MRM Franchise Feed: Wingstop Goes European, Church’s Largest Deal and Gioia Says Goodbye

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

Wingstop Eyes U.K.

Wingstop Restaurants Inc.  is extending its global reach by expanding into the European market. The company entered into an international agreement with Lemon Pepper Holdings Ltd. (LPH), which is set to open 100 locations in the United Kingdom over the next 12 years with the first restaurant set to open by year’s end.

Rita Sharma OBE, founder and CEO of, will back the newly established LPH. Other partners involved on the board include Saul Lewin and Boris Kofman of V2 Leisure, which was involved in launching Novikov in the United Kingdom in 2011 and brokered many of London’s high profile restaurant openings, including Sumosan Twiga, Park Chinois, and most recently opened MNKY HSE in Mayfair; as well as Tom Grogan, co-founder of Lutti London, a privately owned real estate investment group.

“My family and I are very excited to bring Wingstop to the United Kingdom,” said Sharma. “We have been assessing an investment into the food and beverage sector for some time and believe Wingstop is the right opportunity with the right team involved. Wingstop brings a new and exciting option to an underserved chicken category within the overall U.K. food sector.”

Wingstop will be the first fast casual restaurant for the newly established group; the founders have created a very strong operational team, advisory council and support structure with U.K. experience in brands such as Shake Shack, Five Guys, Pret a Manger, Cote Brasserie and Jamie Oliver’s Italian.

“The European market represents a significant international growth opportunity for Wingstop and a meaningful next step on our path to becoming a top 10 restaurant brand, meeting both franchisee interest and consumer demand,” said Larry Kruguer, President of International at Wingstop. “Lemon Pepper Holdings Ltd. has shown that they are very in tune to the type of brand experience the U.K. consumer is looking for, and we are thrilled to have them join the Wingstop family. Rita Sharma is one of the most respected entrepreneurs in Britain and has built a highly successful company from the ground up. We look forward to working with LPH as we serve Europe – and the world – flavor.”

LPH will focus its efforts on adapting Wingstop to the United Kingdom, paying close attention to customer experience, branding and fit out, including a number of exciting architectural design adaptations that should have positive effects for the rest of Europe.

The United Kingdom will mark the tenth international market outside of the United States, but the Company’s first foray into Europe. 

Church’s Chicken Signs Largest-Ever Franchise Development Deal

Church’s Chicken® announced today that it has entered into a multi-year, development deal with Goalz Restaurant Group, LLC to develop 20 Church’s Chicken restaurants per year in six states. The agreement, which will affect expansion in Florida, Kentucky, Ohio, Colorado, North Carolina and South Carolina, is the largest ever with a single operator. 

For the new development deal, Shawn Eby, President of Goalz Restaurant Group, partnered with American Development Partners (ADP) for development of the restaurants. ADP will invest capital to fund real estate acquisitions, construction, and design. ADP will be Goalz build-to-suit landlord. Eby has more than 30 years of quick- service restaurant operations experience and will oversee the operations of each restaurant as they are developed.

“I believe Church’s Chicken’s strong brand will back the success of these new restaurants,” said Eby. “Due to Church’s 65-year legacy, I am confident in making such a significant commitment. Their quality product, store design, operational model, and management team are the key reasons we are making this investment”

“The Goalz Restaurant Group has a proven history that fits perfectly with Church’s domestic expansion strategy,” said Tony Moralejo, Executive Vice President of International Business and Global Development at Church’s Chicken. “This development deal will substantially grow the number of guests who can enjoy our signature quality food and great chicken experiences.”

Church’s® (along with its sister brand Texas Chicken® outside the Americas) has more than 1,600 locations in 27 countries and international territories and system-wide sales of more than $1 billion. Goalz was formed by four restaurant industry veterans, (Shawn Eby, Danny Robinson, David Clark and Wade Lancaster) and is currently scheduled to open 265 restaurants over the next few years across 10 states. Currently the three brands that Goalz will franchise are Captain D’s, Church’s Chicken and Dog Haus.

SoCal Delivery for McDonald’s

McDonald’s customers in Southern California can now enjoy their favorite burgers, fries, beverages and desserts delivered right to them through UberEATS. McDelivery on UberEATS is available at more than 375 McDonald’s restaurants throughout Los Angeles County, Orange County and Riverside County.

“We are excited to bring a new level of convenience and personalization to our customers in Southern California with UberEATS,” said Paul Tulaphorn, McDonald’s franchisee and association president of the local McDonald’s owner operators group. “Our customers have told us they enjoy experiencing McDonald’s in new ways, and this is just one more way for them to enjoy their favorite menu items.” 

Customers can place McDonald’s orders on the UberEATS mobile app or on, using the same account they use to take Uber rides and track their order, as an UberEATS delivery partner brings their meal directly to them. The full menu at participating McDonald’s restaurants will be available for delivery with the exception of soft serve cones. An UberEATS booking fee applies to each order.

“With UberEATS, you can get the food you want, where you want it, delivered at Uber speed. We’re thrilled to partner with McDonald’s to give fans inSouthern California easy access to their McDonald’s favorites at the tap of a button,” said Allen Narcisse, General Manager of UberEATS Southern California. “People in Southern California search for McDonald’s in the UberEATS app almost daily, so we’re excited to expand our reach and deliver what they’ve been craving.”

