MRM Franchise Feed: Hattie B’s Expands, Slapfish Tries South Korea and Shoney’s Design Prototype

by MRM Staff 33 Min Read

 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 bcastiglia@modernrestaurantmanagement.com.

Hattie B’s Expands Footprint
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Hattie B's co-owner Nick Bishop, Jr. in front of Hattie B's Hot Chicken in West Nashville. Photo by Joseph Woodley

Dallas-based Falcon Realty Advisors has advised Nashville-based Hattie B’s Hot Chicken on a 2,800-square foot lease for its first Atlanta location in the concept’s expansion. Expected to open late 2017, Hattie B’s will be located just south of Little Five Points at 299 Moreland Ave., which was originally occupied by a 1950s era iconic Phillips 66 gas station. Cal Marsh, Director of National Restaurant Accounts with Falcon’s Restaurant & Entertainment Group, and Ed lee of Capital Properties Group negotiated the deal with Knight Commercial Real Estate.

“Expanding to Atlanta was an easy decision as Hattie B’s has not only made waves among the communities it currently resides in, but among renowned industry food festivals across the nation - including the Atlanta Food and Wine Festival,” said Marsh. “Hattie B’s requires a space that will align with its fun, high-energy concept and as Hattie B’s exclusive representative in its expansion, Falcon will ensure each location reflects that unique quality.”

Selected as Hattie B’s exclusive representative for the company’s regional growth, Marsh advised on the Moreland Ave. location for its dynamic neighborhood and the ease of accessibility it provides due to the property’s 20 parking spots and the large public lot located next door. The new location will offer seating for 150 diners indoors and outdoors on a partially covered patio and an area for outdoor games such as cornhole.

"The minute we saw the building on Moreland, we knew it was the right spot for Hattie B's. From the architecture and design, to the energy in the neighborhood, it just felt like the place for us in Atlanta," said co-owner and co-operator Nick Bishop, Jr.

Hattie B’s Hot Chicken is a family-owned business, owned and operated by father-and-son team, Nick Bishop, Sr. and Nick Bishop, Jr. The restaurant first opened in Midtown Nashville in August 2012 and currently has a total of two locations in Nashville and one in Birmingham, Ala. Hattie B’s is renowned nationally for its Nashville hot chicken served with increasing levels of heat (including “hot,” “damn hot” and “shut the cluck up!!!”) and was recently ranked sixth on the The Daily Meal’s list of America's 75 Best Fried Chicken Spots.

Falcon’s Restaurant and Entertainment Group represents a number of flourishing emerging brands, such as Hopdoddy Burger Bar, Pink Taco, Publico Kitchen & Tap, Modern Market and Bulla Gastrobar. Other clients in Falcon’s impressive portfolio consist of top chain retailers, including Whole Foods, Junior’s Restaurant and Bakery, Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers, Twin Peaks and iPic Theaters.

Slapfish Announces Plans for South Korea

Slapfish, a fast casual seafood concept, announces aggressive expansion plans for South Korea, with the first location slated to open in Seoul in early 2017. The modern seafood shack plans to open 10 restaurants across the country over the next three years.

Surf-n-Turf Burger
Surf-n-Turf Burger

South Koreans consume more than 100 pounds of seafood per person each year, compared to 16 pounds per person in the U.S. Based on these statistics, the country is a natural fit for Slapfish to continue spreading its brand of ridiculously fresh, refreshingly responsible seafood. 

“South Koreans will soon discover Slapfish is the answer to all their crave-worthy seafood wishes,” said Chef Andrew Gruel, founder and CEO of Slapfish. “With our menu of seasonally-rotating, gourmet dishes in a fast-casual setting, guests experience the quality of fine dining with the cost and convenience of fast food. Also setting us apart is the fact that we only serve the freshest fish and shellfish sourced from well-managed, responsible suppliers of sustainable seafood.”

Founded by Andrew Gruel in 2011 with the goal of “making seafood sexy again,” Slapfish started as a food truck serving boat-to-plate seafood. Slapfish currently has seven brick-and-mortar locations open in Orange County and Los Angeles, and has signed agreements to open new restaurants in Utah, Idaho, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, and Texas, as well as in the UK, in 2017. Gruel is currently seeking franchise partners across the U.S. and internationally to assist him in expanding the chef-driven concept and raising awareness about the benefits of eating more seafood.

Chef Andrew Gruel
Chef Andrew Gruel

“Not only will our entry into South Korea accelerate our ability to scale domestically, we will also use it as a springboard to quicken our growth into neighboring countries, including China,” added Gruel. “Slapfish is an incredible concept with unlimited growth potential, and we look forward to making sustainable seafood an international staple as we continue to expand across the world.”

 The brand currently has seven units open, with over 50 more in development.

El Pollo Loco Launches Online Ordering and App

El Pollo Loco launched an online ordering platform and mobile app that allows guests a quick and easy way to enjoy the company’s freshly prepared Mexican-inspired entrees. In addition to adding online ordering capabilities, the company has brought the power of ordering to customer’s mobile devices with the launch of its first ordering app. 

El Pollo Loco’s online ordering and mobile app, developed in partnership with Olo, feature a full array of capabilities including full menu ordering, customization and payment options, location finder, product and restaurant information, flexible pick up date and time selection options as well as special offer code acceptance. Online ordering and the mobile app are part of the company’s continuous commitment to provide guests a convenient dining experience with great food, excellent service, an inviting atmosphere, and a good price.

“At El Pollo Loco, we constantly look for ways to elevate our guests’ dining experience and are thrilled to launch two new methods for customers to order their favorite El Pollo Loco meals through online and mobile platforms,” said Steve Sather, Chief Executive Officer at El Pollo Loco. “Our guests are on-the-go, and by providing them in-restaurant, drive-thru and now online and mobile ordering options, we are continuing to provide more personalized and convenient ways to enjoy our offerings and cater to their increasingly busy lifestyles. Beyond the ability to order and pay online and on their phone, guests can expect to soon see future technology innovations, including additional payment options, loyalty program integration, delivery and more.”

 “Since day one of working with El Pollo Loco, it was clear to us how committed they are to preparing fresh, high quality, authentic food in their restaurants every day, and we were delighted to be able to mirror that commitment to quality when developing the online ordering platform and new mobile app for the brand,” said Noah Glass, Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Olo. “By utilizing our latest technologies, including our newest mobile interface, among other new and improved features, we are confident we created an online and mobile experience that El Pollo Loco fans will enjoy almost as much as the brand’s signature citrus-marinated, fire-grilled chicken.”

