In this exclusive Q&A, we get to learn about work-family balance from Blake Webster, who operates his four Moe’s Southwest Grill franchised restaurants together with his wife, father, and brother.
Franchise Chatter (FC): What is your background in the franchising world?
Blake Webster (BW): My family and I started with Moe’s Southwest Grill in 2003. My wife and I were previously in the restaurant business and my dad, Eddie Webster, came from the hospitality and hotel business. In 2003, my dad was semi-retired but got back into things when we decided to become Moe’s franchisees.
Currently, my wife and I handle most of the day-to-day operations of our four stores while my dad really enjoys both the marketing side of the business and on building the business from the ground up – finding sites and building out the locations.
My dad has also been heavily involved with the Moe’s corporate team as an MFAC member (Moe’s Franchise Advisory Council). Eventually, he will fully pass the baton to my wife and me, but for now he’s a young 71 years old and jumped in with both feet alongside us.
FC: Why did you start a Moe’s Southwest Grill business? What opportunities stood out?
BW: When my wife and I got married, we were looking for our next step. We had a little experience in the restaurant business and my sister told me about this cool, fast casual restaurant brand in Atlanta, which ended up being Moe’s. We came down to visit, and two weeks later we were signing on to be part of the Moe’s family!
My dad was really the driving force in us taking our next step with Moe’s. He wanted to stay busy and get his hands dirty, and we really loved the culture, relaxed atmosphere and vibe that Moe’s brought to the table.
My dad emphasized that we needed to make it happen, so we did.
FC: Why come together as a team, and a family team at that?
BW: For us, our family members all have different strengths that made sense to bring together. My wife and I handle the operations for the business, while my dad has a passion for selecting our sites and building them from the ground up. With my brother managing one of our locations, it’s a true family affair that works well for us.
We have plenty of non-family members involved in our business, but we try to keep the family mentality, which is what I think helps us be successful. We care about our people and maintaining a family atmosphere is always at the forefront of what we do.
FC: How do you weave two different generational leadership styles into your business or have you just found your combined style organically?
BW: Our leadership styles have really come together organically. My dad comes in with a great deal of experience managing people. When I was a child, I’d go to work with him but I didn’t realize until later in life how good he was at his job and how he was a great example for me.
My dad and I have always gotten along and some would say I’m a lot like him when it comes to excelling in soft skills, like communication, bringing employees through an organization, and teaching the ways of how we like to run our business.
My dad does have an old-school mentality on certain things, but he has been able to morph his management style to relate to younger generations. He’s always learning and it spills over to me – I try to learn every day. I guess you can say we both learned how to change through this business. If you’re not changing, you’re not improving.
FC: Is there a lesson you learned from your father early on that you still apply today?
BW: My dad has definitely taught me to challenge myself and continuously learn. When I was a kid watching my dad run his business, he was always at the cusp of new and innovative business practices. His progressive mindset challenges me to do the same.
FC: What practices and business skills do you bring best to the table operating your Moe’s business?
BW: I think what sets us apart from other businesses is that we treat everyone as a family member and always put our family first. We said on day one that we never wanted the business to get in the way of family. We have fun doing this, and the day it stops being fun is the day we walk away.
FC: What sets Moe’s brand apart from other fast casual restaurants and makes it an attractive opportunity for other franchisees?
BW: When we walked in to a Moe’s for the first time, we felt like it fit with us. We “got” the culture of Moe’s – I’m very into music and it was a cool vibe as a customer. It stood out as a fun environment to both be and work in, and we could see right away that customers enjoyed it.
Coming from a full-service background, I also love the fast casual aspect of it, which is very refreshing. If someone walks in to a Moe’s and feels like they belong, chances are it would be a good fit for them, too.
FC: Can you describe the work-life balance benefits that a career in franchising offers when juggling a business and a family?
BW: When we first started, we didn’t know what we didn’t know. We wanted to make sure nothing got in the way of us putting family first. As far as the business part, we have been through tough times, but as we progress forward, our success has never gotten in the way.
Finding the right balance is something we make a conscious effort to do. We make sure we compartmentalize our business and still have time where we can just be a family. By forcing ourselves to have time away from Moe’s, it makes coming back to reality and the business more exciting.
FC: What do you two like to do together when not running the business?
BW: My dad and I really enjoy wine and traveling, so we do a lot of that together. Vacations are the best and easiest way for us to spend time together, truly disconnect from the business and make it about us. In a normal week, work is at the forefront, but we plan trips and make a choice to relax and have fun outside of the work realm.