McDonald’s of Southern California is innovating its customer experience by making interior and exterior improvements to their restaurants, which include a more modern design, digital menu boards, table service and self-serve kiosks. Southern California customers can also enjoy a range of balanced menu items that fit their lifestyle, including the Egg White & Turkey Sausage Breakfast Bowl, and smoothies and parfaits made with nonfat vanilla Chobani® Greek Yogurt.

Taco Bell Job Creation

Taco Bell’s commitment to grow as a system to 8,000 U.S. locations by the end of 2022 and create about 100,000 new U.S. jobs over the next five years kicks into full swing this month, with the company and its franchisees expecting to fill 3,500 newly created jobs this summer alone. In addition, as the company heads into its busiest season of the year, it will seek to fill 50,000 additional positions across the system by the end of the summer.

Connecting the right job with the right candidate is not always easy. Taco Bell is looking to make this process even better for current and potential employees through its newly launched partnership with Roadtrip Nation. The company also introduced its first ever 30 under 30 list. Together, this industry-first partnership and round-up of top talent highlights the career paths within Taco Bell, making it easier for current and future employees to match their job needs and goals with Taco Bell’s varied career opportunities. 

“Last year we announced our commitment to hire 100,000 new team members in our system by 2022,” said Brian Niccol, Chief Executive Officer at Taco Bell. “We are now taking that commitment to the next level with recruiting and employment programs to help us and our franchisees invest in our employees, and their experience, in significant ways.” 

“Our system’s employees are central to creating exceptional experiences for the 46 million customers we serve each week,” said Frank Tucker, Chief People Officer at Taco Bell. “Taco Bell and our franchisees are committed to building workplaces where team members want to work and grow. That starts by showcasing the diverse pathways in the Taco Bell system and celebrating employees’ achievements, which we’re doing by shining a spotlight on some of Taco Bell’s most impressive young talent.”

Check out all of Taco Bell’s 30 under 30 here.  

Beginning in late 2016, Taco Bell partnered with Roadtrip Nation to capture the stories and career paths of current employees and alumni of Taco Bell. Since then, Roadtrip Nation has been traveling the country capturing video of these incredible personal stories. One alumni interviewed was Fred Mossler, former Senior Vice President of Merchandising at Zappos and entrepreneur. Mossler’s first job was cleaning dishes at Taco Bell, where he worked his way up to supervisor.

“The skills-based compensation model utilized at Taco Bell is important to me to this day in terms of how I think about business and help build companies,” said Mossler. “Taco Bell was like the launching pad for the rest of my life.”

In the second phase of this partnership, these videos are being featured on Roadtrip Nation’s online platform, Share Your Road. Here, employees, current and prospective, can see real steps for getting to their goal position, whether that’s managing an entire Taco Bell restaurant, working in the award-winning marketing department at headquarters, or taking skills to another industry altogether.

Current Taco Bell employees and alumni are invited to develop profiles and connect with others to share the story of how they got to where they are today. The platform aims to foster networks and communities and empower team members by hearing about the lessons learned and career paths of others. Participants will inspire fellow and future team members to follow their interests, skills and ambitions in their work at Taco Bell to help them reach their potential.

Roadtrip Nation is one of the many programs the Taco Bell system offers as part of its Start with Us, Stay with Us platform that helps create opportunities for employees no matter how long they’ve been with, or plan to stay with, the company or our franchisees. Taco Bell provides leadership development programs such as theMARK, theSPARK and theQUEST as well as education support through its GED certification, Live Más Scholarship and college programs.

Fazoli’s Expands

Fazoli’s announced the opening of its newest franchised restaurant in Maysville, Kentucky marking a total of 34 Fazoli’s locations in the Bluegrass State to date. Located at 416 Market Square, the restaurant opened to the public on May 16.

The new restaurant is owned by Kentucky residents Dan Markwell and John Collins of Morgan Servings, LLC. The two franchisees started their company in 2014 with the opening of their first Fazoli’s restaurant in Morehead.

“When we opened in Morehead three years ago, the local community really embraced our fresh, high quality menu offerings and friendly, casual atmosphere,” said Markwell. “There is a need for quick, affordable Italian food that tastes great, and we are thrilled to be bringing that to the Maysville area and continuing our successful business venture with this brand.”

Fazoli’s franchisees are experiencing nearly three times the industry average growth rate with new franchised restaurants continually setting new systemwide records. Additionally, Fazoli’s has achieved 16 consecutive quarters of same-store sales growth. With nearly 220 restaurants in 25 states, Fazoli’s is currently seeking single- and multi-unit operators to join its growing, successful franchise network and is targeting new markets across the U.S. Most recently, the brand launched a multi-unit franchise development incentive program available through June 30. New franchisees that sign a new multi-unit agreement for three or more locations will receive reduced franchise and royalty fees for the first two years of operations. A reduced franchise fee is also available for new multi-unit agreements for three or more non-traditional units, including college campuses, airports and casinos.