Olo also appointed Linda Rottenberg to its board of directors. Rottenberg’s noteworthy credentials include her role as co-founder and chief executive officer at Endeavor Global, a global organization spanning 26 countries that empowers and drives entrepreneurship around the world. Since 1997, Endeavor has worked with 1,336 entrepreneurs, who have created 600,000 jobs, and whose companies generated $8.16 billion in revenues in 2015.

Linda Rottenberg
Linda Rottenberg

“We’re proud to welcome Linda to our board of directors and look forward to infusing her global entrepreneurial perspective and values into our leadership,” said Glass. “Linda’s exceptional experience and guidance will be a great asset to Olo as we continue growing into a world-class company.”

“I am thrilled to join the Olo board and to be part of a team that is driving the digital transformation of the restaurant industry,” said Rottenberg. “I look forward to working closely with this uniquely entrepreneurial group, and contributing to the company’s strategic direction and growth trajectory.”

Wingstop Starts Spanish Translated Site

Wingstop, Inc. launched a new Spanish translated website. Spanish speaking guests can now gain access to all of Wingstop’s website content on desktop and mobile devices.

“As an international brand, Wingstop is committed to providing a positive and engaging brand experience for all of our fans,” said Flynn Dekker, Chief Marketing Officer of Wingstop.  “The launch of our newly translated digital content will allow Wingstop to directly connect with more of our guests online, and ensure a convenient and accessible digital ordering option for our Spanish speaking customers to use with ease.”

Founded in 1994 and headquartered in Dallas, Wingstop operates and franchises 949 restaurants across the United States, Mexico, Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia, and the United Arab Emirates. The company just entered into an international expansion agreement with Colowing S.A. de C.V. to open 30 locally operated franchise locations in Colombia and Panama over the next five years, starting in 2017.  Antonio Ortiz Dominguez, majority partner of Wingstop's Mexico franchise and the Company's first international operator, will serve as majority partner of this newly created entity; Ricardo Ibarra, former general manager of Alsea Colombia, will serve as managing partner.

Ortiz is a long time multi-unit operator for quick-serve and fast casual restaurant brands in Mexico, having launched Wingstop's first international location there in 2009, as well as operating Dominos and Burger-Fi franchises. Under his leadership, Mexico remains Wingstop's largest international franchise to date with 39 total restaurants including 15 newly opened locations in the past 18 months alone.  Mr. Ibarra has more than 25 years of restaurant operating and logistics experience, the majority of this time spent with Alsea, the major multi-unit operator of American brands across Latin America. He has served as general manager of Alsea's Colombia business where he oversaw the launches and expansion of the company's Dominos and Burger King brands, and most recently served as managing director of the company's Chili's operations in Mexico.

Mr. Ortiz Dominguez and Mr. Ibarra will work with local restaurant operators in each respective market to accelerate opening and expansion, with the first locations planned for Bogota and Cali, Colombia. 

"We look forward to partnering with Colowing in the development of these 30 new Wingstop locations and our first entry into South and Central America," said Larry Kruguer, President of International at Wingstop. "The five year plan for those two markets will focus on rapid development and scalability, and will lay the foundation for additional locations, while kick starting our growth throughout the Latin American region and further fulfilling Wingstop's mission to ‘Serve the World Flavor.'"

Antonio Ortiz Dominguez stated, "We are proud of our highly successful partnership with Wingstop in Mexico, and are excited for this opportunity to expand the brand across Colombia and Panama."  Ricardo Ibarra continued, "Based on my knowledge of the Colombian customer, and prior experience introducing well-known restaurant brands into the region, I am confident that this will be an extremely successful market for Wingstop."

Beef Jerky Outlet Goes Comedic

 The Beef Jerky Outlet has teamed up with comedian JP Sears to create a series of humorous videos about the joy of beef jerky. The Beef Jerky Outlet offers over 100 varieties of jerky, while Sears is best known for his comedic YouTube video  “If Meat Eaters Acted Like Vegans.” 

The Beef Jerky Outlet is home to a wide variety of interesting and exotic jerkies including Teriyaki, Prime Rib, Kangaroo, Venison and even Alligator.

“We are thrilled to partner with JP on this campaign,” says Paul Lyons, President of Beef Jerky Outlet. “His sense of humor is right up our alley. I am greatly looking forward to sharing these hysterical videos with our customers. I know they are going to love them!”

JP Sears describes himself as an emotional healing coach, curious student of life and ultra spiritual. He makes satirical content on a variety of social media platforms, but is best known for his YouTube channel, where he discusses everything from meat eating to man buns to yoga poses.

“As a through and through meat lover, I’m excited for the opportunity to work with the Beef Jerky Outlet,” said Sears. “The partnership felt natural, and I’m excited to be creating fun and exciting new content for them.”

Sears’ new beef jerky-themed videos will be released periodically over the coming months and are sure to cause a stir among meat enthusiasts and vegans alike. The first video was released on Saturday, Dec. 17 on the Beef Jerky Outlet’s Facebook, Twitter and YouTube channel.

The Beef Jerky Outlet was founded in 2010 and is the country’s first national jerky franchise. The company is headquartered in Kodak, Tennessee and there are currently more than 80 franchise locations.

Bojangles Deploys NCR Signage Solution

Bojangles’, Inc. is deploying a high-definition NCR Vitalcast™ digital signage solution as a new unit standard at its company-owned locations. Bojangles’ will leverage the state-of-the-art digital signage solution to bring its popular food and beverages to life with visually compelling animations and messaging similar to the brand’s iconic advertising. The NCR Vitalcast digital signage is currently installed in approximately 25 Bojangles’ restaurants with additional restaurants anticipated to install in 2017.

Digital signage is quickly becoming a core component of a QSR’s consumer engagement strategy.

The solution will provide Bojangles’ restaurants the opportunity to showcase a wider variety of food and beverages with high resolution product shots and video to enhance the overall guest experience. The digital signage solution will also make it easier and cost effective to update information in real-time, feature new and limited time products, and display nutritional information.

“We are delighted to partner with NCR to include this digital signage solution in our company-operated restaurants,” said Randy Poindexter, senior vice president of marketing for Bojangles’. “Enhancing the guest experience is a pillar of our corporate strategy, and as we will soon unveil our new restaurant concept, innovative technology like this is an important part of that strategy.”

Vitalcast features provide greater flexibility to promote specific menu items during different day parts, localize content and add regional menu item variances. In addition to providing the Vitalcast software, NCR is supporting the installation with content management services.

“Digital signage is quickly becoming a core component of a QSR’s consumer engagement strategy,” said Paul Langenbahn, president of NCR Hospitality. “Our goal is to enable brands, like Bojangles’, to transform their in-store customer experience to better connect with today’s consumer.”

