MRM Franchise Feed: The Halal Guys Flies High in NJ, Bouchon Bakery Plans Middle East Debut and Bar Louie Eyes California

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

The Halal Guys Opens in Teterboro

The Halal Guys started 25 years ago as a food cart to serve the late-night hunger of NYC taxi drivers. The three original founders are growing their company with a rapid nationwide brick-and-mortar expansion reaching from New York to California. Meanwhile the lines for their famous chicken-over-rice platter remain long at the original 53rd St & 6th Avenue location.

Photos by Jeremiah Nazir

The lines were out the door as The Halal Guys’ expansion in New Jersey grew with a new store opening in Teterboro, directly across from the Teterboro Airport. Other New Jersey locations include Union on Rt 22; Newark, and East Brunswick. In the past year, The Halal Guys have opened in Newark and Union, NJ, as well as Atlanta, Seattle, San Francisco, and Dallas, Philadelphia and New Orleans. 

Pie Five Plans East Coast Expansion

In a new franchise development deal that includes parts of New York and New Jersey, Pie Five Pizza Co. will soon be expanding its piece of the pie to include the East Coast. The first locations are planned for Franklin Park in South Brunswick and Summerhill Square in East Brunswick.

Pie Five

“We were looking for sites for our other concepts when we stumbled across Pie Five,” said new Pie Five franchisee Dinesh Goswami. “We were blown away by the high-quality ingredients, the customer-focused business model and how fast the pizzas were made – it’s a very unique concept.”

Goswami and his partners with AR Pizza, LLC, also own 47 Popeye’s Chicken locations and eight Arby’s restaurants.

“We helped build the Popeye’s brand, so that experience allows us to bring a deep understanding of franchised restaurant operations to the table,” said Goswami. “New York is basically the pizza capital of America and we are convinced that Pie Five offers a distinctive approach to the segment that will be a welcome addition to the food scene.”

The new East Coast locations will also serve halal-certified meat to accommodate guests who observe the dietary guidelines.

Pie Five

Dallas-based Pie Five Pizza Co. is a subsidiary of RAVE Restaurant Group, Inc., which owns, franchises and supplies more than 300 Pie Five and Pizza Inn restaurants operating domestically and internationally. 

Bouchon Bakery to Open in Middle East

International retail franchise operator M.H. Alshaya Co. has announced its franchise partnership with Chef Thomas Keller to launch the first three Bouchon Bakeries outside the United States in Dubai and Kuwait this year.

The first Bouchon Bakery opened in July 2003 by Keller, the award-winning American chef, restaurateur, and cookbook author, as a place that would foster community and provide one-of-a-kind breads in Yountville, California. Keller is the first and only American chef to have been awarded simultaneous three star Michelin ratings for two different restaurants. He currently holds seven Michelin stars: three at Per Se, three at The French Laundry, and one at Bouchon Bistro.

Bouchon Bakery has been Thomas Keller’s unique take on a French boulangerie, offering sandwiches, quiche, soups and salads, as well as a wide range of artisanal viennoiserie, confections, pastries, tarts and cookies both French and American in influence. With locations across the U.S. in Napa Valley, Beverly Hills, Las Vegas and New York.

“As we expand outside the United States, we are pleased to partner with Alshaya, which has a track record of successfully franchising international brands. Together we will make Bouchon Bakery an outstanding destination for our Middle East guests and visitors alike. I’m eagerly looking forward to our official debut,” Chef/Proprietor Keller said, commenting on the new partnership.

Mohammed Alshaya, Executive Chairman of M.H. Alshaya Co. said: “We are very pleased to partner with Bouchon Bakery, which has a well-deserved reputation for excellence, under the leadership of Thomas Keller. We look forward to introducing this innovative dining experience to customers in the Middle East and anticipate an exciting future together.” 