The company announced a record-setting finale to its fiscal 2017 year ending March 31 including agreements signed to develop 30 new restaurants with 13 franchise groups. This includes six new franchisees to the brand and seven who are expanding with multiple units, and it represents an impressive 550 percent growth rate for new agreements over the previous fiscal year. Additionally, the company has now experienced 16 consecutive quarters of same-store sales growth at its franchise-owned restaurants.

“Fazoli’s fiscal 2017 results speak volumes about what our company has been able to accomplish by listening to customer feedback and working with our franchisees to achieve our mission of quality and hospitality in each of our restaurants,” said Carl Howard, president and chief executive officer of Fazoli’s. “We set 78 new franchise sales records, which tells me Fazoli’s is delivering on our brand promise and has tremendous momentum going into this next fiscal year.”

With nearly 220 restaurants in 25 states, Fazoli’s also set new records for average unit volume in fiscal 2017, including a record AUV month in March 2017. Those accomplishments were followed in April with the announcement that the company will be removing all artificial sweeteners, flavors, preservatives and colors from its entire food menu, making it the first national brand under 1,000 units to offer a completely clean food menu. Fazoli’s supply chain is currently 80 percent clean of all artificial ingredients, and on June 19, will be completely clean of all artificial sweeteners, flavors, preservatives and colors.

Additionally, the brand will roll out a new premium menu in its 122 company-owned locations across the country starting June 19, with the remaining 91 and all new franchised locations featuring the newly upgraded menus in January 2018. A new, contemporary look and feel is also coming to the interior design this summer.

Duck Donuts Grows More

Duck Donuts’ 12th North Carolina location will open in Jacksonville in May. This brings the total franchise count to 37 open stores and 126 contracts.

“North Carolina has always been a home away from home for our Duck Donuts team. It’s the site of our first-ever Duck Donuts location, so we are thrilled to continue our growth where the idea for our unique donut experience first took shape,” said Russ DiGilio, founder and owner of Duck Donuts Franchising Company. “With each additional store we bring 25-40 news jobs to the communities we call home—that’s an opportunity to make a difference that we’re very excited about.” 

The Jacksonville ownership team consisting of Ed Gill, Mitch Johnson, John Guard, Peter Balent, and Amber Stallings Balent will debut their warm, delicious, made-to-order-donuts at 1092 Hampton Inn Way, in a new building located on popular thoroughfare Western Boulevard.

“It was on vacation in 2014 that we first experienced Duck Donuts,” said Stallings Balent. “We were highly impressed with not only their product, but their family friendly process. As a group, we decided that opening our own franchise was something we were all passionate about. Our first store in Greenville, North Carolina, opened less than a year later, and now we can’t wait to open our second location.” 

The Jacksonville store grand opening is scheduled for May 20, at 10:00 a.m. and features a ribbon-cutting ceremony that marks the official opening of the 2,100 square-foot shop. 

Duck Donuts is also expanding to the Atlanta suburb of Alpharetta, Georgia.

Franchise owner Youn Hee Lee plans to open on May 19, at 3005 Old Alabama Road, Suite 170, Alpharetta, five minutes from North Point Mall. The 1,300 square-foot shop will reflect the franchise’s iconic beach theme and offer select retail items in-store.

“While I was making plans to relocate and retire, I decided instead to shift careers and start a small business venture with my children. My son suggested Duck Donuts, and after visiting various Virginia locations, we decided it would be a great business opportunity,” said Lee. “The donuts were as delicious as my son described, and I love seeing the memories made among families when visiting Duck Donuts. As a grandmother, I wanted to contribute to that family-friendly atmosphere.”

“The city of Alpharetta replicates our company’s family-friendly environment, and we are thrilled to plant deeper roots in the Peach State,” said DiGilio. “With each new franchise location, Duck Donuts welcomes 25-40 new jobs to the community.”

As the sole proprietor and first-time franchise owner, Youn Hee Lee welcomes support, help, and insights from her two children, Rebecca Lee and Jae Lee, as well as her husband Hee Kwon Lee.

“Our Duck Donuts family is growing, and we’re thrilled that new franchisees like Yon Hee Lee are also involving their entire family in the business. Our purpose statement is, ‘Our family serving your family,’ and with each new store opening, we become more passionate about this promise,” said DiGilio.

Melting Pot Receives GIG’s GFFS

The Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG), the leader in the certification of gluten-free products and food services, announced today that The Melting Pot Restaurants, Inc., (The Melting Pot) has met the certification requirements for GIG’s Gluten-Free Food Service Certification (GFFS), a program designed to support food service establishments of all types (restaurants, cafeterias, hospitals) in providing safe options for gluten-free consumers.

Melting Pot

The Melting Pot, the world’s premier fondue restaurant franchise with more than 120 locations in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Middle East, offers its customers a unique dining experience featuring cheese fondues, salads, fine wines and chocolate fondue desserts.

“The Melting Pot values the support and guidance it has received from GIG since the inception of our partnership in 2009. Attaining the GFFS certification is one more step in strengthening our valuable relationship with GIG as well as our commitment to ensuring an exceptional dining experience for all of our customers,” said Mike Lester, president of The Melting Pot Restaurants, Inc. “With May being Celiac Awareness Month, we are particularly proud to know that our restaurants will be displaying the GFFS logo so that gluten-free diners won’t have to miss out on the wonderful, interactive experience we offer that they can share with their friends and family members.”