New Partners in Crushed Red

Dave Peacock, former Anheuser Busch President, and Dean VandeKamp, former Ernst & Young partner, are now equity partners in the St. Louis-based fast casual concept Crushed Red. Crushed Red is an emerging, artisan-fast chopped salad concept. This is Peacock and VandeKamp’s second investment in the food and beverage space after forming Vitaligent 18 months ago and acquiring 77 Jamba Juice locations on the West Coast.

Founded in 2012, Crushed Red currently has six units operating with franchise agreements for two dozen more. Crushed Red’s menu offers artisan-crafted salads and pizzas as well as the option for guests to customize their own salads and pizzas from a myriad of fresh ingredients. Each salad is chopped-to-order while you wait in line, prepared using a mosaic of colorful ingredients, and organically dressed.

“Partnering with Dave and Dean was a perfect fit for Crushed Red because of their wealth of experience with growing brands, their financial acumen, extensive resources, collaborative approach and their overall pedigree,” said Crushed Red co-founder and CEO Chris LaRocca. “Dave and Dean are our ideal partners, and together we will achieve Crushed Red’s mission to become the leading chopped salad concept in the fast casual industry.”

With this new equity partnership, Powell Kalish, who co-founded the brand with LaRocca, is moving to Chief Development Officer. He will be joining the corporate team full time and be tasked with real estate deals and developments as well as franchisee operations. “Dave and Dean understand our culture and brand, and share our passion for building our salad and pizza concept into a national brand,” said Kalish.

As part of the equity partnership, the Crushed Red headquarters will join Vitaligent at 190 Carondelet Plaza in Clayton, just a few blocks from the Clayton Crushed Red location.

“We like brands focused on the health and wellness macro-trend and Chris and Powell have built Crushed Red into a strong brand. We see Crushed Red moving quickly from a growing regional brand to a national player. The top-line is growing nicely and its economics are very attractive to franchisees. Our infrastructure will support their growth and give them the power to drive up unit-level profitability,” said VandeKamp.

“As a frequent diner at the local restaurant, I can attest to the high level of guest satisfaction,” added Peacock.

Shoney’s Debuts New Prototype

 Shoney’s, the iconic, all-American restaurant brand, will enhance the look and feel of its locations with the unveiling of a new restaurant design prototype in early 2017 at Shoney’s Donelson, Tenn. location.

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“When I acquired this iconic brand in 2007, I knew one of the most important elements to bring  Shoney’s back to its former glory days was to update the look and feel of our restaurants to become more contemporary and in-step with our guests’ expectations today,” said Shoney’s chairman and CEO, David Davoudpour. “After months of dedication to perfect this design, I’m fully confident that our latest prototype will excite our most passionate guests and will be welcoming to a new audience of people who crave quality food, set at a value price and served in a modern atmosphere.”

Shoney’s will transform into a contemporary, warm and inviting space that still pays homage to the brand’s rich heritage with classic Shoney’s elements. The exterior design features reclaimed wood and stone siding, and a prominent, white backlit Shoney’s logo. Adding to the appeal of Shoney’s fresh look, new and some existing remodeled locations will have a large outdoor patio that can be enclosed by sliding and garage-style glass walls for multi-seasonal use.

The restaurant’s interior will also take on a renewed design that features a full-service beverage bar highlighted by bright, red tiles. A long community table lit by cast-iron chandeliers will allow for large parties or multiple smaller groups to share a meal together, and the dining room will be separated from the bar area by large, curved booths. As part of Shoney’s mission to rejuvenate the brand, Shoney’s iconic freshly prepared all you care to eat food bar will take on the additional purpose of a Freshly Prepared Food Market, where guests can purchase quality meals from the bar to take home.

“Every aspect of our new design was not intended to change what people have loved about this brand for decades, but rather to elevate the experience so that more generations can create lasting memories at Shoney’s for many more years to come,” added Davoudpour.

The first restaurant that will remodel to the new design will debut in Donelson, Tenn., in early 2017 and five additional restaurants are forecasted to be remodeled by the end of next year. The remaining corporate locations will all be remodeled, and existing franchisees have the option to reimage their locations to the new look with the help of Shoney’s corporate team.

The brand, which hopes that 10 new locations will open in 2017, is in the midst of fast franchise expansion with single and multi-unit franchise opportunities available in its core Southeast regions, throughout the United States and in select international locations, under the new restaurant design.

GPS Expands National Footprint

In its largest acquisition to date, Atlanta-based GPS Hospitality, the rapidly growing franchisee group announced today that it will expand its national footprint into five new states with the acquisition of 194 BURGER KING® restaurants. The acquisition will extend GPS Hospitality's reach into Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansasand Florida.  This agreement nearly doubles the company's size and puts it firmly among the top three largest BURGER KING® franchisees in the United States with 424 locations nationwide.

"This is a tremendous opportunity for us and takes us a huge step closer on our journey to achieving one billion dollars in sales by 2022," said Tom Garrett, CEO of GPS Hospitality. "In just four years' we've created a thriving company that is on track to exceed its highest goals. It's rare to see such fast growth in this competitive industry, and it's a privilege to be part of this team that's making it happen at GPS." 

GPS Hospitality also announced that Joe Waller has been promoted to Vice President of Operations and will oversee this new division within the company. Waller has spent more than 25 years in the restaurant industry, including the past two years serving as Director of Operations for GPS Hospitality's Ohioregion. Prior to that, he spent 14 years at Arby's running 82 restaurants as Senior Director of Operations in Indiana. 

"We are fortunate to have someone of Joe's caliber within the GPS family to lead an expansion of this size and magnitude," Garrett said. "He brings a deep knowledge of GPS' systems and culture that's essential for the success of our new division."

"I couldn't be more excited about this growth opportunity. I've had the great privilege of being part of GPS for the past two years and have seen firsthand how the company's value of Service-Obsessed drives our daily interactions with our guests," said Joe Waller, VPO of GPS Hospitality. "I'm confident that our new team, who has an impressive depth of knowledge and experience, will bring this valuable part of the GPS culture to life."

Soulman Plans National Expansion

Brett Randle, CEO of Soulman’s Bar-B-Que, announced the company will roll out the first phase of a national expansion plan for the treasured barbecue concept early next year. In the past decade, the 40-plus-year-old brand has seen booming growth in the 14 owner-operated locations throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area. They will expand that opportunity to a limited number of franchisees within a 100-mile radius of DFW beginning in January 2017.

soulman%27s-bar-b-que-ceo-brett-randle%2c-owner-don-hallett-and-coo-randall
oulman's Bar-B-Que CEO Brett Randle, Owner Don Hallett and COO Randall McGee

Randle said, “We have been preparing for this highly anticipated program for some time. Soulman’s Bar-B-Que is a unique brand that was created in 1974 by combining traditional family recipes and exceptional Texas-style barbecue. Our franchisees will not only be supported with great Soulman’s foods, but with outstanding leadership and field support along with the opportunity for potential growth. Collectively, our executive leadership has more than 100 years of experience that we will confidently use to propel our franchisees into success with our brand.”