M.H. Alshaya Co.  has been an international franchise operator for over 75 of the world’s most recognized retail brands including Starbucks, H&M, Mothercare, Debenhams, American Eagle Outfitters, P.F. Chang’s, The Cheesecake Factory, Victoria’s Secret, Boots, Pottery Barn and KidZania. The company operates over 3,400 stores across diverse customer sectors: Fashion & Footwear, Health & Beauty, Food, Optics, Pharmacy, Home Furnishings and Leisure & Entertainment.  Alshaya’s stores can be found in markets across the Middle East and North Africa, Russia, Turkey and Europe and the company employs more than 47,000 people from over 120 nationalities. 

FCPT Acquires Seven Burger King Restaurant Properties for $16 Million

Four Corners Property Trust acquired seven Burger King properties leased to Cambridge Franchise Holdings for $16 million. The properties are occupied under two separate triple-net master leases with 20-year initial terms and above average brand performance. The first master lease pool consists of four properties in Mississippi and Tennessee that have all been recently renovated and re-imaged by Cambridge. The second master lease pool consists of three properties in Mississippi and Indiana that are newly constructed. This is the third transaction with Cambridge, now a 120-unit franchisee, at a similar going-in cash cap rate as previously announced transactions.

FCPT, headquartered in Mill Valley, CA, is a real estate investment trust primarily engaged in the acquisition and leasing of restaurant properties. The Company will seek to grow its portfolio by acquiring additional real estate to lease, on a triple-net basis, for use in the restaurant and related food services industry. 

HuHot Adding Nine Locations

HuHot Mongolian Grills, LLC  has already opened three new locations this year with an estimated six more locations on the way. In addition, HuHot saw over three percent SSS growth and almost a percent in growth counts in their last period. With a strategic focus on loyalty, training, and value HuHot anticipates this trend will continue.

The year of growth started with HuHot’s largest franchise ownership group, an affiliate of Sun Capital, FRC Group, who opened locations in Lawrence, KS, followed quickly by a location in Champaign, IL. The next opening scheduled for the group is Shawnee, KS and Bloomington, IL. They have 2 more additional cities that they are finalizing leases on and plan to open late 2017 or early 2018.

“These are exciting times for our brand as we continue our balanced approach to growth through franchising and company owned locations,” said Jeff Martin, COO of HuHot. “Our concept hits the sweet spot with many consumers today and we’re motivated to introduce HuHot to new markets across the country.”

HuHot is seeing growth beyond existing franchisees. HuHot opened its newest franchise location in May, belonging to Bill Trevorrow in Lake Delton, WI. In addition to this, HuHot signed its 13th franchise group in May, with plans to open a location in Arizona within the next year. 

HuHot is also scheduled to have one of its largest years of company growth. A new company owned location in Milwaukee, WI is scheduled to open in August, and plans are in the works for additional company locations in Texas and Utah, also slated to open this year.

This growth is projected to continue as the chain rapidly approaches 100 locations nation-wide in the next couple years.

Crimson Cup Opens Third Shop in Bangladesh

Columbus, Ohio coffee roaster Crimson Cup Coffee & Tea has opened a third international coffee shop in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The new Crimson Cup Coffee House is located at Quantum Mostofa tower, (3rd floor) Gausal Azam Avenue, Sector-13 in the Uttara area. It joins Crimson Cup Coffee Houses in Dhaka’s Banani and Dhanmondi neighborhoods.

“We’re excited to open the third and largest Crimson Cup Coffee House in Dhaka,” said Founder and President Greg Ubert. “The managing directors, managing partners and investors have created another inviting space for Uttara coffee lovers to enjoy handcrafted espressos, café mochas, lattes and other handcrafted coffee drinks.”

Crimson Cup Bangladesh is a joint project of Managing Directors Mohaimin Mostafa and Rehanur Rahman; Managing Partners Tareq Rafi Bhuiyan and his wife, Ayesha Rawshan Bhuiyan; and Investors Sararaz Anwar Upol, his wife, Shahana Mirza Asha, and her brothers Mirza Abdul Khaled and Mirza Abdul Khales. 