“The Melting Pot has demonstrated its strong commitment to the gluten-free community by meeting the highest standards and being proactive in providing safe food choices for its gluten-free diners,” said Lindsey Yeakle, GFFS Quality Control Manager, GIG. “In doing so, The Melting Pot joins a growing number of food service establishments that recognize the value of raising consumer confidence in their knowledge and safe handling of their food.”

The Gluten-Free Food Service (GFFS) Certification Program is a proven model of established best practices for food service facilities offering gluten-free options. GIG is committed to ongoing food safety research to assure customers and consumers the highest level of excellence in its gluten-free programs and services.

Johnny Rockets Expands in Italy

Johnny Rockets is  opening its second restaurant located in Lonato del Garda, Italy. Increasing the chain’s footprint in Europe, the new location in the Il Leone shopping center will be operated by Giangiacomo Groppetti of Groppetti Holding Ltd.   

“We are extremely thrilled to be able to open a second Johnny Rockets franchise.  We have been part of the Johnny Rockets family for less than a year and we are fortunate to continue the partnership with this expansion,” said Giangiacomo Groppetti.

Groppetti Holding Ltd. currently operates the first location at the Ikea-Elnos shopping center.

James Walker, President of Operations and Development for Johnny Rockets remarked, “In less than six months, Giangiacomo has demonstrated to be a great business leader and we are proud to be able to see him expand as a franchisee.  His enthusiasm and laser focus in continuing to grow Johnny Rockets in Europe makes him a great partner for us.” 

As part of Johnny Rockets aggressive global strategy, Giangiacomo Groppetti of Groppetti Holding Ltd., has acquired the rights in Switzerland to expand their franchise even more.  The holding company is currently seeking potential partners to bring Johnny Rockets to Switzerland in 2018. Applicants with business acumen and knowledge of the restaurant landscape in Switzerlandwould be greatly beneficial in this new venture.

Johnny Rockets’ first-ever International Recognition Award for International Restaurant Design and Creative Marketing bestowed upon the first location inItaly. Criteria to be considered for this award include design innovation, dining experience, and marketing efforts.  The restaurant at the Ikea-Elnos shopping center was the first to launch Diner 2.0 internationally, which allows diners to experience a modern, fresh design and environment with stellar customer service and a quality meal.

“Their restaurant design is one of the best in our entire system,” said Walker. “It’s sleek and sharp design makes you feel as if the restaurant is more of a museum piece versus a restaurant.”

Groppetti affirms, “While we are humbled by the honor, the true measure of success is how many customers come through the doors on a daily basis.  And how the package is delivered and received: food, service, atmosphere, and environment.  My focus is to ensure that all of these elements are 100 percent, every day.”

Skydine in Canada

Skydine Events LTD – Dinner in the Sky Canada (DITSC), announced the availability of regional franchise rights for Ontario and Alberta. 

The Canadian division of Dinner in the Sky has a keen focus on its core operations in Vancouver, BC. The franchise is looking to partner with qualified operators to take over its lucrative licences in Ontario and Alberta. Skydine Events LTD is the exclusive licensee to Canada and is now entertaining bids for franchise territory rights in these two markets.

The rights to DITSC division of the global franchise have been purchased by Vancouver based entrepreneur Jhordan Stevenson. Stevenson and his team are in the final stages of preparing for Dinner in the Sky Vancouver, set to commence in July of 2017. 

DITSC’s goal is to focus on core operations in Vancouver and partner with qualified operators to run DITSC in Ontario and Alberta. 

“The overwhelming amount of interest and support that we have gained since we announced that we would be hosting the first Dinner in the Sky event in Vancouver has sparked viral attention from the media and public alike. We have decided to focus on our core business in Vancouver and offer Alberta and Ontario franchise licences to the market.”

Dinner in the Sky is no stranger to the Canadian market and held an event in Ontario back in early 2008, sponsored and hosted by American Express. The idea originated in Belgium, since then over 10,000 such events have been hosted in over 50 countries worldwide to date. Dinner in the Sky practices the most stringent of safety standards, and prides itself on a perfect safety record through over a decade operations. 

Houston Elevation Burger Offers Halal and Late-Night Healthy Dining

Halal food has grown in popularity in Houston, as many consider it to be the healthier option. It is prepared according to Muslim tradition, and restaurants are responding to the demand. Houston has the largest Muslim population in Texas, and boasts over 300,000 people eating halal food. Elevation Burger, which offers all organic, grass-fed beef, also uses beef and chicken prepared according to the halal tradition. 

The Elevation Burger located at the intersection of Highway 59 and Kirby in Houston managed by Mike Mustafa offers halal beef and halal chicken. The meat is also organic, grass fed, and free range. “Elevation Burger has healthy halal food,” said Mustafa. “We are proud to offer a delicious burger for folks who are members of the halal dining community. Halal food is important to the Muslim community, and it can be difficult to find dining options that cater to those needs. The Kirby Elevation Burger not only offers halal beef and chicken, they offer a non-alcoholic environment. “Our customers appreciate our restaurant experience and atmosphere, and we enjoy being a part of the Houston Halal community.”