To that end, Soulman’s is announcing the hiring of Randall McGee, a veteran operations management executive, to serve as the company’s Chief Operating Officer and Vice President of Franchising. McGee comes with more than 20 years of experience conceptualizing, developing and implementing innovative and strategic solutions for franchise operations including Bob Evans Restaurants, Valvoline Instant Oil Change and SportsClips, Inc. Notably, McGee led and strengthened store performance for Long John Silver’s and A&W Restaurants with new programs in efficiency and functionality during his tenure as Senior Vice President of company and franchise operations at YUM Brands.

McGee believes that Soulman’s Bar-B-Que is ideally positioned for success for future franchisees who have a passion for the Soulman’s brand.

“We are seeking candidates who may have restaurant operation experience or franchisees of other brands. Prior food experience is helpful but not essential. Soulman’s offers a comprehensive training program for its franchisees. It is our goal as a franchisor to provide service and training to our franchise partners that exceeds industry standards. Our franchisees will have complete access to our systems and more than 100 years of combined barbecue and restaurant experience.”

Soulman’s Bar-B-Que will limit the number of opportunities centralized to North Texas. These locations, once approved by Soulman’s, can be a ground up building or possible second generation building that can be remodeled to Soulman’s design specifications.

In May of 2016, Soulman’s opened a pilot franchise at 1567 West Main St. in Lewisville, TX successful.

McGee added, “Historically, a good portion all of the Soulman’s locations have been second generation, as it is absolutely one of the most economic ways to maximize value in opening a new restaurant location. We are committed to the success of our franchisees, their individual businesses and ultimately the successful growth of the Soulman’s brand.”

Dippin Dots and Doc Popcorn Honor Franchisees

Dippin’ Dots and its sister brand Doc Popcorn held their first ever co-branded annual franchisee conference for networking, share best practices and celebrate the year’s successes.

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“Co-branding locations is our primary strategy for growth in brick-and-mortar retail spaces. We continue to see increased interest in our co-branded locations and expect this trend to continue in 2017,” said Scott Fischer, president and CEO of Dippin’ Dots, LLC. “Bringing together the franchisees, who are really the heart of these two brands, at this year’s annual conference made for a powerful opportunity to learn, share and celebrate Doc Popcorn and Dippin’ Dots collective and individual successes.”

There are 16 co-branded locations currently operating in the U.S. As a result of the “sweet and savory” success of these locations, Dippin’ Dots and Doc Popcorn expect to open 10 to 15 new co-branded locations in the coming year.

“Franchisees with co-branded locations have seen success with minimal additional square footage by offering a variety of products appealing to customers all year round. Our customers have embraced our co-branded locations and enjoy having the option for sweet ice cream or more savory popcorn,” said Doc Popcorn co-founder Rob Israel. “We’re not in the popcorn business; we’re in the business of creating smiles, and that’s exactly what our franchisees do every day.”

As part of the annual franchisee conference, Dippin’ Dots and Doc Popcorn recognize franchisees from around the country for their hard work. The Founder’s Awards are the most prestigious awards announced at the conference. They are earned by the franchisees that best represent the values of Doc Popcorn and Dippin’ Dots and exemplify the model that other franchisees should look to for guidance. This year, Doc Popcorn franchisee Denise McCaskill of Houston and Dippin’ Dots franchisees Kim and Carl Michael of Sandoval, Illinois each received Founder’s Awards.

Kim and Carl Michael have been with Dippin’ Dots for more than 20 years. They have built their successful franchise business with respect and integrity, treating everyone as they would want to be treated.

Denise McCaskill has been an exemplary Doc Popcorn brand ambassador since 2009. Colleagues say she embodies the company’s spirit of customer service and, through her friendliness, mentorship and integrity, she truly exemplifies what Doc Popcorn is all about.

“It is a great honor to work with franchisees such as Denise McCaskill and Kim and Carl Michael who, through hard work and positivity, truly represent the iconic Doc Popcorn and Dippin’ Dots brands,” said Steve Rothenstein, senior director of franchising at Dippin’ Dots, LLC. “We congratulate all of our franchisees on a successful year and we look forward to expanding and continuing our collective success next year.”

Complete list of Dippin’ Dots and Doc Popcorn 2016 Franchisee Award Recipients

Dippin’ Dots Peak Performer Award (largest dollar volume purchaser of Dippin’ Dots ice cream):

KBC Distributing, LLC - London, Kentucky

Doc Popcorn Peak Performer Award (largest dollar volume purchaser of Doc Popcorn proprietary products):

Chris and Vanessa Curl - Edinburg, Texas

Dippin’ Dots Apex Award (highest retail sales volume from franchise operations):

Tom and Barbara Pullen - Mobile, Alabama

Doc Popcorn Apex Award (highest retail sales volume from franchise operations):

Geoff Frischman - Neptune, New Jersey

Dippin’ Dots Rookie of the Year Award:

Steffan and Carolyn Moore - Breckenridge, Texas

Doc Popcorn Rookie of the Year Award:

Robert and Stephanie Todd - Las Vegas, Nevada

Dippin’ Dots 25 Year Silver Anniversary Award:

Jan and Karen Gary - Vista, California

Dippin’ Dots Curt and Kay Jones 20 Year Emerald Anniversary Award:

Geoff Clark - Lincoln, Nebraska

John and Trina Lovdahl - Anchorage, Alaska

John Speis, Jr. - Evansville, Indiana

Keith Kuros - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Shelly Geiser - Bellevue, Nebraska

Sherry Ewing - Spearfish, South Dakota

Dippin’ Dots Dorothy and Milford Jones 10 Year Anniversary Award:

Daniel and Debbie Tesla - Fountain Valley, California

Elaine Coston - Dallas, Texas

Jackie and Judy Chung - Honolulu, Hawaii

Louis Migliaccio - Houston, Texas

Rick and Tracey Kupfer - San Jose, California

Doc Popcorn 5 Year Anniversary Award:

Barry and Patty McLean - Chicago, Illinois

Bill and Julie Bentz - Bloomington, Minnesota

Cherri Oglesby - North Brunswick, New Jersey

Denise McCaskill - Houston, Texas

Geoff Frischman - Neptune, New Jersey

Jed Howard - Minnetonka, Minnesota

Jeff and Corinne Fortenbacher - Muskegon, Michigan

Melanie Kittrell - Maple Glen, Pennsylvania

Nate Godo - Nashville / Knoxville, Tennessee

Randy Jung - St. Louis, Missouri

Rob and Jean McLean - Pearland, Texas

Sal Cataldo - Jersey City, New Jersey

Scott Suryan - Portage, Michigan

Roy Rogers Launches Loyalty App

Roy Rogers® Restaurants launched its loyalty app, Roy’s Rewards. The app launches at its 24 corporate-owned locations today with an expansion into participating franchise locations by the first quarter of next year.

