepts as vice president of concept innovation and development. The partners will be opening six new cafes throughout South Carolina’sUpstate region. 
  • Steve Milam, a multi-unit operator of four Wingstop locations, joined Tropical Smoothie cafe in Spring 2016. Milam currently owns and operates three Tropical Smoothie Cafe restaurants in Frisco, Texas, with plans to expand throughout his territory over the next several years.
  • Carlos Varella, along with his three brothers, joined Tropical Smoothie Cafe and currently operates two locations in Texas, both of which opened in January 2017. The brothers have committed to opening four additional locations in Texas, and are actively seeking sites in Harlingen, McAllenand Laredo. They bring extensive experience in the food service and franchising industries, and also own Russo’s New York Pizzeria and VENTURE X franchises.

“Each of our new franchisees bring a wealth of knowledge and decades of industry experience to the table, and we have no doubt they’ll be valuable partners as they spearhead Tropical Smoothie Cafe’s growth in their respective communities,” added Rotondo.

First Watch Expands Franchise Program

First Watch announced finalized several additional development agreements with established franchise operators. Collectively, First Watch plans to open a minimum of 110 franchise restaurants in key growth markets with its new and existing franchise partners by 2022, in addition to its 150 planned company-owned restaurant openings.

Charleston, South Carolina; Augusta and Savannah, Georgia

RAS, LLC, a new entity made up of restauranteurs Ryan Hendrix, Andrew Brooks and Steven Hendrix, is among the new franchise partnerships. The fast-growing franchise group plans to develop seven new First Watch restaurants in Charleston, Augusta and Savannah. The RAS team currently operates eight Jersey Mike’s restaurants in the Charleston and Chattanooga markets. The group is now focusing its growth efforts on the casual dining segment, with its initial First Watch opening planned for this year in Bluffton, South Carolina, and another planned in the Charleston metro area in 2018.

Greensboro and Winston-Salem, North Carolina

First Watch has also partnered with TFW Licensing, LLC to open at least six First Watch restaurants in and around Greensboro and Winston-Salem, North Carolina. John Tobe, primary owner of the franchise entity, has extensive experience in the restaurant industry, once owning more than 40 Papa John’s restaurants in three states.

Louisiana and Mississippi

Quail Ridge Enterprises has also joined the growing First Watch franchise roster and will focus on growing the daytime café’s brand with 10 planned openings Northern Louisiana and Mississippi. Led by Spencer and Janie Mooney, the franchise group currently operates multiple Newk’s Eatery restaurants in Mississippi and Louisiana.

Missouri and Arkansas

National and Battlefield Investments, LLC is another new First Watch franchise group, led by James Tillman and Joseph Hulston. The group has agreed to open at least five First Watch restaurants in Southwest Missouri and Northwest Arkansas.

Miami, Florida

A Miami-based franchise group has also recently partnered with First Watch, with plans to open at least 10 additional First Watch restaurants in and around Miami. Further details of the partnership have not yet been announced.

“At First Watch, our main priority has been quality, measured growth while maintaining a focus on our values, our unique menu philosophies and strengthening our culture,” said Chris Tomasso, president of First Watch. “We spend a great amount of time getting to know our potential franchise partners and their values, goals, experiences and overall work ethic, and they do the same for us. Both our existing and our new franchise partners have all shown an ability to develop and successfully operate restaurants in multiple markets, and we’re confident that each of these groups will operate successful First Watch restaurants while maintaining our people-focused culture.”

In addition to the 36 restaurants to be built under these new development agreements with RAS, LLC, TFW Licensing, LLC, Quail Ridge Enterprises and National and Battlefield Investments, LLC, the company’s existing franchise partners are scheduled to open more than 75 First Watch restaurants based on previously established development agreements.

First Watch has more than 300 restaurants in 26 states, including more than 200 First Watch restaurants, 95 The Egg & I restaurants, one The Good Egg restaurant in Phoenix and one Bread & Company restaurant in Nashville. 

Garbanzo Mediterranean Eyes St. Louis.

Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh – a Mediterranean cuisine brand  is entering the St. Louis market.

The chain, which is majority-owned by St. Louis real estate investor Michael Staenberg, plans to open up to 10 restaurants in the area over the next several years. Eddie Cherry, Senior Leasing Representative at The Staenberg Group, is leading the site selection process for the company.