Halal food is prepared according to Islamic law, which governs both how the animal lives and how it is processed. They must be healthy at the time of death which is done in a manner that reduces the animal’s suffering. 

Mustafa settled in Houston in 15 years ago after moving to the US from Egypt, and he’s originally from Palestine.

“It’s been a pleasure making Houston my home, and I’m happy to be a part of the Elevation Burger family.”

The drive thru is open until 4:00 am on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and until midnight the rest of the week.

Mustafa was inspired to offer late hours when he noticed that a nearby fast food location was always busy late into the evening. “It just seemed natural to me that people who eat healthy all day long don’t want to throw that away just because they’re hungry late at night. So we decided to change our hours on the weekends to accommodate those folks.”

The drive thru is open until 4:00 am on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and until midnight the rest of the week.

“Why should people with late night cravings be limited to unhealthy fast food options,” said Mustafa. “At Elevation Burger, customers can eat healthier, even at 2:00 am on a Friday night.”

Togo’s Tony Gioia to Retire

Tony Gioia, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Togo’s Holdings, LLC, announced his retirement, effective May 31, after leading and growing the sandwich chain for ten years. He will remain on Togo’s Board as a non-Executive Chairman. He was profiled by MRM magazine here.

Tony Gioia

Glenn Lunde, Togo’s Chief Concept Officer, will be promoted to President of Togo’s, reporting directly to the Board, effective June 1. Lunde, who joined Togo’s in January this year, has been leading Togo’s brand transformation strategies, including the chain’s operating format and menu strategies. A restaurant industry veteran, Lunde has led branding and marketing in executive roles at chains such as Taco Bell, Round Table Pizza, and Panda Restaurant Group.

“It has been a privilege to lead the company for ten years, and I am incredibly proud of what we have accomplished at Togo’s in that time,” said Gioia. “Glenn Lunde is a tremendously talented executive and is the ideal candidate to step in and take Togo’s to the next level of growth and success.”

. Prior to joining Togo’s, he served as CEO for several public and privately held restaurant companies. He was also President at Baskin Robbins, served on the executive committee for Dunkin’ Donuts, and was Chief Operating Officer at Wolfgang Puck Food Company. Gioia has also been an executive partner with several private equity firms and recently spearheaded the sale of Togo’s from previous ownership to Nimes Capital, LLC.

“I have been a loyal Togo’s customer since my high school days in the Bay Area and I am very excited to lead this amazing Brand in its next phase of growth,” said Lunde. “Tony has created a permanent place in the outstanding legacy of Togo’s, and I will continue to benefit from his knowledge and experience with him serving on our board.”

Lunde has plans to enhance Togo’s menu offerings and traditional recipes, coupled with a new menu board design, featuring the Brand’s hand-sliced premium meats with larger portions. 

East Coast Wings + Grill Inks New Deals

East Coast Wings + Grill added to its pipeline of new markets by signing agreements to open locations in Indian Trails, NC and Myrtle Beach, SC. Additionally, East Coast Wings + Grill opened two new stores in Burlington, NC and Bartlett, Tenn., which both implemented East Coast Wings + Grill’s recent brand invention. Dubbed East Coast Wings + Grill 2.0, the refresh debuted in January 2017 and includes a new logo and menu items, as well as revamped interior. Upon entering new locations, guests can expect a more rustic and industrial styled space appealing to both the brand’s current customer base, as well as younger millennials.

East Coast Wings + Grill

East Coast Wings + Grill will be attending the 2017 Multi-Unit Franchising Conference, taking place April 23-26 in Las Vegas to share details on expansion plans and ownership opportunities. The company offers multi-unit operators an attractive investment opportunity centered upon unit-level economics to support both operations and expansion. Achieving same store sales increase in Q1 2017, the brand additionally experienced an average unit level EBITDA of 18.3 percent in 2016.

“We’re ecstatic to see positive same store sales growth in the first quarter of 2017 even while combating traditional restaurant growth pressures,” stated Sam Ballas, CEO & President of East Coast Wings + Grill. “With our restructured development division and launch of East Coast Wings + Grill 2.0, our recent growth and the increase of our franchisee candidate pipeline comes as no surprise. Our business model provides sustainable industry-leading unit-level economics, as well as a first-class franchise model support team. This mixed with fantastic food made with only fresh ingredients and a revamped experience provides our brand with the perfect recipe for success.”

With more than 60 locations currently operating or in various stages of development, East Coast Wings + Grill plans to open 10 additional locations by 2018. Specifically, the franchise is looking to partner with multi-unit operators to expand its national footprint in Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

Capriotti’s Expansion Plans

Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop signed a franchise agreement that will bring up to three new restaurants to the greater Hampton Roads, Virginia area over the next three years, with the first restaurant slated to open early next year in Newport News.

The new Virginia locations will be owned and operated by a local husband and wife entrepreneurial team. Gray Coltrin has been a life-long fan of The Bobbie and her husband, Charles, discovered the sandwich on a business trip to New Castle, DE and was instantly hooked. The two have been loyal fans of the food for years and have decided to jump into franchising to bring the brand to their hometown.

