Over the past several months, I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing several franchise executives from MOOYAH, and I’ve gotten to know the company quite well. MOOYAH is one franchise I love talking about because I appreciate how aggressive they are in getting the word out about their brand. To me, it says they are proud of the unique product and experience they offer.
This exclusive interview with Michael Mabry has made me even more excited about MOOYAH’s future. I expect to hear more great things from this “better burger” franchise in 2012 and beyond!
Michael Mabry is MOOYAH’s Director of Franchise Sales. To learn more about Michael, please click here.
Franchise Chatter (FC): Can you tell us about MOOYAH’s growth plans for 2012 and beyond?
Michael Mabry (MM): Currently, we have 30 restaurants open and by the end of 2012, we’re working to have 50. For 2013, we hope to double that number and double again in 2014. We are currently storyboarding our development one year at a time, looking to have 200 restaurants open by the end of 2014.
FC: What are you doing to strengthen your internal systems and processes to handle the projected growth?
MM: When thinking about internal systems and processes, we don’t just think hardware and software — we think of people. We upgraded our positions from marketing and training all the way to operations support. We also brought in a well-seasoned Comptroller who truly understands the dynamics of franchisee profitability. We also engaged with several different software companies with models that are built to suit us, and provide hiring and franchisee selection models.
FC: Tell us about your marketing and branding strategy to increase brand awareness and repeat business for MOOYAH restaurants?
MM: We’ve confirmed our point of difference with consumers and we’re in the process of developing a 360-degree approach to tell everyone about it. With so many new channels to reach Guests, we’re constantly challenging ourselves to stay in front of what’s next — this includes technology and social solutions for loyalty programs, out-of-
restaurant engagement and even the in-restaurant experience. We want to be the leader, not the follower.
MM: For 2012, we’ve put together a strategy to market ourselves not only to the multi-unit franchisee, but we’re also looking for the entrepreneur that wants to invest in their own portfolio and start something new. We attend tradeshows, leadership symposiums, and are very active in the IFA.
That being said, the number one driver of qualified leads comes from our dining experience. Whenever we open a new restaurant and someone experiences our brand for the first time, that’s when the juices start flowing — that individual begins to see themselves owning and operating their own MOOYAH. It’s the MOOYAH experience that
generates the best leads, in my opinion. They fall in love with the brand as a Guest before looking at it as a business venture.
FC: What are you doing to ensure that the franchisees you approve are qualified to run a better burger restaurant and are likely to succeed?
MM: The first thing I do is talk with them about getting into the restaurant business. We go through the process of making sure they really understand the commitment level. It’s a commitment of love for the brand. It’s a commitment of time and energy. I tell folks that this isn’t really a job, it’s a lifestyle, and if they want to be part of it, they must understand that they are always “on.” It’s always going to be their restaurant. It’s always open. Your employees are always going to need you, 7 days a week. You have to love people and you have to love food.
As we go through those pieces, that owner/operator is always, without a doubt, the most successful franchisee we have in our system.
MM: Of course it has. This is a very strange time when it comes to lending. Because of the lending freeze over the last years, banks and lending institutions are sitting on piles of money. Their investors are saying that they need to loan out the money in order to make a return, but with that being said, the stipulations to borrowing money have not lessened.
Quite a few of our franchisees go the SBA route. We are on the preferred SBA registry, so they are familiar with our brand already. We are also looking into alternative sources of lending for our franchisees, for example, working with equity groups or working with lending institutions where we have relationships.
We currently have a potential franchisee looking to come into the system — I sent him to one of our preferred lenders that have done four of five loans in the last year. The lender called two days ago and said not only would the bank approve the loan, but the actual officer of the bank wants to participate and is going to join forces with the franchisee to open the MOOYAH. This tells us that the lender not only knows us intimately, but also believes enough in the brand to put their own money into it. It’s a fantastic deal.
FC: What regions of the country (and the world) are you targeting for expansion? Which regions have you had the most success in thus far?
MM: As we look at the United States, Texas, where we began, continues to be our concentration. However, there are other markets that we have our eye on, including Florida, Virginia, Arkansas, and Louisiana. We also want to get our toes wet in California and the Pacific Northwest.
MM: We have considered it but we won’t pursue an expansion of our menu — we want to be wholly committed to serving the best burgers, fries, and shakes around.
FC: Can you name a few franchise companies (inside or outside your sector) that you admire, and why?
MM: I recently attended a restaurant leadership conference in Phoenix, and a few people really stood out. Ron Shaich of Panera spoke, and I was very impressed with his view and his understanding of franchisee relationships. Howard Stoeckel, the President and CEO of Wawa Inc., also spoke. While Wawa is a chain of convenience stores and not in franchising, they are still in food service, and I was very intrigued by how they conduct business within their organization.
However, it was Indra Nooyi, the CEO of PepsiCo, that was by far the most remarkable. After hearing her speak, I really believe that PepsiCo has its finger on the pulse of really knowing what being a franchisor is all about. I was very impressed how they as a company, with all the different segments that they are in, run their business and keep it all together.
FC: Is there anything else you wish to share about MOOYAH?
MM: We spoke a little earlier about the people part — it’s truly our people that support our growth. We are committed to continue to identify the right people and do all we can to help them with development, training, education, and growth within our culture. As long as we continue to attract the right people to our brand, MOOYAH’s potential is unlimited.
ABOUT MOOYAH BURGERS: MOOYAH is a fast-casual, “better burger” concept serving fresh-cut fries, hot dogs, vegetarian options, and rich, thick milkshakes. Founded in 2007 in Dallas, it uses only fresh, American lean beef, buns baked in house, real cheeses, and toppings made from garden-fresh ingredients. MOOYAH has ranked in the top ten of FastCasual.com’s annual Top 100 Movers & Shakers list for several years in a row, and BurgerBusiness included MOOYAH in its list of “11 Burger Chains to Watch in 2011.” For more information on the brand, its menu or franchising opportunities, please visit MOOYAH’s website, follow MOOYAH on Twitter, and connect with MOOYAH on Facebook.