James Park, who grew up in St. Louis, is the CEO of the Denver-based chain.

“I am absolutely thrilled to bring this hit concept back to my hometown,” said Park. “At Garbanzo, we serve up love in every pita so our guests can feel brighter on the inside. Mediterranean cuisine is food that you can feed your kids without worries about preservatives, MSG or trans fats, and it caters to virtually every diet – from vegan and vegetarian to paleo and meat eaters. Because it’s simple, fresh and authentically made, it’s become the newest trend in the fast-casual segment.”

“We’re beginning to see a definite shift from Mexican to Mediterranean, and a transition from sandwiches to shawarmas,” said Park. “Mediterranean flavors have survived the test of time and now it’s become the food trend of the future. We just have to be sure not to mess with it too much because, at its core, it’s already darn close to perfect.”

Garbanzo’s first St. Louis-area location is projected to open in Clayton this summer. Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh is headquartered in Colorado with 23 locations nationwide. 

Bojangles To Grow in D.C. Market

Bojangles’, Inc.  announced a multi-unit development agreement with new franchisee MSR Restaurants, LLC of Mitchellville, Maryland.

The development agreement is anticipated to result in multiple new Bojangles’ restaurants in the Washington, D.C. metro area over the next several years. The franchise group is owned and operated by Baryalay Razi, who has more than 20 years of experience in the quick service restaurant industry.

“We are pleased to welcome MSR Restaurants, LLC to the Bojangles’ family of franchisees,” said Randy Icard, Bojangles’ Vice President of Franchise Development. “We are confident that MSR Restaurants, LLC is the right franchise group to align with as we move forward with our strategic growth and development plans. We continue to actively search for successful, enthusiastic business leaders, like the MSR Restaurants team, to increase our brand presence in the Mid-Atlantic region.”

The company has been actively expanding its footprint, recently signing agreements to bring Bojangles’ into Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley region and Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay area. Additionally, Bojangles’ has recently refranchised its Maryland restaurants in New Carrollton, Hillcrest Heights, Landover, Upper Marlboro and Oxon Hill, which are now independently owned and operated by MSR Restaurants, LLC.

At December 25, 2016, Bojangles’ had 716 system-wide restaurants, of which 309 were company-operated and 407 were franchised restaurants, primarily located in the Southeastern United States.

SPoT Coffee Expands

SPoT Coffee entered into a franchise agreement with Cedarland Foods, LLC to develop a SPoT Express café in Waterfront Village located at 50 Lakefront Blvd, Buffalo, N.Y. SPoT Waterfront Village is scheduled to open in the first week of July, 2017.

The principals of Cederland Foods, LLC are Dr. Fadi Dagher, President and his son, Kevin Dagher, Vice-President. Dr. Dagher is a transplant surgeon and also the principal of Cedarland Development Group. The Company has agreed to provide Dr. Dagher with a Right of First Refusal to develop an additional SPoT Express café in the Canalside area in Buffalo.

BurgerFi Goes to College

BurgerFi signed a franchise agreement with Philadelphia-based dining services partner, Aramark. The global food industry leader will operate the brand’s first college campus location at Temple University in Philadelphia and will be located at the newly renovated Howard Gittis Student Center food court.

The agreement with Aramark demonstrates BurgerFi’s growing strength as a national brand. Aramark serves Fortune 500 companies, world champion sports teams, state-of-the-art healthcare providers, world leading educational institutions, iconic destinations and cultural attractions, and numerous municipalities in 19 countries around the world.  The Temple Universityrestaurant becomes BurgerFi’s second Philadelphia location and is expected to open its doors to students and visitors in August of 2017. 

“Developing this new location with Aramark brings immense value to our expanding franchise network, and we are excited to see BurgerFi at a college campus such as Temple,” said Corey Winograd, Chief Executive Officer of BurgerFi. “We value this relationship with Aramark, a world leader in bringing innovative restaurant brands to large-scale venues.”

BurgerFi announced its first non-traditional site agreement with HMSHost last month to operate the new BurgerFi restaurant at Fort Lauderdale International Airport. 

This year, BurgerFi plans to open approximately 20 new restaurants, primarily through franchise development, and is targeting Virginia, Washington D.C.,North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia and New York for domestic expansion. Established in 2011, BurgerFi is among the nation’s fastest-growing better burger concepts with a projected 100 restaurants to be open by mid-2017.