“Gray and I cannot wait to bring Capriotti’s to the Virginia Coast,” said Charles Coltrin. “We are confident the Hampton Roads area will fall in love with the high quality, flavorful sandwiches, just as we did. There are a lot of great places to eat in Newport News already, but we know a restaurant like Capriotti’s doesn’t exist yet.”

Capriotti’s has more than 100 fast-casual sandwich restaurant locations across the country, with a strong presence on the East Coast and West Coast. There is currently one other Virginia Capriotti’s location in Rosslyn.

“We are excited to further build momentum for the Capriotti’s brand on the East Coast,” said David Bloom, Chief Development Officer. “The Southeastern part of Virginia is experiencing growth in the restaurant space and we are happy to be a part of it with franchise partners that appreciate the quality of food as our differentiator.”

Throughout Virginia, the brand is looking to partner with new franchisees in Charlottesville, Harrisonburg, Richmond, Lynchburg, Roanoke and the D.C. area. 

Capriotti’s also signed a franchise agreement that will bring three locations to the greater Minneapolis area over the next three years, with the first restaurant set to open later this year in Edina at 7143 France Ave, in the 71 France building near Southdale Center.

The Minneapolis locations will be owned and operated by local entrepreneur Jeff Kegel, who has worked in the food industry for the past 12 years and comes from a long family restaurant business background. Kegel heard buzz about the Capriotti’s product for years and said once he tasted the food, he immediately wanted to bring the fast-casual concept to Minneapolis.

“Capriotti’s is a completely unique offering for this area. The fresh, quality, craveable sandwiches make the menu stand out and my business partners and I believe Capriotti’s will thrive in the Minneapolis area,” said Kegel, whose company will operate under the name Three Bubs Subs LLC. “I’ve always wanted to open a business in the restaurant industry and Capriotti’s business model is a good fit.”

“We look forward to bringing Capriotti’s to another major market in the Midwest,” added Bloom. “The Minneapolis area is experiencing growth in the restaurant space and we’re confident that Jeff’s foodservice experience will pave the way for Capriotti’s in the region.”

Capriotti’s will open 15 new shops in 2017 and aims to grow the brand to 500 locations by 2025 through franchising. 

Tony Roma’s in Bolivia

Romacorp, Inc., parent company of Tony Roma’s, signed a new development agreement that will bring Tony Roma’s  to Bolivia for the first time. The agreement with Grupo RIB S.R.L. is for three Tony Roma’s restaurants, with the initial brand launch planned for Santa Cruz. 

“Having announced the addition of Nicaragua to the Tony Roma’s Central American roster earlier this year, we are thrilled to announce that South American fans in Bolivia will have the opportunity to enjoy our world-famous ribs for the first time in history,” said Stephen K. Judge, President and Chief Executive Officer of Romacorp, Inc. “Our fans are incredibly loyal, and we are confident that their strong passion for the brand – and for our signature food and beverages – will continue to strengthen as our expansion throughout South America continues.” 

Romacorp recently announced renewed US growth with Tony Roma’s development and franchise agreements in Tennessee and West Palm Beach, Florida. Earlier this year, Romacorp also announced the signing of a development agreement that will bring Tony Roma’s to Nicaragua for the first time. Additional new domestic and international agreements are in the works and will be announced in the near future. 

“It’s an honor to have the opportunity to bring Tony Roma’s world-famous ribs to Bolivia for the first time, and we are proud to be part of the incredible success the Tony Roma’s brand has seen,” said Diego Alcazar, Public Relations Manager for Grupo RIB S.R.L. “The Tony Roma’s franchise is one of the most recognizable brands in the world due to its dedication to great food and impeccable service, and we are confident that our team will represent the brand to the highest of standards.” 

Big Whiskey Opens Second Spot Since March

Big Whiskey’s American Restaurant & Bar® will unveil its newest franchise location in Lee’s Summit, MO with a public grand opening during the May 19-21 weekend.  H2B Restaurants LLC is the parent company’s second franchise to open since March and the first in a major metropolitan market.

“We’re eager to introduce Kansas City to the remarkable food, drinks and atmosphere that’s made Big Whiskey’s a legend in southwest Missouri for the past decade,” said Ed House, H2B’s managing partner.  The restaurant/bar is in the popular Summit Fair Center on Blue Parkway just off I-470 in Lee’s Summit.  “Our location is convenient to everyone in the area for lunch, happy hour, dinner and late night.” The newest Big Whiskey’s is open from 11am to 1:30am with food served until midnight.

House formed H2B with Ryan Bohl and J.D. House to open multiple Big Whiskey’s in the Kansas City metro area.  “Over the last few years, we’ve closely watched the company grow, enhance its systems and never rest on their success.  We felt confident that Kansas City is a perfect market for this concept,” House explained. “I’ve always loved the food, people and fun environment at Big Whiskey’s–now we’re going to be part of that growth.” House hinted that his group has begun searching for their next location.

“These are exciting times for us,” added Paul Sundy, Big Whiskey’s co-founder & COO. “To open our first franchise in Bentonville, AR with record numbers and now to launch our first large city location is a dream come true.” He continued, “Ed’s group has made a total commitment to the Lee’s Summit community and we’re delighted to partner with them to serve customers there the best of Big Whiskey’s, any time and every time.”