Roy’s Rewards, available for download in the Apple App Store and the Google Play store as well as online, features the full Roy Rogers® menu, a location tracker, interactive links to the company’s social media pages, rewards tracking and more. For every dollar spent at the quick serve restaurant chain®, Roy’s Rewards users will receive one point. For every 100 points accumulated, a $10 reward will be earned for a guest to use on their next visit within 90 days. Roy’s Rewards also offers a Refer-A-Friend component to the program where guests can invite friends via their social shares (Twitter, text or email) and, in turn, referred friends can download and register for the app to receive a $5 Welcome Reward while the referrer will receive 20 points as a benefit of sharing with their friends.

Roy Rogers® Restaurants partnered with Relevant Mobile, a leading provider in customized mobile apps and mobile-centric data-capturing, to create Roy’s Rewards. Relevant Mobile specializes in working with restaurants, offering a holistic technology platform that includes loyalty, guest feedback and resolution, ordering, mobile payment, gift card solutions and much more to help restaurant clients give guests a consolidated, interacting platform. The launch of Roy’s Rewards is the first step in a long-term partnership with Relevant Mobile. Roy Rogers® Restaurants plans to continue evolving in the mobile space by launching initiatives including Mobile Pay and online ordering in 2017.

“We are thrilled to announce the launch of Roy’s Rewards,” said Carrie Isabell, Director of Marketing for Roy Rogers® Restaurants. “Guests are seeking turn-key, interactive opportunities to engage with their favorite brands.  Our brand has beloved, loyal customers who enjoy their menu favorites. Roy’s Rewards will not only allow them to be rewarded for their frequency of visits, but also allow them to share their love for our brand with friends and family   to earn additional rewards.”

Spice & Tea Exchange Expands

The Spice & Tea Exchange®, a gourmet, experience-based store offering an extensive selection of spices and exclusive hand-mixed blends, naturally-flavored sugars, salts and exotic teas from around the world, has tapped one of its own franchisees –Stefan Pickerel – to fill its newly created position of Corporate Chef.

As an experience-based store, The Spice & Tea Exchange encourages hands-on interaction with the spices and teas, allowing guests to open the jars and smell aromas. Knowledgeable store staff helps guests create custom blends and empowers them to take their creativity to the kitchen at home. Among his primary roles, “Chef Stefan” will work to enhance these in-store educational experiences, develop proprietary recipes and create new custom spice blends for the 50+ store growing national franchise.

 “Chef Stefan is not only extremely knowledgeable about flavor profiles, but also one of our most enthusiastic in-store educators,” said CEO Amy Freeman. “He was the perfect candidate for the Corporate Chef role to help inspire our system to live our brand mission of `Creating & Sharing the Experience of a More Flavorful Life.’”

Raised in a New York restaurant family, Chef Stefan Pickerel spent several years traveling the world and experiencing the culinary riches of more than 65 countries. With a gained understanding of how to enjoy the world’s diverse flavor profiles, the ability to adapt culinary techniques into everyday teachings became his true passion. As a co-owner of The Spice & Tea Exchange Portland and The Spice & Tea Exchange of San Francisco, and having attended advanced studies with San Francisco’s renowned Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Academy, San Francisco Baking Institute and S.F. Cooking School, Pickerel was a perfect fit to help lead and implement new culinary initiatives.

As one of his first initiatives as Corporate Chef, Pickerel will help refine and introduce an innovative new line of products that’s currently being tested in a handful of stores. This line of products will provide guests with video demonstrations of various recipes that can be created with the brand’s custom spice blends. All recipes will be supported by a “Come Cook with Us” instructional online video section, which will showcase “How-To” and “Tips & Tricks” videos.

“Working with our customers is always a humbling experience,” Pickerel said. “We unite all of the world’s most exotic flavors, and help make them more accessible and understandable for our guests to use in their kitchens as they recreate their favorite and new dishes. I’m not here to recreate the wheel. Rather my goal is to latch on to our current momentum and steer it towards the most dynamic and diverse flavors possible to provide a more flavorful, valuable experience for our guests.”

Fazoli’s Tries Alabama

Fazoli’s, signed a franchise agreement to develop a restaurant in Huntsville, AL. The news comes on the heels of another month of strong sales results for the brand’s franchise restaurants. The Lexington, KY-based company reported a 5.1 percent same-store sales increase for its franchised locations in November.

“We are thrilled to expand Fazoli’s presence in Alabama, which represents a key state for our brand’s overall growth and development,” said Carl Howard, president and chief executive officer of Fazoli’s. “With 14 consecutive quarters of same-store sales results, there has never been a more exciting time to be part of the Fazoli’s brand. Our franchise restaurants are consistently delivering solid sales results and we anticipate another strong year in fiscal 2017. 

As part of this development, Nareshkumar and Jaimin Patel of Mahant, Inc. will open their first restaurant in Huntsville. The father-and-son team also own and operate two Dairy Queen locations in the state with plans to develop additional Fazoli’s locations in the area over the next few years. 

“We are thrilled to join the Fazoli’s family and bring its variety of craveable menu items to the Huntsville community,” said Jaimin. “What attracted us to Fazoli’s was not only its menu of high-quality, made-to-order entrées, but also the long-term viability of its business model. We are excited to bring Fazoli's back to Huntsville and look forward to serving local residents for many years to come.”

In 2011, Fazoli’s underwent a major brand overhaul with the introduction of real plateware and silverware in lieu of foam plates and plastic cutlery. As part of the brand refresh, earlier this year, Fazoli’s began remodeling some of its locations with a new, contemporary look and feel. In addition, the company introduced an upgraded menu using premium ingredients, which has been well received by guests. This, coupled with the company’s strong performance, continues to drive its national expansion. To further catapult the brand’s development across the country, Fazoli’s is targeting new markets including Atlanta, Cincinnati, Dallas, Detroit, Knoxville, Phoenix, Pittsburgh and several other cities. 

Fazoli’s has nearly 220 restaurants in 25 states.