Mostafa and the Bhuiyans enjoyed Crimson Cup coffee while studying at Ohio State University in Columbus. When planning for their chain of coffee houses, they reached out for support through Crimson Cup’s 7 Steps to Success coffee franchise alternative program. Based on Ubert’s book, Seven Steps to Success in the Specialty Coffee Industry, the program teaches prospective business owners all they need to open a coffee shop. Hands-on consulting covers everything from writing a coffee shop business plan and finding the right location to choosing equipment, hiring and training staff, attracting customers and more.

The Uttara baristas learned their craft from Crimson Cup Innovation Lab Ambassador Nate Bell, who conducted on-site training. After opening three coffee houses since May 2015, the Crimson Cup Bangladesh team is already planning to expand. Managers are looking for locations in the cities of Sylhet and Chittagong, the resort city of Cox Bazar, and other sections of Dhaka, including Mirpur.

Potbelly Sandwich Shop to Add Five More Locations in Richmond and Charlottesville Areas

Potbelly Sandwich Shop signed an agreement to add five more shops to the Richmond and Charlottesville areas. The agreement follows previous deals that brought the first two shops to greater Richmond. In total, there are currently slated to be seven shops in the region, five more joining the two already open. David Duke and operating owner Jay Clark are the local franchisees who own the existing Richmond locations, and who are growing the brand locally.

“We wouldn’t be able to do this without our outstanding fans that frequent the Glen Allen shop and our Downtown Richmond shop,” said Duke. “Jay and I see an even brighter future for Potbelly in the greater Richmond area because of the neighborhood support we have already seen at our shops. It is an honor to be celebrating our achievements by giving the area five more locations to enjoy.”

“We are fully behind David and Jay as they add to their portfolio of Potbelly Sandwich Shop locations,” said Chris Birkinshaw, senior director of domestic franchising for Potbelly Sandwich Shop. “David and Jay have already established Potbelly as the neighborhood hangout, and we’re confident that the neighborhoods the brand grows into will continue to love our food, our people and our local vibe.”

Potbelly Sandwich Shop first opened in Chicago in 1977, and operates more than 400 shops across the United States. Franchisees operate more than 35 shops in the United States and abroad, and Potbelly plans to continue franchise growth in 2017.

Wingstop Creates Chief Experience Officer Role 

Wingstop Restaurants Inc. appointed Stacy Peterson to the newly created position of Chief Experience Officer (CXO). In this new role, Peterson, who has served as Wingstop’s Chief Information Officer since 2014, will be responsible for advancing all aspects of the guest experience. She will continue to report directly to Charlie Morrison, President and Chief Executive Officer.

Stacy Peterson

“In our drive to become a top 10 worldwide restaurant brand, Wingstop is committed to delivering a world-class guest experience,” said Morrison. “Stacy’s leadership in the digital space has been a driving force for the Company, significantly enhancing how fans interact with our brand, including via social ordering on Facebook Messenger and Twitter and voice-activated ordering on Amazon Alexa. Through these innovations, digital sales have grown to more than 20 percent of the Company’s total sales, which is leading the way in the fast casual category.  With her keen understanding of our business and guests, Stacy is uniquely positioned to take on this newly created and expanded role.”

As CXO, Peterson will spearhead leveraging insights derived from guest feedback to develop strategic imperatives that ensure Wingstop remains at the forefront of consumer facing innovation and restaurant operating technologies. She will also be responsible for the strategic development of digital solutions and all corporate systems including guest-facing applications, restaurant point-of-sale (POS), back of house applications and corporate infrastructure. 

“I am honored to be appointed to this new role,” said Ms. Peterson. “Wingstop has made significant strides through our technological innovations, especially in the digital realm. Knowing that our fans now have the ability to interact with the brand through various channels, I look forward to growing the ways we offer our guests a truly world-class experience in every aspect of our business.”

Founded in 1994 and headquartered in Dallas, Texas, Wingstop Inc. operates and franchises 1,031 restaurants across the United States, Mexico, Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates. 

Pieology Opens in Jacksonville

Pieology opened its newest location at 1850 3rd St. South in Jacksonville Beach, FL.