Big Whiskeys Concepts LLC operates five stores in the Springfield/Branson area and has recently purchased a closed Ruby Tuesday in Republic, MO which will be the company’s first free-standing store showcasing their new design concept, scheduled to open in early summer. The first Big Whiskey’s debuted in downtown Springfield in July 2006 and the company began franchising in late 2015. Bentonville, AR was the first BW franchise, which opened March 10. 

Yogurtland Grows in Houston

 Froyo lovers in Houston can visit two new Yogurtland locations that recently opened in the region at Vintage Market Place in Houston and Fairfield Town Center in Cypress.

Owners Zoeb Momin is no stranger to the scratch-made flavors of Yogurtland. Momin acquired the Memorial City Mall Yogurtland in 2012 and is now opening his second store at Vintage Market Place with his partner, Alijahir Khoja.

“When we opened our first store, it was in the hopes of becoming young entrepreneurs. After the success of our other location, I realized there was more to Yogurtland than just the business,” said Momin. “Yogurtland became the place where people came to enjoy a delicious customized treat and create memories they would love and cherish forever, and it’s why we knew we wanted to open a second store.”

Father-daughter duo, Robert and Brittany Bruner are entering the entrepreneur world with their first Yogurtland location at the Fairfield Town Center. As Cypress locals, they are eager to bring the handcrafted goodness of Yogurtland to their community.

Captain D’s  Continues Growth Path

Captain D’s signed  a new franchise development agreement to open five restaurants in South Carolina over the next several years. The company achieved its sixth consecutive year of same-store sales increases as well as its fourth successive year of record high system-wide AUV. 

“Over the past six years, Captain D’s has continually achieved success and consistent same-store sales increases. We’ve leveraged these accomplishments to propel our franchise development and drive interest from franchisee prospects nationwide,” said Michael Arrowsmith, chief development officer of Captain D’s. “The compounding success Captain D’s has experienced is a true testament to the strength of our business model, which has allowed us to appeal to a new, wider demographic of consumers. South Carolina is chock-full of potential, and we look forward to expanding our footprint in the state.”

GOALZ Restaurant Group, LLC will be spearheading Captain D’s development in South Carolina, with plans to open five new restaurants over the next several years throughout the Greenville-Spartanburg area, as well as in Rock Hill. Shawn Eby and Danny Robinson will serve as principal owner and vice president of operations, respectively, each of whom have more than 25 years of experience in restaurant operations. The franchisee group is also currently developing new Captain D’s locations in Kentucky and North Carolina. 

“Our unwavering commitment to our franchisees’ success has helped fuel growth from within and we’re thrilled to have an existing franchisee further invest in the brand by opening more restaurants,” added Arrowsmith.

Coupled with its menu diversification and expanded array of offerings, Captain D’s credits its new restaurant beach design with contributing to the brand’s compounding success. To date, nearly 60 percent of all restaurants have been reimaged to the brand’s new vibrant, coastal design, with another 50 locations to be remodeled by the end of this year. With these efforts, Captain D’s has remained true to what it does best — serving high-quality seafood with warm hospitality at an affordable price in a welcoming atmosphere.

With 514 restaurants in 21 states, Captain D’s is the fast-casual seafood leader and number one seafood franchise in America ranked by average unit volume. The company is currently seeking single- and multi-unit operators to join in the brand’s rapid expansion. Headquartered in Nashville, Tenn., Captain D’s has 514 restaurants in 21 states. 

Hwy 55 Expands

Hwy 55 Burgers, Shakes & Fries, opened in Taylors, South Carolina in Greenville County. It adds nearly 50 jobs to the area and is the brand’s 17th location in South Carolina.

“We are very excited to bring good times and great food to the fine folks in Taylors,” said Alcides Ferreira, franchise owner for the new restaurant, who also owns the Spartanburg Hwy 55. “Hwy 55 already has a stellar reputation in the county, state and beyond for having the best burgers you’ll find anywhere and we are excited welcome our new neighbors and friends.”

While celebrating its 26th year in business, Hwy 55 has sold the rights to more than 1,000 franchise locations around the world. Hwy 55 has also signed franchise agreements for Texas, West Virginia, Louisiana, Kentucky and southern Indiana and Virginia in the past year. The brand plans to open approximately 25 locations in 2017.

“I founded Hwy 55 Burgers, Shakes & Fries 25 years ago, to provide something that I felt was missing: great food, friendly service and honest value,” said Hwy 55 president Kenney Moore, who flipped every burger himself for the brand’s first two years of business. “Those principles continue today at all of our restaurants and we will look forward to treating Taylors to its newest favorite burger joint.”

Hwy 55

In keeping with Hwy 55’s continued mission to give back to the communities it enters, Hwy 55’s Andy’s Charitable Foundation and Ferreira will donate 10% of sales from the restaurant’s first three days to the Mauldin Miracle League, which ensures that the area’s children are given opportunity to play baseball. Andy’s Charitable Foundation is Hwy 55’s most visible commitment to community involvement.

