Michael Mabry has always been a restaurant guy. He spent his early years bussing tables at Romano’s Macaroni Grill in 1992. He then served the company as ExecutiveChef, General Manager, and Director of Franchise before leaving in 2003 to help grow the Tin Star concept with former Brinker International colleague, Rich Hicks. In 2009, Mabry joined MOOYAH Burgers, Fries & Shakes as Director of Franchise Development and helped grow the brand to the 100 open locations they have today. In 2013, he was promoted to Vice President of Operations, then later to his current role of Chief Operating Officer.
1. Tell us about the MOOYAH Burgers, Fries & Shakes concept.
MOOYAH Burgers, Fries & Shakes was created in 2007 with one thing in mind: creating the best burger, fry and shake experience out there, coupled with exceptional Guest experience every single time. The fast casual brand started as a franchise and has grown to over 100 locations worldwide as of summer 2016. MOOYAH serves fresh, never-frozen Certified Angus Beef® burgers, all natural Jennie-O® turkey burgers, black bean veggie burgers, grilled and hand-battered all natural chicken breasts, all beef hot dogs, and a delicious Loaded House Salad. MOOYAH restaurants all bake fresh hot buns daily. It’s important to note that MOOYAH is also known for owning the French fry. Our No. 1 Idaho potatoes go through a 24-hour, 6-step process in order to become MOOYAH fries, and our sweet potato fries have also managed to gain quite the following over the years.
2. How and when did you become involved with MOOYAH Burgers, Fries & Shakes?
I have been friends and a business associate of our CEO, Rich Hicks, for over 20 years. When he and his partner, Todd Istre, founded the concept, they reached out and asked for my help with menu and kitchen design. So I like to say that I have been around since Day 1, but on the payroll since 2009.
3. What was your background prior to joining MOOYAH Burgers, Fries & Shakes?
I’m a restaurant guy. I have been fortunate to have held many positions throughout my career. From busboy to server, line cook, Executive Chef, General Manager, Franchise Operations Director for franchisors, to being a franchisee myself. At MOOYAH I’ve gone from Vice President of Franchise Development and Operations to my current role as Chief Operating Officer.
4. What are some of the advantages in being a MOOYAH Burgers, Fries & Shakes franchisee?
The MOOYAH franchisee is part of a brand that really cares about its Guests and its franchise partners. This company genuinely cares about every individual that is involved in the day-to-day process, and it shows in many ways. Our franchisees would tell you they feel like they are a part of a family. Even though it is a business, there is certainly a level of care and camaraderie between everyone on the MOOYAH team. Our franchisees receive expert guidance and support in every aspect of this business, and we think this positively impacts each franchisee throughout the franchising process.
5. Who is your ideal franchisee?
Aside from the financial aspect, our ideal franchisee is someone who cares about the business they are looking to get into. We look for motivated, involved individuals who know that a successful restaurant takes passion and hard work. Our most successful restaurants are ones that have their franchisees in the restaurant practically every day, so personable, Guest service-oriented individuals are ideal. Although there is an over-arching ideal franchisee personality we look for, each of our franchisees brings a unique skillset and perspective to the brand and that is definitely a strength in our eyes.
6. Tell us a little about the restaurant Market?
The restaurant industry is obviously a large, competitive one, but the competition in the fast casual sector is increasing faster than any other restaurant segment. Consumers have a plethora of options in the fast casual market, so it’s important for us to always differentiate ourselves and provide a compelling reason why someone should spend their hard-earned money at MOOYAH. There are a finite number of meal occasions we’re all battling for. Because of this, tactical marketing strategies and exceptional in-restaurant experiences are crucial to gaining and maintaining customers.
7. What are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned in growing this franchise?
MOOYAH has taught me a lot throughout the years. The most important lesson I’ve learned is, like with any other relationship, running a franchised restaurant brand takes ongoing work. Communication is key. Our franchisees appreciate open, honest, transparent communication, and that’s something we have improved upon throughout the years. I’ve also learned that the industry is always changing to keep up with consumers’ preferences and needs. We’ve had to be receptive to change throughout the years in order to remain at the top of our Guests’ consideration set.
8. Do you have a mentor and is their someone you use for inspiration?
My career has been molded by many mentors over the years. Barry Partos, Michael Moser, Bruce Ballard, John Miller, Rick Federico, Norman Brinker, Ted Leovich, Rich Hicks, Doug Brooks, and most importantly each and every team member that I have had the pleasure to lead.
9. What advice do you have for someone looking to acquire a Franchise?
Do your research and go for it. As long as you know that owning and operating a restaurant takes work, and you’re willing to put in that work, there’s nothing standing in your way. Choose a franchisor based on the corporate culture. Ours is one of treating our franchisees as our Guests. We hire corporate team members who have the servant-leadership gene. Because of that and our strong franchisees, we have a great brand with people who do everything they can to make sure everyone succeeds. We provide supportive, experienced guidance throughout the entire franchising process, so we are confident that we set our franchisees up for success.
10. In your opinion, why do you think that MOOYAH Burgers, Fries & Shakes would be a great opportunity for someone?
MOOYAH is a great opportunity because it offers a supportive yet entrepreneurial experience to its franchisees. Not only does it offer franchisees the opportunity to own their own business, but they are also able to positively impact and interact with their communities, all by using the tools and analytics-led recommendations from our corporate team. Our restaurants are a place where anyone can go to enjoy a high-quality meal in a comfortable environment, and we also have a great fundraising program set up that helps our franchisees give back to the communities that support them. Our franchisees really love that they are able to build and strengthen relationships with their communities. Finally, MOOYAH offers its franchisees a community of like-minded, driven individuals who love what they do. Each year we have a conference for our franchise partners, and it’s great to see all the passion and experience the MOOYAH community brings to the table in one room.