“As Pieology continues to grow and evolve, we are excited to bring our newest location to Jacksonville Beach and cultivate our community of Pieology lovers,” said Michael Nolan, Pieology President. “What began as a promise to deliver creative and personally-inspired pizzas has grown into a nationwide family of restaurants, and we look forward to delivering that same quality experience to the Jacksonville Beach community.”

In addition to serving up delicious pizza, Pieology is committed to making a positive difference in the communities it serves by hosting fundraising events to support local causes. “We’ve taken great pride in delivering delicious and creative pizza while connecting to communities throughout the region,” says Ted Cheng, Chief Executive Manager of Kingdom Pies LLC and the owner and operator of all Pieology’s Northern Florida and Arkansas locations. “We look forward to continuing to give back and serve the community of Jacksonville Beach.”

A Good Problem to Have

With the overwhelming excitement for Dickey’s Barbecue Pit’s new location opening in Mandan, North Dakota last Thursday, local Owner/Operators were faced with meeting the inventory demands of such high traffic. When the required stock could not be found at the normal distribution centers, they turned to Dickey’s corporate team for a creative solution to ensure the expected demand could be met.

Local Owner/Operators Randy and Lisa Rhone, Amanda and Ben Zachmeieropened their first Dickey’s location in Minot, North Dakota in 2014. Given the success of this store and anticipation from the community, their new Mandanlocation was expected to generate extremely high traffic beyond what local distribution centers could provide. Dickey’s corporate purchasing team immediately searched the country for stock, arranged truck rentals and travel, and negotiated pricing. President of Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants, Inc., Renee Roozen, even had her husband in Colorado and father in Minnesotaready to drive trucks if stock could be found in those markets. Ultimately, the stock was found in Nebraska and a member of Dickey’s corporate support staff volunteered to give up his off days to fly from Pacific Northwest to Nebraska to pick up a truck, and then drive 12 hours to North Dakota to complete the miracle.

“We are very grateful to the support staff at Dickey’s corporate office for helping us make this grand opening such a success,” said Owner/Operator Randy Rhone. “This is definitely an instance in which we were happy to be a Dickey’s franchisee. We couldn’t have done it without them!”

“This is a perfect example of one of the key reasons why entrepreneurs are attracted to franchises, and Dickey’s in particular: they receive this type of support,” said Renee Roozen, President of Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants, Inc. “It was truly a team effort and we are proud to share this success with the Rhones and Zachmeiers. We view our franchisees as members of our family and are willing to do whatever it takes to make sure they are well taken care of and our loyal guests’ expectations are met.”

A&W Canada Goes All Natural

A&W Canada is now serving up frosty mugs of root beer made with natural cane sugar and all-natural flavours such as sarsaparilla root, licorice, birch bark, and anise. The company has been on a relentless journey to source natural ingredients and the launch of A&W Root Beer® crafted with natural ingredients marks a significant milestone.

“Our customers told us that they want food and drink made with natural ingredients and we’re taking big steps to make it happen,” said A&W Canada’s Senior Director of Marketing and Brand Communications, Tom Newitt. “We’re proud to introduce A&W Root Beer crafted with natural cane sugar and all-natural flavours which is another first for fast food in Canada.” 

A&W Food Services of Canada Inc. is 100 per cent Canadian owned and is one of the strongest brand names in the Canadian foodservice industry. A&W is the nation’s second largest hamburger restaurant company with more than 890 locations coast-to-coast.

New Hub and Spoke Model Sparks Growth for Great Harvest Bread

Through the first six months of the year, Great Harvest Bread Co. is expanding at a rapid rate, now with nearly 200 locations open across the United States with agreements in place to open another 45 by the end of 2018, thanks in part to its “hub and spoke” franchise model. With primary growth regions set for the Northeast and Southern regions of the country, Great Harvest has inked deals in cities throughout the U.S., including Charlotte, Duluth and towns throughout Alabama, with both new and existing franchisees.

“Our unique franchise model has set our company and franchisees up for sustained success,” said Great Harvest CEO Mike Ferretti. “We have already signed 30 franchise agreements with our existing bakery-café owners, which is a testament to our already tremendous owners, quality products and national growth plans.”

