It wasn’t Kenney Moore’s original intention to grow Andy’s Cheesesteaks and Cheeseburgers beyond its home state of North Carolina, but during one Friday night “drink think” with his key executive team, he blurted out, “what the hell are we waiting for?” The enthusiastic response was to put a plan in place to strategically grow the brand, now known as Hwy 55 Burgers, Shakes & Fries, while staying true to the core values that had served as the foundation of its success for 20 years.
This effort started in 2012 and currently there are 125 locations in 10 states — North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Virginia, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Texas and Ohio — Denmark and the United Arab Emirates. Hwy 55 has sold the rights to more than 1,000 franchise locations around the world and recently signed a master franchise agreement with current franchise owner Jason Hall to bring more than 50 locations to Louisiana in the next 10 years. The brand, started in 1991, is slated to open its first location in West Virginia soon, one of 25 total locations in 2016.
It’s about making the brand grow the right way.
Moore maintains Hwy 55 is not a franchise concept, but a true American success story with his “secret spices” thrown into the mix. He recounts his childhood and the humble beginnings of the restaurant named for his son in a recent memoir, Behind the Drive.
A main impetus for moving beyond the borders of the Tar Heel State was seeing other burger brands populate the landscape and feeling “they’re just not as good as we are,” he told Modern Restaurant Management magazine. Hwy 55 offers guests an All-American retro diner experience featuring an open-grill design with a menu featuring fresh, never-frozen burgers, cheesesteaks and frozen custard made in-house every day.
No matter how fast the brand grows, Moore feels one of his main responsibilities will be to ensure it remains committed to a few key tenets: providing authentic hospitality and fresh food and treating your staff well.
“It’s still my baby, but it’s not about me, it’s about helping other people, stressing in our staff about doing the right thing like refilling cups because it’s the right thing to do and not for a tip,” he said. “It’s about making the brand grow the right way. I’m blessed to be surrounded by good people.”
Hwy 55 mandates that all master franchisors also operate their own locations.
“They have skin in the game,” Moore said. “It’s core to the brand, a highly effective business model and vital to the continued success of Hwy 55.”
That path still often takes him back to where it all began. One Sunday a few months ago, he visited a Hwy 55 and the place quickly filled up. He leapt into service and for the next two hours was just part of the team.
“I got the grill,” he told them.