Matt Rusconi and David Vorchheimer, are bringing MOOYAH to West Hartford, Connecticut in early March. The new location will be at Bishops Corner in the Big Y plaza next to People’s Bank at 772 North Main Street.
After opening Moe’s Southwest Grill in West Hartford, Matt and David are excited to bring in MOOYAH, where guests can literally customize their meal in a million different ways. Guests have the opportunity to choose from freshly-baked white or whole wheat bun or a hand-leafed lettuce wrapper, to opting for a never-frozen 100% American beef, Jennie-O turkey or delectable veggie burger.
Matt and David have made it a priority to be involved in the community. The grand opening celebrations will promote two worthy causes, University of Hartford Athletics and the Hartford Junior Diabetes Research Foundation.
Franchise Chatter (FC): Can you share with us the story behind your decision to open a MOOYAH Burgers, Fries, & Shakes restaurant? Did you consider any other brands within the better burger category or the broader restaurant category? What made you choose MOOYAH over all your other options?
Matt Rusconi (MR): At the time we chose to get involved with MOOYAH, we had just opened our third Moe’s in Glastonbury and had no more Moe’s left to build. We, like many others, got caught up in the better burger surge, somewhat prompted by one of our existing landlords, and started to explore that arena. We read about MOOYAH in Fast Casual’s Movers and Shakers list, took a trip to Texas to see it, and fell in love. We looked at a few other concepts, and considered creating our own, before we finally settled on MOOYAH.
FC: How did you go about selecting the location for your restaurant? What are some of the things one should look for when choosing a location for a burger joint?
David Vorchheimer (DV): We surveyed many locations, debated the pros and cons, and ultimately pulled the trigger. We try to make an analysis of all the factors involved — traffic flow, accessibility, visibility, competition, daytime and total population, proximity to schools and universities, cost, landlords, work that needs to be done to a space, town zoning laws, local habits of potential customers, sense of community, how our guts feel, and then make a decision. Once we get through all of that, it’s up to us to execute within the four walls and serve good food.
FC: Can you describe your experience during the pre-opening stage of your MOOYAH restaurant. Are you satisfied with the amount of support you’ve received so far from the home office?
MR: MOOYAH is a relatively new brand that is expanding rapidly. We expected to come across many speed bumps, twists, and turns. We have not been disappointed. The support from corporate is evolving and getting better everyday. Ultimately, MOOYAH serves a great product, and we feel corporate is heading in the right direction.
FC: What will be your day-to-day involvement in the operations of your MOOYAH restaurant? Do you expect this to change as your store matures?
DV: We are very involved in the day-to-day operations of all of our restaurants, especially in the first 30 to 60 days. We also have a great staff that we have developed and managers that are ready to take over the reigns as we continue to grow with Moe’s and MOOYAH. We are working on building a sound infrastructure, and creating careers for individuals who want to be involved. We value our staff very highly. A lot of these managers are individuals who have been with us from day one. This is a team sport and we take pride in striving to put our best team forward. It takes constant effort from everyone involved to constantly challenge the status quo and deliver at the high level that we expect.
Some days we succeed. Some days we fail. But we never stop trying.
FC: Based on your experience running a Moe’s Southwest Grill, do you have any tips for recruiting, training, and incentivizing your staff so that they become assets to your business?
MR: We try to keep our staff in the loop of our ventures. We want them to feel involved because ultimately they are our best assets. As we grow, it’s a bit more difficult to know everyone on a personal level, but we do our best. We like to get in and work next to our guys and gals, and show them that there is no position that is below anyone. Retaining staff and encouraging employees to work themselves up the ranks is something we feel strongly about. The majority of our managers have done just that.
It’s important to empower people and let them know you trust them. It’s also important to let them know what our standards are, and know what the implications are if they are not met. We feel it’s important to set expectations and to follow through with them, be it bonus programs, promotions, vacations, discipline, whatever it may be.
Communicate and be open with your staff. Give people an opportunity and hopefully you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the results. If not, go back to the drawing board. We are on a mission to develop our staff in all aspects.
FC: What are some of the key strategies that you plan to implement to drum up business for your soon-to-open MOOYAH restaurant?
DV: That’s a secret. You’ll have to wait and see!
MR: Communicate. Share a vision. Challenge one another respectfully. Let each partner be himself/herself, and do what he/she does best. Don’t lose sight of what the ultimate goal is, and keep each other focused. The best teams may lose a few games, but are often victorious at the end of the season. It’s great to be able to celebrate victories as a team, and deal with the agonies of defeat as a team.
FC: What are your thoughts on the level of competition in the better burger category today? How do you expect things to play out over the next few years?
DV: It’s a fiercely competitive market that will shake out a few winners on a national level, some on regional levels and local levels, but most will probably disappear or slow drastically over the next few years.
FC: Do you have any advice on how to develop a strong and beneficial relationship with your franchisor?
MR: Communicate, be brutally honest but respectful, share experiences from the field, keep an open mind, understand what their overall mission is and how you fit in. It’s very similar to the approach one may take with a business partner. That’s essentially what they are. Again, it’s a team game — keep an eye on the ultimate goal. Hopefully, it’s the same for the franchisee and franchisor — a succesful brand where both sides prosper.
FC: What were some of the most challenging episodes in your franchise journey so far (including your experience with Moe’s)? With the benefit of hindsight, what would you have done differently?
DV: There are different challenges everyday, and as you grow, the challenges multiply and change, but the original challenges still exist. We guess that’s what keeps us motivated to keep at it everyday. We have learned a whole lot, and continue to learn. There’s not a lot we would have done differently, but as we continue to expand, we are certainly applying the experience we’ve gained over the past 4 years.
From an operating perspective, the biggest challenge is to try and keep the restaurants running as if one of us were there everyday. Our team is doing a pretty decent job at that.
From a development perspective, money hasn’t been the easiest to come by in the last few years. Luckily, a few good local banks and the SBA have joined the team.
The following locations are owned and operated by Matt and David’s Riverbank Operations: Moe’s West Hartford, Hartford, Glastonbury, Waterford, UCONN (coming soon). MOOYAH Hartford, West Hartford (coming very soon to Big Y Plaza in Bishop’s corner West Hartford).