McAlisters Likes Michigan

McAlister's Deli® is looking for new partnerships with experienced multi-unit franchise owners as the brand continues its expansion into Michigan.

"Central and Western Michigan represents an important part of McAlister's growth strategy, and we're excited about the brand's continued expansion into the region," said Jeff Sturgis, McAlister's Vice President of Franchise Sales. "The McAlister's Deli brand has become a top choice for some of the most successful multi-unit franchise owners in the country, so we're excited to watch the brand grow in these areas due in large part to the talent of our franchisees."

As the company looks to open additional locations in the area, they are actively seeking qualified franchisees to develop in the areas in and around Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo. Currently, McAlister's has one location in the state of Michigan, located in Lansing, and several locations in Northern Indiana, including Valparaiso, South Bend and Ft. Wayne.

McAlister's had a successful year of franchise growth in 2015 with $548 million in system-wide sales, the opening of 27 new restaurants – some in new markets, including Chicago, Rochester, and Orlando – and nearly 60 commitments for new restaurants. This growth is fueled by both existing franchisees as well as new partnerships with experienced multi-unit franchise owners with notable portfolios.

Pie Five Partners with Olo

Pie Five Pizza Co., has partnered with Olo to offer guests an innovative online ordering experience unlike anything out there right now in the fast casual pizza industry. Seamlessly integrated with Olo's Dispatch delivery service platform and Pie Five's Circle of Crust loyalty program, guests can earn points for their purchases while enjoying the ease and convenience of ordering through the Pie Five website or the new Pie Five app.

"Pie Five has always kept a relentless focus on the customer by offering personalized pies in just five minutes," said Noah Glass, Olo Founder & CEO. "We are thrilled to play a role in expanding that convenience layer with easy ordering and payment and by linking in to a powerful delivery network with Dispatch. This program allows Pie Five to meet the guest wherever they are and however they'd like to engage."

Online ordering is yet another way that Pie Five continues to meet consumer demands for instant gratification and overall convenience. With just a few clicks, guests can place an order for their favorite pizzas, salads and sides, and have them set for pickup or delivered from their nearest Pie Five restaurant.

"Pie Five's online ordering experience is the first platform in the fast casual pizza industry to fully integrate a loyalty program and third party delivery options," said Clinton Coleman, interim CEO for Rave Restaurant Group, Inc. "Whether in-store, online or using our app, we're committed to offering guests a high-quality dining experience in the fastest, most convenient way possible."

Online ordering is currently available at all company-owned restaurants in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Chicago, Atlanta and franchised markets in North Carolina and Kansas City. A full nationwide rollout is expected in early 2017.

Taco Bell Expands into Spain

Taco Bell, in collaboration with its franchisee, Casual Brands Group of Madrid, will begin building an additional 45 restaurants across Spain and add more than 900 jobs to the local economy. By 2020, Spain will be home to more than 70 Taco Bell Restaurants and will be the largest market in Europe.

Casual Brands Group, led by CEO Ignacio Mora-Figueroa, began working with Taco Bell in 2008. The group owns and operates all Taco Bell locations in Spain, as well as Juan Valdez ® Café and Delina’s®. Mora-Figueroa, recognized as Taco Bell’s International Franchisee of the Year in 2015, is a well-respected entrepreneur in Spain and has done an amazing job developing and promoting the brand.taco_bell_spain

“I am passionate about Taco Bell and what the brand stands for,” said Mora-Figueroa. “My team is committed to providing más flavor, más value, más enjoyment and más life to all of our fans.”

Starting with its first restaurant in Madrid, Casual Brands Group has now expanded to Barcelona, Valencia, Zaragoza and most recently, Seville. In 2015 alone, Taco Bell and Casual Brands Group added 10 new locations and there will be 31 Taco Bells across Spain by the end of 2016.

“We are thrilled to continue our restaurant development in Spain alongside Ignacio, who has shown his commitment to investing and growing our brand since day one,” said Melissa Lora, President of Taco Bell International. “We’ve seen immense enthusiasm from our Spanish fans over the past eight years, and know they will continue to celebrate our Live Más spirit as we expand to more communities across the country.”

There are currently more than 330 Taco Bell restaurants (including military bases) across 26 markets outside of the United States, with the goal of expanding the brand’s international presence to 1,000 restaurants by 2022. Domestically, Taco Bell is the nation’s leading Mexican-style quick service restaurant chain. The company and its franchisees operate more than 7,000 restaurants, generating more than $9 billion in sales. By 2022, the brand plans to become a $15 billion company in global system sales with 9,000 restaurants globally.

IHOP to India

DineEquity, Inc., signed a multi-unit franchise agreement with Kwal's Catering Private Ltd., a subsidiary of Kwal's Group, to bring IHOP, to the country with the first location scheduled to open in Cyber Hub, Gurgaon in early 2017. An additional 19 locations are planned in multiple states of Northern and Southern India over the next decade.

The addition of 20 IHOP restaurants in India is expected to generate at least one thousand jobs. The local economy will also benefit from the initial construction and ongoing purchase of goods and services, most of which will be sourced locally.

"We are excited to bring our IHOP brand to India with its vibrant, growing economy," said Daniel del Olmo, president, international, DineEquity, Inc. "Together with our new franchisee, Kwal's Catering Private Ltd., we have a terrific opportunity to introduce a brand that for 58 years has been spreading happiness. We're confident that IHOP's unparalleled breakfast experience any time of day, including our world famous pancakes, as well as our great American lunch and dinner entrees and warm hospitality will be embraced by our Indian guests as enthusiastically as it has been in our more than 1,700 locations in 11 countries." 

The menu for India will feature dishes that have been customized to meet the dietary preferences of the country, such as egg-free pancakes, as well as locally inspired vegetarian dishes, both to delight guests and to creatively utilize regional produce, spices and other local ingredients, a practice which is part of IHOP's appeal wherever it does business.

Sameer Lamba, managing director of Kwal's Group, said, "From the first time I experienced the delicious food and atmosphere at IHOP, I felt that this was a concept that belonged in India. That belief was only strengthened with each visit to an IHOP, where the quality and friendliness met the same high standard, wherever it was located. I am committed to bringing that same consistent, great IHOP experience to guests in many locations in India, and I am honored and grateful that IHOP has selected my company to do so."

In 2014 DineEquity consolidated the Applebee's and IHOP international brand teams into one business unit and created a new strategic plan based on robust consumer insights and franchisee feedback. As a result, the company implemented a 360-degree brand evolution resulting in the implementation of new brand positioning, marketing, food and beverage choices, plate presentation, restaurant design and an improved service culture, all of which have been embraced by franchisees.