Under the new hub and spoke franchise opportunity, franchisees can purchase a large territory that includes a single Great Harvest bakery operation and as many café-only units as they desire in surrounding towns. The bakery locations would be equipped with ovens and ample space to produce and deliver the hand-milled breads to the nearby café-only locations throughout the day.

The model allows Great Harvest owners to own multiple locations under one agreement, while competing against segment rivals in all territories.

“Even though we are maximizing our coverage, we are still serving the same, fresh, quality bread to all of our customers,” Ferretti said. “We still start our milling process as early as 3 a.m. every morning and that will not change.”

With the new model set, Great Harvest is on target to meet its annual projections, will have more than 200 locations open by the end of the year and is next setting its eyes on major metros like New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Buffalo.

MOOYAH Opens in Williamsburg

MOOYAH Burgers, Fries & Shakes opened in Williamsburg at 4640 Casey Blvd. Franchisee Amit Patel owned the former MOOYAH location at 249 Richmond Rd. in Williamsburg before deciding to move operations to a better site in Settler’s Market. He discovered the brand through his nephew Alpen, who experienced MOOYAH in Dallas. Now the two family members are focused on growing MOOYAH in Virginia as Alpen runs his location in Hampton and Amit prepares to open the doors of his new location in Williamsburg.

“From the first time I tried MOOYAH, I knew it was a really nice brand with fresh, high-quality food, and people are going to love our new spot in Williamsburg,” said Amit Patel. “Right now we are focused on opening up for the community and making sure our operations are perfect.”

The new location will feature MOOYAH’s newly redesigned interior layout, including sleek digital menu boards that Guests will be able to easily order from.

The opening in Williamsburg will also help spark bigger growth that the brand has planned for Virginia and the Washington D.C. area in 2017. MOOYAH is targeting the area for upwards of 15 to 20 new restaurants.

“Williamsburg is just the start of a development push throughout Virginia, with a specific focus on greater Washington D.C. and Richmond,” said Michael Mabry, chief operating officer of MOOYAH. “MOOYAH is already seeing incredible support in the region, and we are all excited to see Amit Patel open and thrive in Williamsburg.” 

In 2016, MOOYAH surpassed the all-important 100-unit milestone. The booming “better burger” brand entered several new states in 2016, while also expanding its presence in New Jersey, Virginia, Florida and New York.

Baja Fresh Debuts in Medford

Baja Fresh Mexican Grill®   opened in Medford, Oregon at 539 Medford Center. It is the first location for franchisees Russ and Heather Koehler.

“We are excited to bring Medford its first Baja Fresh,” said Heather Koehler. “Whenever we would drive up north, we always sought out a Baja Fresh. The food is always delicious and it’s always packed, so we knew we just had to open one here in Medford. They’re going to love it.” 

The 2,200 square foot Baja Fresh restaurant features a covered patio, conveniently located at the entrance to Medford’s largest movie theater complex. 

Telepizza Celebrates the Opening of its First Store in Iran

Telepizza  announced further expansion, with the opening of its first Iranian store in Marzdaran Boulevar, Theran, and a further two stores set to open by the end of the month. Telepizza signed a master franchise agreement with Momenin Investment Group last year; MIG will beinvesting €100 million in the next ten years. The Theran store opening marks the start of the latest phase of Telepizza’s ambitious global expansion plans, becoming the first International QSR brand to enter the Iranian market and with 1,421 stores globally. Telepizza plans to build on this successful first launch with a further seven stores due to open in Theran by the end of 2017 and 200 stores across Iran planned in the next 10 years.

The significant opportunities presented by Iran’s large, young, population (more than 80 million people of which 65 percent are below 36 years old), and highly fragmented competition, made the country an obvious choice for expansion, according to company executives.

“We are very proud of the inauguration of our two first Iranian stores. It is a great responsibility to become the first QSR chain in the country,” remarked Pablo Juantegui, Chairman and CEO of Telepizza Group. “At Telepizza, we are delighted to share with Iranian consumers the essence of our brand, bringing them the unique flavor of our pizzas, at any moment and place.”

