Industry News | May 19, 2011 | QSR Exclusive Brief

A Lot to a 'Little': Former Casual Exec Buys Fast-Casual Brand

The former president of casual-dining chain Beef O’Brady’s is hoping to replicate his success with that company at an upstart Greek fast-casual chain.

Nick Vojnovic purchased the Tampa, Florida–based Little Greek concept and plans to turn it into a national franchised brand.

“There were some good deals out there, but you’re going to go head to head with some very good competitors,” Vojnovic says, noting that he explored Mexican and burger concepts before purchasing Little Greek. 

“I don’t think there are any major [Greek] players out there yet. You see a lot of people poking around, a couple stores here, a couple stores there, but one of the things I do like about it is it’s a niche where there isn’t a lot of heavy competition.”

The five-year-old Little Greek concept has four locations, three in Florida and one in Dallas. Vojnovic says he plans to grow the chain to at least 25 stores in the Tampa Bay area in the next five years with the help of both single-store and multiunit operators.

“We’re looking for folks who are hard working, who believe in the brand, and who want to really replicate the brand, and have good people skills for their community and employees and customers, as well,” he says.

He says there are also plans to grow the brand outside of Florida, in Dallas and potentially Atlanta.

Vojnovic found and purchased the Little Greek concept with the help of franchise consultant Paul Samson, founder and CEO of The Franchise Edge.

Samson, who has been an acquaintance of Vojnovic’s for several years and who helps develop the infrastructure for fledgling franchise brands, says he knew Vojnovic was a good fit for Little Greek’s potential.

“There are 1,000 pizza joints,” he says. “Everybody and their grandmother is in that business. But there are not a whole lot of mid- to upper-scale players in the fast-casual Greek business, and there’s plenty of room for someone to get there.

“When you take a guy like Nick, with his experience, and you take a model like this, and you put the right wheels under it, I think these guys could be, in the next five to eight years, one of the top chains in the industry.”

Vojnovic, who helped grow Beef O’Brady’s from 30 units to 270 before leaving the company in 2010, says Little Greek is a much smaller system than his former company, thus making it easier to grow and invest in—assuming it’s done correctly.

“One of the things I’d like to do moving forward is to be very selective on franchisees, extremely selective on real estate … and try to take all of the mistakes I made at [Beef O’Brady’s] and try to fix them here,” he says. 

By Sam Oches