Since 2014, 72 new international restaurants have opened, and eight planned additional openings will take place in 2016, resulting in the third consecutive year of record international growth. In addition to 80 newly opened and planned international openings, DineEquity has tripled the international development pipeline to over 200 restaurant commitments. International growth has been largely focused on three key regions: Latin America, the Middle East and Asia Pacific, increasing the number of restaurants in existing markets while entering new ones.

Checkers & Rally’s Model 4.0

Building on the momentum from the largest development pipeline in more than 20 years, Checkers & Rally’s continues to focus on driving even stronger franchisee profitability with the launch of a new and innovative growth strategy known as Checkers & Rally’s Model 4.0. Designed to provide a more streamlined, cost-effective and time-sensitive construction process for new buildouts, Checkers & Rally’s Model 4.0 allows franchisees to choose from three unique design plans when building their new freestanding restaurants: a traditional on-site build that has been value engineered, a new modular building (the iconic format that Checkers and Rally’s is famous for), or a new container building that utilizes reclaimed shipping containers as the structural supports for the innovative new design.

Both the modular and shipping container builds are projected to be faster to construct and less expensive than traditional builds, with potential average savings relative to traditional methods of up to $100,000 or more. These designs also save 5-12 weeks in the development timeline as the buildings are manufactured in controlled environments off-site.

“Checkers & Rally’s is growing extremely fast, and with hundreds of territories still available in major markets across the United States, we’re committed to providing both existing and new franchisees new restaurant growth options that are fast and efficient in order to maximize their profitability,” said Rick Silva, Chief Executive Officer of Checkers & Rally’s. “These are exciting times at Checkers and Rally’s. We’re not only growing at a record pace, we’re also innovating in order to better support and serve our franchisees. With the 4.0 design, we offer our franchisees a variety of freestanding building options that they can select from to best fit their specific site.”

There are nearly 840 restaurants, and 250 additional locations in its pipeline.

“While our returns are compelling for franchisees, we are always looking for creative ways to reduce our buildout costs,” said Jennifer Durham, Chief Development Officer for Checkers & Rally’s. “Our new designs are projected to provide higher returns for our existing franchisees and make being part of our great brands even more attractive for potential new franchisees. Our new Checkers & Rally’s Model 4.0 should create price certainty and ease of development, reduce development schedules, and at the same time, boost ROI. We realized that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t always work. So, now we’re empowering our franchisees to choose the building format that makes the most sense for their site.”

Several franchisees have already signed up to open Model 4.0 Modular and Container options in successful markets like South Florida, Columbus, Los Angeles, Nashville, Tampa and Houston. In each market, Checkers and Rally’s development team supports franchisees to select the format that is best suited for their site. While ROI from a modular or shipping container buildout may be higher in most markets, others, with lower construction costs, may prove to be competitive or even cheaper via traditional onsite builds.

“The new 4.0 design options for freestanding restaurant building are modern, while keeping the iconic elements guests have come to expect from Checkers & Rally’s,” said Checkers’ franchisee Angelo Freites, a former Wendy’s system franchisee who opened four Florida Checkers locations in 2015, and now plans to open one of the brand’s first 4.0 modular restaurants by the end of 2016. “This new design is extremely relevant to today’s consumer while sustaining the heritage of the legacy brand.”

In 2012, the brand introduced Checkers & Rally’s Model 3.0, which provided a contemporary approach to the brand’s quintessential retro image. Since then, Checkers & Rally’s has welcomed 176 new restaurants and 175 new franchisees. Now, as Checkers & Rally’s continues to expand from coast to coast, the brand plans to use its Model 4.0 to become an even bigger driver for franchise growth and enhanced ROI, for new and existing franchisees alike.

“One of our primary goals has and always will be unit-level profitability and strong returns,” Durham said. “To continue to make our franchise offering the most competitive in the industry, we will continue to bring innovations that differentiate Checkers & Rally’s from other brands in the QSR space. The introduction of Checkers & Rally’s Model 4.0 building design is just the latest way we have made our investment more efficient. The impact of our dedication is demonstrated in our rapid growth and our unparalleled return on investment. Most importantly, we are deeply invested in the success of each and every one of our franchisees.”

Telepizza Plans Iran Growth

Telepizza plans to be in Iran in March 2017 via a strategic master franchise alliance with its partner Momenin Investment Group and the objective of 200 stores in 10 years. This will mean opening some 20 establishments per year and an investment of €100 million in ten years by MIG.

The first store will be found in the country's capital, Teheran, after which seven others will be opened before the end of the year.

"The arrival of Telepizza in Iran is a major accomplishment in our international expansion and represents a great opportunity for our business. We are delighted to share the essence of our brand, nothing less than offering pizza with a unique flavor at any time or place, with Iranian consumers" remarks Pablo Juantegui, Chairman and CEO of Telepizza.

"We are very satisfied to have found a travel companion like Momenin Investment Group to begin our venture in Iran, which promises to be very interesting. We will be the first European chain in the QSR segment to set up in this country, catering to the customers' demand that went unmet up to this point," states Giorgio Minardi, International Chairman of Telepizza.

"Telepizza is a global brand that we are proud to be able to introduce in Iran. A distinguished brand concept with high degree of product innovation, excellence in delivery and consumer technology, that will allow us to bring to Iranian people which was missing today in the market: freshly quality handmade pizzas, friendly and innovative delivered at a great value to be enjoyed anywhere", explains Hadi Momenin, representative of Momenin Investment Group.

Other recent international openings: The United Kingdom, Malta, Saudi Arabia 

On top of Telepizza's arrival to Iran, the company has announced other important operations in terms of international expansion throughout 2016.

In this respect, Telepizza has made it known that it will open 80 stores in the UK over the next 10 years, alongside Karali Ventures Limited, as well as develop a business plan that includes 300 new establishments in a decade, through the collaboration of 20 franchisees.

Additionally, in Malta, through the partnership with Joseph P. Attard, the brand will have one store in the first quarter of 2017 and three more in the next three years.

As for Saudi Arabia, it is already one of the countries with Telepizza establishments following the recent inauguration of three stores in Riyadh, the capital. They are the first of 100 projected stores over a 10-year period. In this case, the operation was carried out in collaboration with Emtyaz Catering Company, a subsidiary of Al Bayan Holding Group.

Since its arrival in Chile in 1992, Telepizza's international expansion has not yet stopped. 1,342 shops (456 company-owned and 886 franchisees and master franchises) are operating in 15 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America, offering its products to more than 60 million customers with total sales of €506 million.

The company also has its own factories in six countries (Spain, Portugal, Poland, Chile, Columbia and Peru) as well as master franchise factories in six additional territories: Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Central America, Russia, Bolivia, and Angola; and also has partner warehouses in Ecuador and Poland.

