In the fast-casual burrito market, FREEBIRDS World Burrito stands out by not being like the others in almost every way. “There’s competition out there, and this is a hot category,” says Chris Cheek, vice president, franchise development, “but we have found success by appealing to guests who love our fresh food and align with our messages of freedom and choices, along with the importance of music in our lives and who appreciate our ‘not normal’ approach to everything we do. We deliver an emotional connection to our guests.”
Cheek says FREEBIRDS provides an exceptional culinary experience. “We serve burritos, bowls, tacos, quesadillas, nachos and salads that are made from scratch daily and served in an eclectic, ‘rock and roll roadhouse’ environment.” FREEBIRDS has a diverse menu that includes four different burrito sizes, four tortilla flavors, 10 different sauces and 30 additional toppings. “In today’s world of plop-and-serve, we pride ourselves with a one-on-one guest experience, where one of our ‘tribe’ (how we refer to our staff) moves down the line with you, making your burrito and having a conversation with you, making that emotional connection,” says Cheek.
“When we recruit tribe members, there is a common theme: they must be creative, engaging and thoughtful in terms of connecting with the guests. They must have hospitality and service in their blood. They bring the brand to life ”
“We want to go where we find the best franchisees. That is harder than finding great markets.”
FREEBIRDS has been making burritos for more than 25 years but just started franchising in 2012. “We approach franchising in such a way that we don’t want a lot of franchisees,” says Cheek. “Just the best we can find. We are looking for franchisees to own and develop large, exclusive territories. We want people who have existing restaurant experience and already own a non-competing brand with infrastructure in place. We require a minimum of 10 restaurants, but we are happy if they are willing to develop a larger territory, too. We feel the best way to grow the brand, but at the same time protect the very unique DNA we have with FREEBIRDS, is to be very selective with who we allow to become franchisees.”
To keep it local while expanding nationally, FREEBIRDS focuses on charitable efforts through its philanthropic division, FREEBIRDS World Works. “It is our way to give back,” Cheek says. “We can inspire people to do good. We get our tribe and our guests involved in their own communities.” The team at each restaurant partners with local, non-profit organizations to help create awareness and offer help whenever needed. World Works seeks to create a sense of unity and joy for both recipient and giver, to influence each to become more involved with his or her community. “World Works provides another emotional connection with our tribe members and management to the communities in which we operate,” says Cheek.
Training and support to franchisees includes training in the stores, real estate support, and more. “Our first franchisee opened in July 2012, and by late March 2013, that franchisee will have their fifth restaurant open. We are able to support that kind of growth,” Cheek says.
“We opened 27 company-owned restaurants in 2012 and three franchise restaurants. We will continue our commitment to grow company restaurants in Texas, California, Oklahoma and Louisiana. We are big believers in operating our own brand,” says Cheek. “But the rest of the U.S. is open for franchise development. We want to go where we find the best franchisees. That is harder than finding great markets.”
For more information about franchising opportunities with Freebirds World Burrito, visit www.freebirds.com
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