Lucky Cat Poke Company debuted its first brick-and-mortar August in Chicago’s Oakbrook suburb. Majewski says it can reach 55 virtual kitchen units by year’s end and then open up to the company’s franchisee base.
Majewski spent two or so years revamping the Mongolian brands, starting by differentiating them after previous direction worked toward harmonizing them. They now stand up on their own, he says, and Genghis Grill, in particular, has a niche as the only brand at scale capable of enabling a customer to pick their ingredients and watch them get cooked to order. The chain’s new prototype slashed the box from 5,000 to 2,100 square feet and trimmed the dining area from 97 to 50 seats. It’s also designed so one employee can operate during non-peak hours (compared to four in the old model). The prototype features a new to-go staging and pickup area with cubbies, plus curbside parking spots. In a dynamic Majewski continually preaches, the decision reduced build costs from $815,000 to about $400,000. Check out more on the new design here.
Craveworthy sold 24 deals last year to grow the brand and hopes to double that this calendar if all goes accordingly.
Wing It On! CEO Matt Ensero remained as president with that specific deal. Craveworthy provided him tools to turn passion into tangible, sustained results.
So what begins to unfold has a few buckets. Craveworthy will continue to create concepts, which Majewski, who saw Jimmy John’s scale from 30 to 300 units, says is “in my DNA.”
“Also,” he adds, “if I don’t do it, there will be certain parts of me that are left to die.”
The company will then invest in founder-led brands it feels can benefit from shared scale and expertise. And, likely to a lesser extent, Craveworthy, as shown with Mongolian, can continue to inject life into established chains.
Majewski says a breakfast concept is coming, as is a pizza-pasta brand that can dive into a whitespace home to few established counter-service players.
In terms of legacy brands Craveworthy might acquire, Majewski says he’s got no shortage of options or people who want to move forward. He generally feels every brand “gets three humps.” Meaning, it can be turned around once and succeed. But if it needs to rinse and repeat after that, he doesn’t want to make the bet.
“I like people who are coming out of the second and have two more chances to get it right,” he says.
With emerging concepts, like Wing It On!, Craveworthy wants to link with invested leaders who need guidance to reach the next step. “I want people who live and die by what they’re doing,” Majewski says, “who love what they’re doing, are energetic about what they’re doing, and can sit there and tell me stories about why they do things that I can get excited about.”
“What they’re missing is what I want to provide them,” he adds, "which is the leadership and the guidance and the tools and access to the people they can’t have on their own.”
Speaking of people, Cravworthy’s corporate team has swelled into the upper 20s, with some big names coming into the fold of late. Twenty-year industry vet Jeremy Theisen joined as chief growth and development officer in June after stints at FAT Brands (chief growth officer) and PathSpot (chief revenue officer). Kim DeCarolis, also most recently with FAT Brands, then came on in July as SVP of strategic growth. Her prior stops include PathSpot, SevenRooms, and Punchh. Former Yum! Brands CEO Greg Creed joined the board in late July as well.
And more high-profile hires are coming, Majewski hints.
“I never understood how we always struggle to find people you want to build your team around,” Majewski says of the larger industry. “And if you treat people right over the course of time, your team forms and people want to work for you. That’s the same thing with leading with your heart and doing what you’re going to say you’re going to do, and why I’m in the position to get the people I want to get—because they all know I’m going to do what I say I’m going to do.”