Telepizza International President, Giorgio Minardi, added: “The launch of our first Iranian outlet marks an exciting step in our international expansion which continues to gain momentum. Iran looks set to become a hugely important market for us, with significant room for growth. We know ourinnovative flavours and commitment to use only quality local Iranianingredients, coupled with our outstanding customer service and great value will appeal to Iranian consumers.’

Headquartered in Madrid, Spain, Telepizza operates in more than 20 countries through a network of own stores, franchisees and master franchisees, with 1,421 stores globally, including 478 own stores (34 percent) and 943 franchised and master franchised stores (66 percent) as of 31 March, 2017.

Bar Louie Looks Westward

Leadership at Bar Louie expects locations to open in San Diego County, Los Angeles County and key cities in Northern California over the next five years.

“With more than 125 locations across 26 states and the District of Columbia, this will be Bar Louie’s first time venturing to the West Coast, and the new locations will be opened under the leadership of Robert Levyssohn, Director of Real Estate for the West. Already taking a step toward California expansion, two Bar Louie restaurants recently opened in the Los Angeles area. The first at 9301 Tampa Avenue in Northridge, CA and the second at 8860 Apollo Way in Downey, CA. In total, the projected new locations will create more than 4,000 new jobs.

“Just like every different city in California from Eureka down to San Diego, each Bar Louie location has its own set of diverse characteristics and provides a unique atmosphere to its guests,” said Levyssohn. “We can’t wait to see what new experiences potential Bar Louie corporate locations and franchised locations will bring to their communities. Californians will soon come to love the five-dollar burgers on Tuesdays and Brews and Blues nights and the upcoming National Martini Day.”

Bar Louie is seeking to expand both through corporate locations and qualified franchise partners. Levyssohn noted that San Diego County can hold up to eight locations, Los Angeles County and the nearby Orange County are ready for 32 Bar Louie restaurants. While the development focus is mostly on Southern California, the company is also looking to bring locations to key areas in Northern California, including San Francisco, San Jose, and Sacramento.

Save The Date: Get Married At Taco Bell

Taco Bell unveiled that beginning August 7, fans everywhere can tie the knot Taco Bell-style at the brand’s flagship Las Vegas Cantina restaurant. On June 25,  Taco Bell hosted its inaugural wedding for the winners of the previously announced Love and Tacos Contest, in which couples across America entered to win an all-expense paid trip to wed at the Las Vegas Cantina. Following more than 150 entries and nearly 17,000 votes, happy couple Dan Ryckert and Bianca Monda won the contest, and yesterday they celebrated the wedding of their Doritos Locos Taco-filled dreams.

Now that Dan and Bianca have paved the way, starting August 7, fans everywhere can have their own Taco Bell wedding, which they can walk in and order right off the Las Vegas Cantina menu. Ringing in at $600, the wedding package is complete with a ceremony performed by an ordained officiant, a private reception area for up to 15 guests, custom merchandise for the bride and groom, Taco Bell branded champagne flutes, a Taco 12 Pack, a Cinnabon Delights cake and, last but certainly not least, a sauce packet bouquet.

Little Caesar’s Debuts in South America

Little Caesars® Pizza continues its international expansion with the opening of its first-ever South American restaurant located in Santiago, Chile. This continues the brand’s rapid growth in Latin America, including stores in Mexico, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Panama., Little Caesars and its area franchisee, Premier Caesars Chile SpA, plan to seize the growth opportunity for the company’s HOT-N- READY® model with plans for an additional 30 locations in that country.

“Customers crave value, but value goes well beyond just price,” said Little Caesars Pizza Senior Vice President of International, Paula Vissing. “At Little Caesars Pizza, we see value as the relationship between price, quality, taste, and convenience. Our menu is designed to satisfy those hunting for a great deal and great quality food.”

With the opening of the Santiago location, Little Caesars Pizza will operate restaurants in six out of seven continents –North America, South America, Asia, Australia, Europe and Africa.