Talking “Undercover Boss” at the 2014 National Restaurant Association Show

I recently had the opportunity to sit on a 2014 National Restaurant Association Show panel which included Amit Kleinberger of Menchie’s and Anthony Wedo of Ovation Brands. We were present to discuss each of our appearances on the television show “Undercover Boss” and how it allowed each of us to observe our brand’s culture up close.

The panel brought forward some interesting ideas and discussion about how important brand culture is to its overall success, while at the same time, how difficult it is to discern that culture unless you’re down in the trenches with the employees. Fortunately, our mutual appearances on the show allowed us to do exactly that.

Please read the entire article over at Nation’s Restaurant News, but I’ll highlight some of my statements from the panel below.

“Your best ideas always come from your employees,” Wiederhorn said. “But they have to feel empowered to give you that feedback. We learned that there was a barrier there — to the extent that they’re talking to their managers, it wasn’t flowing up. Now questions and suggestions will get answered.”

Since his episode aired, Wiederhorn has expanded Fatburger’s program for soliciting opinions and suggestions from all employees at the restaurant level, and that feedback is quickly shared across the enterprise with the marketing, training and operations teams at headquarters.

“Where your risk is, is if you see something wrong and keep walking,” Wiederhorn said. “I found some cultural things I wanted to change … and employees rallied behind it, and I think your franchise partners and customers will rally behind it.”

Thanks again to Mark Brandau, who covered our panel brilliantly.

Think Global, Eat Local

QSR Magazine has a great piece on regional flavors and quick-serve menus abroad, in which they delve into fast/casual menus in emerging markets in the Middle East, Asia and other regions.

If you’ve been following the growth of Fatburger, you’ll know we’re aggressively expanding in these emerging markets, often growing much faster than  larger brands.

Be sure to read the entire article for some great insights to what franchises are doing to adapt to local markets across the globe, but here’s a little teaser featuring yours truly:

Beverly Hills, California–based Fatburger often turns to focus groups to home in on palate subtleties before opening a new location and is receptive to suggestions for improvement once the store is up and running.

“Generally, we figure it out before we open, but we’re not too proud to adapt if customers are telling us something we haven’t thought of beforehand,” says chief executive officer Andy Wiederhorn.

Brands like Wing Zone and Fatburger have added rice to their menus in Asia, and Wiederhorn says sauces and spices are more popular in Middle Eastern cuisine. However, he says there is no one blueprint for understanding the world’s flavor preferences. “In all of these markets, it’s different,” Wiederhorn says. “I can’t generalize.”

The bottom line here is that there’s simply no way to ignore local tastes when opening locations in emerging markets. You have to do some careful planning, perform focus groups as needed and be willing to adapt once you’re up and running.

Community Comes Together at Buffalo’s Cafe to Benefit Young Cancer Patient

Last week, I asked for anyone in the Loganville-Grayson area to stop by our Buffalo’s Cafe for a benefit event in honor of young cancer patient, Imogen Passman.

It sounds like the turn-out was pretty significant, with more than 300 people stopping by the car show and $8,000 raised.

Here’s a post-event re-cap courtesy of the local Patch site:

More than 300 people attended and $8,000 was raised at a benefit to help a 3-year-old Grayson girl battling a rare form of cancer.

Buffalo’s Café in Loganville hosted the Saturday, May 17 event benefitted Imogen Passman, who has ganglioneuroblastoma, from which a tumor has grown around her spine.

Buffalo’s donated a percentage of sales. The event included 75 show cars on display in the parking lot.

The money will go toward escalating medical bills. “Immy” is undergoing chemotherapy and physical therapy at the Mayo Clinic.

Thanks again to everyone who helped out!

[Photo Credit:  Buffalo's Loganville]

Charity Event May 17th at the Loganville, GA Buffalo’s

I really wanted to call attention to this fantastic charity event happening tomorrow (May 17th) at our Loganville, GA Buffalo’s Cafe. So many of our franchisees get involved in charity events like this and they just don’t get the sort of press or media coverage they deserve. So if you’re in the area, please consider stopping by and supporting a worthy cause.

Here’s a bit more detail from the Gwinnett Daily Post:

Buffalo’s Cafe in Loganville is throwing a Parking Lot Party and Car Show to benefit “local angel,” Imogen Passman of Grayson, on May 17.

Four year old Imogen is battling a rare type of cancer and is currently undergoing chemo and physical therapy. The car show is open to all cars and trucks with a $20 entry fee. There will also be a silent auction, 50/50 raffles and prizes, car trivia, a DJ, inflatables, face painting and games for the whole family.

The Parking Lot Party and Car Show will be May 17 from noon to 4 p.m. at Buffalo’s Cafe in Loganville located at 910 Athens Highway.

If you’re on Facebook, you can also get more details at the official event page. Consider encouraging your friends & family to attend.

Nipsey Hussle Helps Celebrate our Crenshaw Fatburger Grand Opening

It’s always exciting when a brand-new Fatburger locations swings its doors open for the first time.