Dominos in Sweden

Domino's Pizza is continuing its global growth momentum by opening its first store in Sweden. The pizza purveyor also launched ordering on Google Home. Google Home is the fifth platform added to Domino's lineup of AnyWare ordering capabilities this year.Dominos Pizza opens first store in Sweden

"We're proud to once again be the first in our industry, even among the first in e-commerce, to offer ordering via the Google Assistant," said Dennis Maloney, Domino's senior vice president – chief digital officer. "We've had a busy year launching platforms that have kept us in the forefront of digital ordering and customer convenience. This is yet another way we are making it easier for our customers to order Domino's pizza from anywhere they turn."

Domino's customers with a Pizza Profile can place an order with the Google Assistant by saying, "OK Google, talk to Domino's" to begin the ordering process. The customer can order their saved Easy Order or recent order, and can also ask Google to track their order progress with Domino's Tracker®.

"We are thrilled to bring the Domino's brand to Sweden," said Birgir Bieltvedt, CEO of Domino's Iceland – the master franchisee for the brand in Sweden, Iceland and Norway. "We already have 22 stores in Iceland and 12 in Norway, and we look forward to sharing our delicious products, excellent customer service and prompt delivery with the citizens of Malmö."

Domino's is now operating in more than 80 international markets. In the third quarter of 2016, Domino's had global retail sales of nearly $2.5 billion, with over $1.2 billion in the U.S. and nearly $1.3 billion internationally.

Bubbleogy looks to Expand

 Bubbleology™, the London-based bubble tea franchise chain, is looking to expand operations across the United States. Currently operating four corporate locations in Florida and Georgia, Bubbleology's current focus is on single-site franchisees and experienced and established area developers.

Founded in Soho, London, in April 2011, Bubbleology has since expanded to eight countries across Europe and the Middle East. Bubbleology patrons enjoy varieties of milk and fruit teas and create-your-own brews, with flavor options including matcha, almond, coconut, mango, white peach, strawberry, kiwi and more. 

"Bubbleology's take on a Taiwanese favorite has been a hit since we opened the first location in Soho, London in 2011," said Assad Khan, founder of Bubbleology. "There's a clear opportunity to build a presence for bubble tea in the U.S. market, and we intend to fill an existing void with the help of entrepreneurial-minded Bubbleology owners nationwide." 

Bubbleology is currently offering franchise opportunities for both in-line and kiosk locations, and single and multi store development. The Bubbleology initial franchise fee is $30,000, and interested franchisees must have $100k liquid assets and $300k net worth per store.

Taco Bueno Fuels Growth

Taco Bueno®, plans to open another 13-18 restaurants in 2017. The company attributes its growth to the increasing demand for better quality, fresh-made Tex-Mex.

“While today’s customers are demanding ever-increasing convenience, they are rejecting the factory-processed, heat n’ serve items offered by large chains,” said Taco Bueno President and CEO, Mike Roper. “Taco Bueno offers a made-in-house menu that delivers bold flavors crafted from fresh, real ingredients, a combination that is compelling to guests as well as to prospective franchisees.”

Taco Bueno has signed a multi-unit expansion agreement with their current franchise partner, Quality Brand Management (QBM), led by Rick Verity. “Rick has been part of the Taco Bueno family for more than 10 years, operating four Taco Bueno Restaurants in Central Arkansas and one in Oklahoma,” said Taco Bueno Vice President of Franchising, Matt Stanton. “Given Rick’s proven strength as a multi-brand and multi-unit operator, we are thrilled to expand with the QBM team.” QBM opened two new restaurants in Oklahoma in 2016 and will continue to expand in 2017 and beyond.

Taco Bueno has signed a multi-unit franchise agreement with Larry and Kimberly Coon in their home town of San Angelo, Texas. The Coons are experienced restaurant operators in the San Angelo area as long-time franchisees for Little Caesar’s Pizza.

In the Shreveport/Bossier City area of Louisiana, Taco Bueno has signed a multi-unit agreement with Jed Blackburn and Brian Nelson, long-time residents of the Shreveport area. Jed is a successful entrepreneur and developer and Brian brings a host of skills obtained through a career in the Air Force.

West of Fort Worth, Taco Bueno has inked a deal with an experienced special venue operator to place a drive-thru restaurant in a new travel center. The travel center will feature dedicated semi-truck refueling and parking, with Taco Bueno as the primary dining option.

Roper stated, “Special venues like this are an important part of Taco Bueno’s growth plans, and we are actively looking to provide dining options for customers in travel centers, airports, and other unique locations.”

“We are thrilled with the high caliber of franchisees in our system today as well as those who are joining our rapidly growing brand,” said Stanton. “We look forward to adding more multi-unit franchises in the near future.”

Founded in 1967 in Abilene, TX, Taco Bueno operates more than 175 restaurants in Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana.

FUSIAN Offers Mobile App

FUSIAN, an Ohio-based create your own sushi restaurant, partnered with Olo and LevelUp to integrate online ordering, mobile payment, and the new FUSIAN Rewards program into one streamlined mobile app for customers.

  • Order – Online ordering powered by Olo will give customers the ability to find the nearest FUSIAN, customize a roll and save favorites for easy ordering every time. 
  • Pay – Customers who opt in to FUSIAN Rewards, managed by LevelUp, will have the ability to link a payment source and scan their phone at checkout for a safe, secure, and easy way to pay.
  • Earn – FUSIAN Rewards members who pay with the app will earn $9 in FUSIAN credit for every $99 they spend. As customers earn, they achieve silver, gold, platinum and black status levels to get access to free merchandise, special offers, birthday rewards, and more.

“Our guests have been asking us for both a mobile ordering solution and loyalty program since day one. We are ecstatic that we are now able to offer them both of these things plus mobile payment in one cohesive app. Our goal is to continually improve the FUSIAN experience and hospitality for our guests. This technology is a major step forward in making that happen,” said Zach Weprin, CEO and Co-Founder at FUSIAN.

“We are excited to launch our partnership with FUSIAN and look forward to helping streamline the consumer experience both inside and outside of the restaurant, creating a seamless visit for loyal customers that covers the three most important pieces of the equation – ordering, payment, and loyalty,” said Noah Glass, Founder & CEO of Olo.

“It’s thrilling to work with a great brand like FUSIAN, and our longtime partner Olo, to deliver a best-in-class mobile payments, ordering and loyalty experience for FUSIAN's customers. FUSIAN is deeply committed to creating excellent customer experiences and we're looking forward to helping them continue to do so,” said Seth Priebatsch, Founder & CEO of LevelUp.

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