Bojangles Looking for MUFSOs

Bojangles’, Inc. is actively searching for qualified, enterprising businesspeople and experienced multi-unit franchise owners to grow the Bojangles’ brand in the Mid-Atlantic region, to include Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

“While Bojangles’ has incredible brand familiarity throughout the Southeast, we find that more and more people across the Mid-Atlantic crave our great tasting, freshly-made food,” said Randy Icard, Bojangles’ Vice President of Franchise Development. “As we plan our next growth phase, we look forward to beginning our search for enthusiastic potential franchisees to lead Bojangles’ expansion into Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland.”

This announcement comes as the company has been actively expanding its footprint to the north, recently signing development agreements to grow the brand in markets such as Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay area, Washington, D.C. and the Lehigh Valley region in Pennsylvania.

NFL Player Joins Dickey’s Family

NFL player Stanley Jean-Baptiste joined the Dickey’s Barbecue Pit family. The newly-signed corner back for the Kansas City Chiefs plans to open two Dickey’s Barbecue Pit locations in Florida. The North Miami stores in Aventura and Hollywood are scheduled to open in January 2018. 

While traveling around the country throughout his football career, Jean-Baptiste developed a love of barbecue and wanted to bring it back to his hometown in North Miami. “I loved both the history of Dickey’s and their barbecue, so I decided to bring the growing brand to my hometown,” said Jean-Baptiste.

“We welcome Stanley Baptiste to the Dickey’s Barbecue Pit family and look forward to continuing expansion in Florida through this partnership,” said Laura Rea Dickey, CEO of Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants, Inc. “As a prominent member of his community, we are excited to partner with him to bring delicious, pit-smoked barbecue to his hometown.”

Little Caesars Expands in Caribbean

Little Caesars® Pizza continues its international expansion across the Caribbean, with its first restaurant opening in The Bahamas. With the latest grand opening event, this year has seen growth in the region including new market entries for Jamaica, Trinidad, and the Dominican Republic.

“We are excited to be a part of Little Caesars® growth in the Caribbean,” said Barrett McDonald, Managing Partner for the restaurant. “Demand for the brand has been overwhelming, and we believe the momentum will only continue.”

Officials from Little Caesars® shared in the positive reception. “People love the amazing value and convenience they get with Little Caesars®. And with our HOT-N-READY® platform, customers are able to get their pizzas as soon as they walk in the door!” said Mike Therrian, Director of International Development. “We’re certain Bahamians will embrace the brand for years to come.”

Headquartered in Detroit, Michigan, Little Caesars® is the third largest pizza chain in the world* and the largest carryout-only pizza chain in the United States**. Founded in 1959 as a single, family-owned restaurant, today Little Caesars® has stores in all 50 U.S. states, as well as 20 countries and territories worldwide.

Chicken Salad Chick Grows in Mississippi

 Chicken Salad Chick will be expanding in Mississippi with its first location in Olive Branch. The new restaurant will open on Wednesday, May 24 and is located at 5135 Goodman Road. This company-owned location marks the second Chicken Salad Chick restaurant in Mississippi. 

“Since we began franchising in 2011, Chicken Salad Chick has made great strides in expanding to new markets across the Southeast and this is another testament to the success of our growth strategy,” said Scott Deviney, chief executive officer of Chicken Salad Chick. “The recently opened Oxford location has already proven to be highly successful, and we’re confident that the brand will be just as well received by the Olive Branch community. There’s tremendous opportunity for us to propel our growth efforts in Mississippi, and we look forward to expanding our footprint throughout the state with our unique menu offerings and unmatched customer service.”

The Chicken Salad Chick concept, born in Auburn, Ala., was established in 2008; the company now has more than 65 restaurants across the Southeast.

Pressly Finalist for Entrepreneur of the Year

EY today announced that Scott Pressly, chairman and chief strategic officer of Tropical Smoothie Cafe, is a finalist for the Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2017 Award in the Southeast. The awards program, which is celebrating its 31st year, recognizes entrepreneurs who are excelling in areas such as innovation, financial performance and personal commitment to their businesses and communities. Selected as a finalist by a panel of independent judges, award winners will be announced  on June 8.

Pressly has been recognized for his efforts in leading the transformation of Tropical Smoothie Cafe from a regional concept into one of the fastest growing franchise brands in the country. Prior to Pressly’s purchase of a controlling interest in the brand, the chain had 250 franchised locations and was growing by 15 units per year. Under Pressly’s leadership, the award-winning brand has more than doubled its unit count to nearly 600 locations nationwide and has expanded to 41 states. In 2017, Tropical Smoothie Cafe is on track to open more than 100 stores and sign more than 175 new franchise development agreements.

“It’s a tremendous honor to be named an EY Entrepreneur Of The Year finalist in the Southeast,” said Pressly. “I share this recognition with the entire Tropical Smoothie Cafe organization. It is the collective effort of our team that has allowed us to tap the true potential of the Tropical Smoothie Cafe brand. Looking ahead, I believe we are just getting started in achieving our goal of surpassing 2,500 locations in the U.S.”

Regional award winners are eligible for consideration for the Entrepreneur Of The Year National competition. Award winners in several national categories, as well as the Entrepreneur Of The Year National Overall Award winner, will be announced at the Entrepreneur Of The Year National Awards gala in Palm Springs, California, on November 18, 2017. The awards are the culminating event of the Strategic Growth Forum™, the nation’s most prestigious gathering of high-growth, market-leading companies.