But, it’s extra special when hip-hop legend Nipsey Hussle is there to help celebrate.

Complex has an outstanding write-up of the event, along with some great pictures. Please visit and read the entire article.

Here’s a little quote from the man himself, just to give you a little preview:

Appreciate FatBurger letting me be apart of something so incredible, being able to bring new business to the Crenshaw community is a goal of mine and this is only the beginning.”

“Eater NY” Offers Up a Comprehensive Guide to New York City Hamburgers

Traveling to New York City anytime soon? If you are, I must recommend that you peruse this very comprehensive guide to the city’s burger joints. Not content to merely breeze through the city’s most popular restaurants, author Nick Solares breaks the city’s burger world down into styles. And that’s precisely where Fatburger gets a nice mention. Nick’s description of the California Style burger couldn’t have been more on target. Please head over and read the full piece, but here’s a small excerpt for you to get started with:

The California burger aesthetic is about the synergy of the ingredients. The thin beef patties don’t work if served plain, the way a big, bawdy burger might at an NYC tavern. But suitably dressed with vibrantly colored vegetables and dripping with special sauce, the burger becomes greater than the sum of its parts. Arguably the most quintessential example of the form is In-N-Out Burger, the California based chain that has a cult like following. Blue 9 Burger, which opened well over a decade ago in the East Village, sells a burger inspired by In-N-Out, although a change in ownership has lessened the association as the menu has become diluted. Petey’s in Astoria is a more faithful representation these days and both the The Counter and Fatburger, two California chains, operate outposts in NYC. McDonald’s Big Mac, arguably the most iconic of all hamburgers, also originated in California. In actuality, the Big Mac is a copy of the Big Boy sandwich from Bob’s Big Boy in Burbank, CA. The original Big Boy sandwich dates back to 1937 (the Big Mac was added to the McDonald’s menu nationally in 1968). You can of course find Big Macs at any of the city’s 240 McDonald’s.”

[Photo Credit: Nick Solares / NYC Eater]

Announcing Fatburger’s First Oman Location, Muscat

I’m very pleased to announce Fatburger’s very first foray into the country of Oman. Officially called the Sultanate of Oman, it is an Arab state in southwest Asia on the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula. Our newest restaurant, located in Muscat, is a collaboration with Dhabia Enterprises, an investment management company in the region.

Both QSR Magazine and Fast Casual have stories about our newest location. Please check out the full article for yourself, however I’ve pulled my relevant quotes and posted them below.

As Muscat is our first location in Oman, we are eager to share our classic menu with the economic and cultural center of the country. While Fatburger is no stranger to the competitive international market, we are thrilled to be able to introduce our brand to Oman with our partner, Dhabia Enterprises.”

Our new Fatburger is located at Al Masa Mall, Building 713, Way 46, Block 230, Al Sarooj, Shatti Al Qurum.

Recent Appearances on Fox Business and Bloomberg TV

I recently made a couple of media appearances that I wanted to share with you.

The first is my appearance on the “Money with Melissa Francis” program on Fox Business. In the clip, Melissa and I chat about expanding into embattled foreign markets like Iraq and Libya.

Money with Melissa Francis
I get a chance to explain how food transcends politics and why Fatburger is moving into emerging markets.

The second clip I wanted to share, is an appearance I made on Bloomberg TV, in which I chat with Pimm Fox about how to compete in fast food and how Fatburger is differentiating itself from other chains.

Andy Wiederhorn on Bloomberg TV
I get a chance to tell the history of Fatburger and specifically our menu. Pimm Fox seemed dismayed by some of our meal’s calorie counts, so I had to set the record straight. (No, we don’t have any 2,000 calorie menu items).

 

 

Help Us Choose a Location for a Potential New Fatburger Honolulu

Speculation is running rampant about a potential new co-branded Fatburger/Buffalo’s Cafe that may open in the Honolulu area.

You may be aware that we’ve already opened a location on Maui as well as at Pearl Harbor on Oahu.

While we’re keeping mum on any sort of announcement for now, I wondered if my readers might have a suggested location? Know of a space that’s available? Hit me up on my contact page and let me know the details. You might just help Fatburger and Buffalo’s come to a location near you!

 

Fatburger and Buffalo’s Cafe Set to Continue International Growth in Malaysia

Over at Franchising.com, they have a great write-up concerning our expansion plans in Malaysia.

Here’s a snippet of what I had to say:

We are constantly trying to find new opportunities to grow internationally. We’re grateful to have a company like Eftech Lifestyle SDN BHD who is as dedicated to the brand as we are. Having great partners who share the same goals as us are a key factor to the growth of Fatburger and Buffalo’s Cafe.”

As the article suggests, we’ve made a deal with Eftech Lifestyle SDN BHD to develop 20 co-branded Fatburger and Buffalo’s Express units in the new Malaysian market.

Big news, indeed!